Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

wishing peace

People often write to me to explaining that they have also lost a loved one; I mostly hear from other widows and widowers who are reaching out to say that they are in the same tragic boat. This morning I heard from a guy who lost his wife just a matter of weeks ago, approximately a year after I lost mine. Despite originally starting this blog as a means of opening up and finding other widowers to talk to, when they do make contact I tend to find myself at a loss for what to say. I suppose I’ve heard every platitude in the book and in the early days I found few words were of any comfort to me whatsoever. I didn’t want to hear that time healed and I didn’t want to be told that things would get easier. I think at times a big part of me wanted to feel the unbroken pain; I suppose I felt I owed it to my wife. Somedays, however, I wanted someone to tell me that the agony would go away. I wanted to know the exact date when the grief would stop. I’d lived my life thinking that everything could be fixed and saw no reason for this thing that I was going through to be any different. I was blissfully naive and hadn’t come to terms with the fact that I would carry my grief forever. Back then I didn’t know that it was an ever-changing, multifaceted, shapeshifting (but entirely natural) response to loss, which affected everyone it touched in its own unique way. And its the uniqueness of a person’s life, love, loss and subsequent grief that makes it almost impossible to judge what to say to someone you don’t know, perhaps even to someone you do.

When someone new gets in touch I sometimes find myself staring at my screen completely lost for words. I almost feel disappointed in myself for not being able to help another person who I know is going through such difficult times. I want to make their pain go away but I know that I can’t. I can’t even fix mine through actions so what hope do I have when all I have to offer others are words?

Over the last thirteen months I’ve learnt that when it comes to supporting a bereaved person it’s less about what people say than it is about what they do. And sometimes just knowing that there are people out there who you can call on at any time, and who genuinely care, can make the load feel a little lighter. This year I’ve encountered, often remotely, hundreds (if not thousands) of people who I know care and I’m deeply touched by that.

With it being Christmas Day tomorrow, I wanted to say something to everyone who reads my blog but, once again, I find myself struggling for the appropriate words. Do I say ‘Merry Christmas’ when I know that some of you are going through hell? Do I say ‘Have a great day!’ when I understand that just getting through it might be a struggle? Perhaps I overthink things but I tend to prefer to consider my words rather than coming out with things that I might realise afterwards didn’t seem appropriate. So today I’d just like to wish everyone peaceful times ahead. I’d like to hope there are happy (or happier) times in the future too. And for those of you who are in the midst of grief, I wish you all the love, friendship, support, understanding, courage and patience you need to get you through. I just wish that there was more that I could do, or indeed that any of us could do, to make things better.

10 comments on “wishing peace

  1. Barbara Fleming
    December 24, 2013

    This is beautifully, thoughtfully written. I lost my husband, and I am in so much pain, I’m not celebrating Christmas at all, just spending it quietly on my own. Love to you and your little boy x

  2. Laura Colosa
    December 24, 2013

    Hello, I wanted to email you to thank you for your blog. I am not a widow however a year ago my sister in law and best friend passed away, I started to read your blog to help me understand how men grieve. My brother in law was left with three boys to raise, the youngest a two year old with special needs. What started as a way to help me understand his actions and help support him, became a help to me as I grieve. My sister in law has been my friend since she was ten years old! We had our kids together, bought houses around the corner from each other and vacationed with our families together. Her loss in my life is immeasurable! Now I worry and try to help raise her boys whenever I am needed. I help her husband, even when I don’t condone or understand his actions. I respect how your child is first priority. I have forwarded him your blog and hope he reads it and finds solace. Thank you, once again, for blogging and helping me with my grief as well as many others in this hard situation! Your child is so very lucky to have you as his dad!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Linda Rogers
    December 24, 2013

    I read this with tears in my eyes. My husband died two years ago and what you say rings so many bells for me. Friends think I am doing well and I am but today I know like you that my grief will be with me forever. My life and yours have changed irrevocably and we can never be the same person we were or be with the one we really want. I am trying to make things better for others who are suffering grief by becoming a bereavement visitor who is there to listen and support not offer platitudes. Hope doing this will bring me peace. Peace to you and your son.

  4. sharron gordon
    December 24, 2013

    As always Ben….PEACE ALWAYS..IN ALL WAYS. Whatever day of the week it is.
    Take care. Sharron

  5. macrothings
    December 24, 2013

    When my wife died a year ago I was lost in my own bubble of grief, struggling to deal with the world outside that was carrying on as normal. Today reading another of your posts, I appreciate all that you have done for those of us that have also lost loved ones. As you did in your first post and continue to do you have created a bridge where we all connect, we may be suffering but we are not alone, life does go on, the days do get easier to bear, time allows us to grow around our pain, and tomorrow is another day.

    Best wishes to you all.

  6. anneputtick
    December 24, 2013

    I have read your blog over the last year. I can’t imagine your sadness, nor will I tell you that time will heal or that the pain will go away. I have been struck by how intelligent and thoughtful it has been. I volunteer for Cruse. What you say is what I would wish all my clients to come to understand…. that grief is now a part of their life.. things will not go back to normal… this is the new normal. But life will grow. Grief will not shrink but the life built around it will become greater and the grief a lesser proportion of that life. My clients sometimes say that talking to a stranger is easier than talking to friends and relatives who carry their own grief. They can give voice to their sadness without feeling a burden or worrying about upsetting others. It is not a panacea but, I hope, some help. I wish you a peaceful Christmas and New Year in the knowledge that your wife will always, whatever happens, live in your memory and in your son.

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. Annabelle Talbot
    December 24, 2013

    Ben I don’t know what to say. Your words are so touching and accurate. I’m crying as I write this. I will definitely be buying your book when it’s published as you are a gifted writer and know how to reach out to those of us who are grieving. I wish you and Jackson all the best over the festive season. Just enjoy each other’s company and know Desreen is watching over you and is so proud.

    Annabelle x

  8. Mr C
    December 25, 2013

    ” I suppose I felt I owed it to my wife. ”
    It’s all there in that line. For me it’s been 6 months of crying every day. I don’t want to be like this, she wouldn’t want me to be like this. I try. I tell myself it’s self pity and that’s not a nice trait in anyone. There has to be a way but how? and like you I wanted a step by step guide.
    What is a help is to know its exactly, exactly, the same for all of those who loved and lost. I Read Julian Barnes Levels of Life, it’s the same sentiments but better expressed.
    Today, and every day I will try to be happy because that’s what she wanted.
    I wish you well, I wish all of us in this boat well.

  9. Lin Lian
    January 24, 2014

    I read the news of your book in today’s Chinese newspaper, World Journal, and came to your blog. I could not hold back my tears when reading your blog. Such love, such sadness. I am so sorry for your loss. Please stay strong.

  10. Lynda
    May 2, 2014

    Dear Ben,I have read the extracts from your book in The Daily Mail this week and was so sad about what happened to your lovely young wife Desreen, so sad for you and your beautiful little boy. Its only when you have suffered this type of grief that you can understand. I lost my husband 3 years ago. I liked the photo you made of your wife on one side and your son on the other with the same pose, with the scarf. This is a lovely way to keep her memory alive for Jackson as he grows.I was obsessed with photos after my husband died, I had to have every one framed. But it did help me and 3 years on it still does. You feel that you are still doing things for your loved one, your wife would approve I,m sure.
    Good Luck to you and your little boy. thinking of you.

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