Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

birthday beats

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.

Birthday beats courtesy of my ever affectionate two-year-old son

Birthday beats courtesy of my ever affectionate two-year-old son

31 comments on “birthday beats

  1. Zainab
    August 12, 2013

    A very happy birthday, Ben 🙂 and thanks for continuing to write. I believe your wife would be so proud of the both of you.

  2. Judy
    August 12, 2013

    Happy birthday- you’re right you don’t need gifts for your birthday- Jackson is the biggest one of all and he keeps on giving!

  3. You’ve gotta love kids: it’s all about them! Happy Birthday.

  4. Sophie
    August 12, 2013

    I too feared and dreaded my first birthday without my husband. I completely empathise with your blog and am very grateful for your ability to verbalise the huge spectrum of feelings you encounter when losing your life partner. Thank you and best of luck to you and Jackson x

  5. Kirsty
    August 12, 2013

    I am new to following your blog, I am a mum of my two year old and often panic about something happening to me and leaving my son behind. Your blog is wonderful to read, to see the two of you cherish through such a heartbreaking time, not sure I could be so strong after such devastation, your an inspiration.

    HaPpY bIrThDaY xx

  6. Jules
    August 12, 2013

    I just wanted to say thanks for your post today, as it is so touching. In the beginning I think we accept help and say thanks, but it is all a blur, especially the little moments of kindness. You have a record, if a sometimes painful record of your journey, and all that I’m sure will help you in weeks and months to come. Thinking of you and your son today

  7. Rhian
    August 12, 2013

    Thinking of you today. It’s strange I found my birthday harder than Paul and George’s in a way! I felt time was ticking on and as I was getting older they were frozen in time. My wrinkles were multiplying by the day and Paul and George would always stay perfect. It will be hard but, without sounding like everyone else, it is another first! A tough one! X

  8. Charlie
    August 12, 2013

    Love this post. I’m 4 years into this, and this post, made me smile alot, and then have a good proper sob. Which is very therapeutic, and great to let it out once in a while. Happy Birthday Ben.

  9. chaim silver
    August 12, 2013

    i feel for you. i lost my wife 5 1/2 years ago to a carjacking. was married for 45 years. everybody wanted to know why i never sat on the the floor under a blanket with sack cloth and ashes. life must carry on. time stands still fo no man. i decided to stay away from bemoaning my fate, and get on with life. if i could turn the clock back, i’d be wearing a younger man’s clothes..

  10. Jenaluk
    August 12, 2013

    Have a brilliant day! Really enjoyed that post!

  11. Tricia
    August 12, 2013

    Thank you for writing Ben. This post made me laugh and cry! Go Jackson!! Happy Birthday Ben x

  12. codedjeannie
    August 12, 2013

    Thanks for posting this.. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BEN! 🙂 Life is beautiful and you’re still blessed because you have a wonderful son by your side. Stay strong for your son. Enjoy your birthday! God bless! 🙂

    -Jeannie ( a new follower and might be a new friend to you )

  13. Thinking of you all today. Much love on your birthday x

  14. Christine
    August 12, 2013

    Happy Birthday! Enjoy your day.

  15. Deanna Butlin
    August 12, 2013

    Happy Birthday Ben!
    Hope you have a lovely day with your lovely son!
    I’m sure she will be looking down on you both bursting with pride on how far you have both come!
    Lots of love to you both xxx

  16. Thesethingsandme
    August 12, 2013

    Happy birthday Ben xx

  17. Louise Grace
    August 12, 2013

    Everyone needs a good slap sometimes, Happy Birthday! Much love to you both x

  18. Madeline kavanagh
    August 12, 2013

    Hi Ben, I have been following your blog.
    Thank you for your very touching post you are helping so many others with your heart felt words.
    I found this post truly touching, it brought tears to my eyes then I ended up sobbing! This was well needed 😊
    I then felt happy for you knowing that you have the biggest gift of all and that’s being able to share life’s moments with your son Jackson.
    Sadly I am unable to have children as I was born without a womb. This has been an emotional journey, but it has helped reading your blog realising how precious life is and that we all need to embrace it and live life for today.
    Thank you so much you are a beautiful man and your wife would be very proud.
    Have a lovely day with your son x

  19. Bill Wright
    August 12, 2013

    Yep! Ed is also going through the hitting stage, bloody embarrassing when he wallops other kids. Thinking of you today, may your current contented state of mind prevail throughout the day. Advice I wish I’d received when it was my birthday back in April, if it does start to go south, don’t be embarrassed about asking people to leave, they’d get it. Hope you have the best day you possible.

  20. Naomii Chaplain
    August 12, 2013

    Happy Birthday Ben…..You do a lot of thanking don’t you?! I feel like you’re the one to be thanked for taking us on your journey and conveying exactly what so many of us have felt in loss and grief – ultimately providing great consolation and encouragement. You’re a special man with a special past, a special future and an even more special son.
    Wishing you lots of love and light on your birthday. x

  21. Donna
    August 12, 2013

    Happy birthday Ben. Your right in those early days and months understanding that ‘ things r going to be ok ‘ is beyond belief and of course they never really will be. However, u learn to move forward and u continue to have moments and days when u just cry for what u have lost. And that’s ok, as I tell my girls whatever ur feeling is how ur feeling. So enjoy ur day , and smile , as u think of Desreen . Love from Australia xx and thanku for sharing

  22. Christy
    August 12, 2013

    My this day bring a year of unexpected blessings, lightened your heavy heart, direct you toward greater goals: peace, love, purpose & joy. HaPpY BiRtHdAy Ben!

  23. Carrie Dunne
    August 12, 2013

    Happy Birthday! A really heartwarming post full of hope, but must say aren’t kids wonderful!?! X

  24. larry
    August 12, 2013

    Happy Birthday Ben. It was six months this past Friday since I lost my Lisa after 27 wonderful years. When we first wed we didn’t want to have kids. Now the three of them, all teenagers, keep me going. They are the best and my reason to continue moving forward. Enjoy the day with your son!

  25. nina
    August 12, 2013

    Lovely post Ben. I hope you have a great day with Jackson. xx

  26. katherinecolombo
    August 12, 2013

    Ben, what a lovely way to honor your birthday. My birthday is tomorrow and I don’t want anything either because the support and love I have received since losing Wesley in March is enough. But on this your birthday I want to thank you for writing honestly about your experience. Everyday is not sunshine and lollipops but it is not black skies either. As someone a few steps behind you in their grief journey who also has a young child I can see your footsteps and the footsteps of others like us and know the strangers on this road, while terribly lonely are not alone. Your blog has taught me that and I thank you.

  27. Heather
    August 12, 2013

    Happy Birthday Ben. And thanks for giving us all this gift. I’m a couple of weeks behind you on this road, and no children to give me a good slap when I probably need it, but reading your post today has slapped a smile right across my face 😉 so thank you again, for today’s post and every other time you have shared. I hope you have a lovely day with your beautiful boy. xxxx

  28. Ellie
    August 13, 2013

    I hope you had a lovely birthday with smiles and sunshine. As ever, you are so inspiring to read, and I hope you continue to blog, until maybe one day it’s not about life as a widower but about life as Ben.

    I saw this today and thought of you

  29. Amanda
    August 13, 2013

    Happy birthday Ben, sometimes the best gift we can get is the gift we give to others. Your blog is a gift to all of us so thank you very much. Enjoy your day, be kind with yourself and remember. Amanda

  30. Pingback: your words | life as a widower

    August 13, 2013

    Thanks so much for all the comment and birthday wishes all

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