A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
Today’s my 34th birthday. This means I’m now what I said I feared most when I gave my wife’s eulogy – older than she ever got chance to be – and from this point on I always will be. But reaching 34 has also made me think about just how lucky I am to be alive given what happened on 10th November 2012. And while I do feel like my whole life has been ripped to tatters by what I’ve lost, today I feel blessed to have what I have.
Perhaps that’s partly because last week I conducted an exercise that I needed to complete for a chapter of my forthcoming book. I went back to the very first post on my blog and starting re-reading all the comments people have left since then. It began as a fairly academic task – just one that I needed to undertake – but it suddenly became so much more. Nine months have now passed since my wife was killed and seven since I started writing, so when I first set up the blog all of my feelings were still so raw. And that was the whole point – documenting grief as it happened. But what that meant was that when people replied to my posts, the pain and confusion I was going through was too intense to really absorb their words. I still wonder whether it is in fact possible to reassure a person that things are going to be okay when they are in such a state of devastation and shock . It just seemed implausible to me at the time, as every fibre of my body ached with the pain of loss and detachment. Yet when I read the comments again this week I took in the words entirely differently. I wept my heart out at the kindness of people who had taken the time to share their stories on behalf of me, my son and other followers. I found great advice there too – stuff that I’d completely skimmed over at the time in a state of anger, frustration, intoxication, isolation or exhaustion. And for once I felt reassured. Perhaps especially from the now adult children who were raised by widowed fathers.
In a sense the blog has enabled me not only to document grief but to record human kindness. And recently I’ve been offered further kindness by various people asking the almost inevitable What do you want for your birthday? question.
But I can honestly say I don’t actually want anything. I’d be quite content if no one ever bought me a gift again, in fact. Because as I read through all the comments and thought about the way people – strangers as well as friends and family – have responded since my wife’s death, I realised that I have already experienced more kindness and generosity in my 34 years than most people experience in a lifetime. Naturally I would give it all back in the blink of an eye to be with Desreen again, but life simply doesn’t work that way. So as I sit here today I find myself thinking more about what I have in life than what I have not and, right now, it’s more than enough. Of course losing Desreen has left a huge void, but I’ve realised that the hole simply can’t be filled with stuff. No amount of material things could ever come close to replacing the loss of the woman I love.
Therefore today is not about me receiving anything, instead it’s about me giving thanks.
Thanks for all the kindness, friendship, love and support I’ve felt every day since Desreen died.
Thanks for all the advice, guidance and reassurance that has been given (if not always received) so graciously.
Thanks to all those who have and continue to help me raise my son to be the happy little boy that he is today.
Thanks to those who find themselves in a similar position to me who offer friendship, counselling, and both light and dark humour from afar.
And thanks for sticking with the blog even if sometimes it might be too painful (or too painfully honest) for you to want to come back.
…but hold on, let’s not get too soppy here. It’s my birthday after all and I’ll laugh if I want to.
For those who have followed the blog since the start, you will know that I really battled over whether to show my heartbreak in front of my son or not. Despite the advice from some who told me I must protect him from my true feelings, I decided to follow my own intuition. This meant trying to guide him to become a man who feels he can open up rather than shut out his emotions. And for once I thought I’d done quite well.
That was until he caught me crying whilst writing this post. He almost wet himself laughing. It was as if I were putting a show on for him and actually trying to make him chuckle.
‘Stop doing that crying like that, Daddy!’ he shouted and then howled a little longer and and a lot louder. There I was pouring my heart out to the world and all he did was laugh.
Then all of a sudden he walked across the room and approached me. I thought maybe he was going to wipe my eyes like he did when he saw me cry once back in December. But instead he lifted his little hand into the air, swung it back and then slapped me.
So just one more word of thanks from me.
Thank God I’m the parent in this relationship, otherwise one of us would be spending my birthday in care and the other would be spending it in prison.