A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
This week I decided to give Christmas a go. This time last year my wife had only been buried a week, and yet somehow I felt more determined to try I put on a festive show for my son, family and friends than I do this year. Shock I suppose; confusion probably; a complete inability to absorb the gravity of the situation, definitely.
This Christmas it feels like it’s sinking in. These days when I’m moved to tears it often occurs to me that the thoughts running through my head are new. It’ll dawn on me for the first time that I’ll never again cuddle up to Desreen on the sofa while watching TV on a Saturday night in December. I’ll hear Jackson say something really grown up and funny on the way to nursery and it’ll hit me that she’s no longer there to call and tell. I’ll picture this coming Christmas Day and imagine the pleasure that my son will get from opening his presents and eating too much sugar, but it’ll suddenly break my heart that Desreen’s not going to be around to surprise and to spoil too. I’ll never see her smile, hear her voice or feel her warmth again.
I guess the lows that I’m experiencing right now are driven by the fact that my brain is gradually processing the reality that she’s gone forever. Perhaps I’ve spent most of the last 13 months focusing on the fact that my son has lost his mum. Right now, though, I feel like a man who’s lost his wife at Christmas. My son’s having a good spell and I’m suffering; we do have a tendency to ebb and flow and prop each other up when the other’s mood is low.
He’s a remarkable child. Not because he can kick a football, sing in tune or recite poetry (he’s three by the way), but because he seems so emotionally attuned. On Wednesday this week I gave in, admitted defeat and headed out to buy a Christmas tree. I could almost hear the decorations my wife and I bought from Liberty telling me that they needed to come down from the attic to be displayed to the world: ‘Nobody puts Liberty baubles in the corner’, they taunted.
Later, when I returned home with a Norwegian spruce over my shoulder, I asked Jackson if he would like to give me a hand decorating it. Perhaps he knew that only half of my heart was in it because he decided that I should instead play a supportive role to his lead.
‘Daddy’s not strong enough to put lights on the Christmas tree’, he told his granddad. ‘I’m strong though’, he went on.
What an observant little man, I thought, having spent the week feeling so weak. And I’d have imagined it impossible to be more moved by him that day until we unpacked the decorations together a short time later.
‘What’s that, Daddy?’ he enquired pointing at something he’d watched me carefully unwrap.
‘It’s the angel for the top of the tree’, I replied, ‘Mummy bought it before you were born.’
‘Can I kiss it?’ he asked.
‘Of course you can, darling. Let’s both do it’, I offered.
As I watched him kiss her angel, my heart melted at his continued display of his love for his mummy. I just looked on and hoped that somehow she felt that love from her little angel too.