A story of grief by a man and a boy

dream on

Grieving for two can be a heavy load. The minute I get a little respite from my own pain, my son will do or say something that totally floors me and leaves me feeling broken all over again. But sometimes I think that I use an adult filter for both of us when the rational thing to do would be to let his grief trickle through a child’s.

This afternoon I dressed my son for a party at his newly acquired little pal’s house just round the corner from our house. A few weeks ago my friend Lee bought Jackson a shirt for no other reason than love and it was time for it to make its debut. Once ready, Jackson gave me a showy little twirl – something he has never done before.

‘Mummy likes this one’, he informed me about the shirt that was bought as a gift after her death, ‘She’s coming to see me later.’

‘She’s not, Jackson’, I corrected him in the hope of avoiding any subsequent disappointment.

He laughed hard at my comment and in turn corrected me, ‘She is, Daddy!’

Suddenly I felt ashamed. Who am I to say whether or not she is after all?

Jackson suddenly loves an imaginary purple dinosaur called Barney. I used to loath this children’s TV character when I was younger. I had a television that doubled as an alarm clock and the then irritating man-in-a-dinosaur-suit would often wake me up for work when I was tired and a little worse for wear from too much partying the night before. Now I love him because he makes my son happy and teaches him to use his imagination, to love his friends and to have fun. He only ever seems to preach positive lessons.

Jackson’s sudden acceptance of a role model other than Thomas the Tank Engine has coincided with my recognition of his ability to dream.

‘Daddy, Nanny sat on me and owls came to take me and Thomas away’, he reported somewhat disturbingly at seven o’clock on Tuesday morning.

So maybe his mummy is coming to see him later. Maybe children have a heightened sense of spirituality that allows them to connect with the dead. Perhaps their inhibitions allow their one-sided conversations to feel complete. Or maybe they are able to dream without those dreams feeling like nightmares.

Whichever way it is, I just hope Dessie does come to see her little boy tonight. And if she does, I hope he wakes up happy to have seen her in the morning.

'Mummy likes this one. She's coming to see me later.'

‘Mummy likes this one. She’s coming to see me later.’

8 comments on “dream on

  1. mrslchen
    August 18, 2013

    It’s funny you mention dreams, Ben.
    A few nights after our Mark died, I woke up at 2am to my son (then 15months) laughing hysterically in his sleep. Something he has never done before. It’s very odd. However I like to think, like you said yourself here, that daddy visited him or maybe he dreamt about his daddy throwing him up in the air or chasing him around the house.
    I found that comforting.

  2. Dave Varley
    August 18, 2013

    I’m sure Desreen is always checking in with Jackson. She will be with him (and you) forever, and you will ‘know’ she’s there when you’re ready. Awesome shirt by the way Jackson!

  3. Carol berridge
    August 18, 2013

    Jackson looks lovely and how special that he knows his mummy is going to see him in his new shirt. Ben this is a good sign and as time goes on I hope he will always think his mummy will be watching over him. He is adorable xxxx

  4. bedraggledandkicking
    August 18, 2013

    Your posts often just leave me feeling wordless. Yet I want to support you in your grief, and the incredible way in which you share it here, in your blog. I can’t imagine carrying the weight of grief for two. Just carrying it for one is tough enough. You have an amazing capacity to remain open to your loss, your son’s loss, and the different ways you are processing it. What a handsome, wonderful little guy you have. Wishing you both the best in your healing.

  5. Sarah Christian
    August 18, 2013

    Firstly Ben, I think you are so brave to write this blog. I am so, so sorry to read what has happened to your beautiful family. It’s incredibly inspiring to hear a personal, honest, emotional account from a blokey. I’m sure this will help many, many people. Thank you.
    My Dad died suddenly, aged 38, when I was just 10, he was fine one day and gone the next, so sudden, just taken from us. As I sit here writing this 23 years later (now as a parent) I am in tears as I can to some extent understand the loss you must be feeling but you also have the responsibility of grieving for your son too. Your strength is amazing and your son looks so lovely.
    A while after my Dad died, I was helping my Mum hold a shelf as she unscrewed it and I felt this strong tug to the back of my t-shirt, no-one else was in the room but I had a strong sense he was there …perhaps saying “well done” for helping my Mum with the tasks he would have been doing. It happened once more a while later when I had a boy in the house that I wasn’t supposed to…just this tug…so strange…yet I had this immense feeling that he was there. I don’t know why your beautiful young wife was taken from you but I do believe she will be there to watch over you both.
    My sister and I didn’t have any counselling when our Dad was taken but I do believe it could of helped, as although my Mum was the most fantastic single parent you could EVER wish for I still so got so angry sometimes, questioning God, questioning everything, blaming myself and throughout life I have always seemed to be looking over my shoulder waiting for another unimaginable sudden event to occur.
    Your blog and support of “Grief Encounter” is just amazing such a short time after what has happened to you.
    Your Jackson is a beautiful young man. I expect everyone was impressed with his gorgeous new shirt! I also have a two-year old son and know how inquisitive, adorable and amazing they are. I’m sure he will love hearing about all the wonderful stories and memories you have of his beautiful Mummy. x

  6. Alex
    August 19, 2013

    My baby girl is less than 2 months old and I wonder what will she say in situations like this. Her mother passed away a month ago.

  7. fraz86
    August 19, 2013

    It really is a brilliant shirt.

  8. Femi
    August 23, 2013

    Hi Ben,
    Lovely blog. I am 31yrs old and recently lost my beautiful wife in February this year(2013) from an asthma attack.
    The most painful thing was that it happened suddenly. We woke up fine on Saturday morning 23/02/13 after a fantastic night the day before. She was using her inhalers and then nebuliser and the next and final thing she said to me was to call the ambulance, but she collapsed after that and never woke up.
    We have 3 wonderful sons together aged 18 months, 5 and 9.
    I have found it incredibly difficult to cope with the grief, but I get my strength from the boys. Like you mentioned, there are days where you think you ‘re doing well only for the boys to say something about their mum that totally floors you.
    I recently started seeing a bereavement counsellor through my work, and I have had 3 sessions. However, I don’t feel like its working, as I feel like I need men like you who have been through the same event, that can actually relate to my situation.
    I need men that I can learn from, to cope with the really difficult times.

    Thank you so much for this blog.

    May God bless you and Jackson.


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