A story of grief by a man and a boy

two’s company

I’ve been feeling very lonely recently and my loneliness isn’t really allayed by the company of others. I’m led to believe this sensation is common amongst the widowed. I think we struggle to comes to terms with the relationship status we once labelled as ‘us’ being reduced to just ‘me’. In my situation a whole became a half without any prior warning, and the shock that came as a result seems to have long masked the gravity of the situation. I suppose I’m only just beginning to feel the way I might have expected to had someone told me I would be widowed so young. My bones ache, my stomach is sick with sorrow, I can think of little else but the wife I’ve lost, and I feel as though I have a hole in my heart. I’m truly sad to the core.

There are those who could probably have foreseen this emotional delay: ‘Year two is the worst,’ they might have said. I wonder if this sort of remark is symptomatic of our need to label and somehow define grief. Without the benefit of hindsight – or perhaps even with – who am I to say? But for what it’s worth I don’t think this year is worse than last. It’s just different.

Last year I was the subject of much attention, affection and company. This year things have gone quieter as people, generally speaking, have gone back to their own lives. Last year I couldn’t relax because I felt the need to constantly fill my time with activities, which largely aimed to ensure that my wife’s death wasn’t entirely in vain. This year I can hardly be bothered to do anything at all. Last year I found my son’s company challenging, difficult and often painful and upsetting. This year he’s my only consistent source of comfort and happiness. Last year I was driven by shock. This year I’ve been brought back down to earth by reality.

On balance year one was shocking, consuming, high-paced, highly charged, exhausting, excruciating, and yet rather focussing. In year two, by contrast, I’ve felt more isolated, lower on energy, increasingly apathetic, but less neurotic and, occasionally, more happy. I can’t definitively classify one period of time as better or worse than the other because, so far, they have felt so entirely unalike.

One thing I can say, however, is that my ‘year two’ relationship with my three-year-old son is my number one reason to feel good. He loves me and I love him. We’re kinder to one another than we once were. We’re able to read each other’s mood and make each other feel better when we feel low. We’re a team and I’m grateful of the joy he brings me every day. But each night as he goes to bed, hours before I do, I feel ‘us’ become just ‘me’ once again. Year two yo-yos back to year one and, as I have time to think, I return to my status as half of a whole. And the hole in my heart re-opens until I see my son’s little face smiling back at me when he awakes in the morning, reminding me that I’m not completely alone.


36 comments on “two’s company

  1. Natalie
    March 11, 2014

    I’ve followed this blog for a little while via Facebook and whilst I’ve “liked” posts, I’ve not taken the time to comment before. This post made me genuinely sad and I’m always trying to immediately find solutions when sadness strikes me. This time, I can’t think of anything. That’s because there is nothing that anyone can say or do that will take away how you are feeling right now. Even other widows/widowers, people may have shared similar situations but yours is yours and the pain and loss you feel is your own. The loneliness you must be feeling is beyond anything I personally have suffered so I can’t imagine what it actually feels like. So all I will say is this. Stay strong. We draw strength from others but it’s always there within us. You WILL keep on, keeping on.

  2. Cindy Hewitt
    March 11, 2014

    Thank you so much for your thoughts on feeling lonely and empty. Being only about 1 week behind you in the ‘losing your spouse suddenly’ journey I have read with complete empathy yours and others posts over the past 16 months. It is comforting to a degree to know that what I’m feeling is ‘normal’ even though it is hell on earth that we (and others) feel this way. My overwhelming feeling for about the past month is complete and utter emptiness and loneliness and nothing or no-one can fill that void except for the person who’s gone. Yet somehow it’s ever-so-slightly a relief to know I’m not alone. Wishing you all the best x

  3. Wayne
    March 11, 2014

    Hi ben
    I too recently lost my wife we were together 29 happy years
    I lost her on 28 January 2014 and it’s been the longest 6 weeks of my life I cannot describe the emotions that I am going through at the moment but find comfort from reading your blogs . Thank you and keep up the good work good luck for the future to both you and your son and may god bless and watch over you both.

    • Rhodissimo
      March 11, 2014

      Please keep strong Wayne.
      I lost my life partner suddenly 6 months ago on 31st August 2013, and remember all too well the confusion and blur of the first few months. Rest where possible, and let others’ kindness and generosity in – take all the help you can that you are offered without guilt or thought; you need it.
      With love x

      • Wayne
        March 12, 2014

        Thank you very much for your kind words.
        It’s nice to know that someone else understands the emotions that I am
        Going through .
        My wife Carol was my soulmate we did everything together and she inspired me
        To do things I didn’t think I was capable of .
        I miss her so much my heart is breaking .so I know how you will be feeling too
        My wife was 60 on 31/8/2014. Still a young age I think.she was 6years older than me but the love we had a I still have is amazing I feel truly blessed that I had 29
        Wonderful happy years with her thanks once again.
        May god bless and watch over you love

    • shyam
      March 12, 2014

      I am also in a similiar situation and have lost my wife of 30 years, in June 2013. It is a very difficult period. Wish god helps you in overcoming this difficult period.

    • cupitonians
      March 12, 2014

      Big hugs, Wayne. I know words can’t be enough consolation but hang in there.

    • Janice
      May 7, 2014

      It’s all really sad, 5 years on for me and it still hurts. The lonelines is always with me.

  4. Janice
    March 11, 2014

    Thank you for such an insightful description of time passing into a second year without that special someone. I recognise completely the emotions you describe (I’ve just passed the second anniversary) as well as the dreadful feeling of being ‘truly sad to the core’.
    Thank you as ever for finding the time and the words to express your tragic loss and to share the beautiful photo of you and Jackson, which is so uplifting.

  5. Claudio Faenza Keplinger
    March 11, 2014

    I can really relate to your blog, I lost my wife almost 4 month ago and have a 3 year old

  6. Emily
    March 11, 2014

    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.

  7. handikwani02
    March 11, 2014

    Feeling lonely is part of being human, the fact that you talk about it shows you are not denying that you are human it would be odd for you did not to feel that way. What I like is the way in which you deal with every feeling along the way. Like Emily says no-ne can ever heal your heartache in the same vein no-one can ever steal the memories you hold of Desreen that is what keeps you sane.

  8. Rhodissimo
    March 11, 2014

    The words ‘half of a whole’ have never had so much impact – finally, you have so eloquently described how I feel after losing my beloved Paul. It’s not loneliness per se, but just that – a cloud of loss which just hangs around, and you have no choice but to get used to.
    You write so beautifully Ben – and so often your posts describe so accurately how I’m feeling at any given time.I have begun to send links to your posts to my friends to communicate to them how I’m feeling, which helps all of us navigate this sorrowful but bonding path.
    I empathise so much with you, and though that may be little consolation, I suppose it helps to know there are a number of us facing that familiar sinking feeling each night when retiring to bed and again moments after waking.
    I hope knowing this, between us, can give us strength.
    With love x

  9. MichaelR
    March 11, 2014

    It’s difficult to adequately convey through mere words Ben but I felt and relate to every word of that! My daughter was 4 years old when her mummy/my wife were taken from us.

    This coming Friday it will have been 9 long years since she left and the truth is Ben (not that I want to offer you any discouragement) is that I think I feel more isolated now than ever before.The counter balance is the wonderful relationship that I have with my daughter,now 13 and a young lady I am immensely proud of.

    The isolation,I believe,is exacerbated by seeing her become more and more independent each day and knowing that the day when it is me and ONLY me will arrive in the not too distant future,scary! But we have a wonderful,close bond,quite unique among any other families that I know.People say she looks like me but I see her mother,as only I would I suppose.The little looks in her eye,her sense of humour…..and she sounds just like her when she giggles!! That can be a bittersweet thing but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

    I must apologise,I didn’t mean to become so sidetracked with my post here.Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts my friend.Much love to you both


    • Ben Dyke
      March 12, 2014

      Michael – its nice for us to hear from someone a little bit on with the journey so dont apologise. My daughter was 2 when her mum died and is 6 now. Her brother was 5 and is 10 now. Its nice to know others out there have been through this stuff and survived. I live in Sweden now with my 2nd wife Cathrine, and would never have imagined the life I have now with my two wonderful kids, having gone through such crap losing Hannah so young. God Bless.

  10. Sarah
    March 12, 2014

    Yes. You are totally, completely, absolutely, right Ben .

  11. Paul R
    March 12, 2014

    The comment about year two is so much worse bothers me. I’ll be starting year three next month and I recently had someone say to me that year three was the worst for them. Last year I had people say that year two was bad. I don’t know if this is a subconscious way for other widows/widowers to let us know that each year is bad, or why they say that.

    For me, every year is bad. Just in different ways, but the overall trend is getting better. Better in that I’m adjusting to my new reality, whether I want to or not. Yes, in some ways year two was worse than year one, but in other ways year two was much better than year one. Things that I never considered in my first year of being a widower intruded on my life in year two.

    It’s hard to explain, but each year is different and unique in its own way, both for the good and the bad. But life was like that before my wife’s death, just a very different focus.

    • Claire
      March 13, 2014

      I think the debate on Yr 1 vs 2 vs 3 and onwards is just the cliche people use when trying to comfort those grieving. All years are hard and everyone is different. Everyone goes at their own pace – though hard when you think you should be at a place when you’re not. You only learn that by looking back.

  12. shyam
    March 12, 2014

    Truly a very difficult period. I can relate to the difficulties faced by you even though I am older and have grown up children. May god bless you and help you in overcoming the difficult period.

  13. Janice
    March 12, 2014

    What you say is so sensible: the adjustment to being alone, the adjustment to the new life thrust at you and the general trend – these realities are far more helpful to me to understand than using a year as a benchmark. The comparison of each year, however well meaning of friends, has set up unhelpful expectations because this grief thing is so all consuming.

  14. Ruth
    March 12, 2014

    I’ll be enterng my 3rd year soon and it’s still hard. My youngest broke down the other day saying he couldn’t remember Dad, his memories were going. We then looked at loads of photos of them together but he said he couldn’t remember doing them, He was 7 when he died. It broke my heart.

    • Sarah
      March 12, 2014

      My children were 9, 7, 6 when my husband died 9 months ago and thats my fear. Do you have any advice? X

      • MichaelR
        March 13, 2014

        I hope you don’t mind my replying directly Sarah.Anyway,as I’ve no doubt you’re already doing in many ways,just keep your husband around as much as you can.Photos,videos,anecdotes etc etc These all help to keep memories fresh,you know.My daughter says now that she remembers certain things but that the one thing she’s lost is the memory of her mum’s voice.

        One of the things I’ve done is to keep very specific,favourite items of clothing that were Sally’s.Also things like her perfumes etc.Basically I’ve tried to keep a collection of stuff that gives my daughter as rounded and full a picture of who her mum was as possible.A memory box is always a good idea.Anything and everything that you think valid in terms of how it relates to your husband or you guys as a couple and a family is good,I’ve got our wedding plan paperwork in mine,for example.It might seem like a bit of a mishmash when you do it but it’s all precious.

        I hope I’ve helped maybe just a bit.Love to you all,

        Michael x

  15. Ben Dyke
    March 12, 2014

    Oh Ben! Thank you that even when you are having a more difficult time in your journey with such loss, you still articulate it and help others like me find expression for our feelings and thoughts and also comfort form knowing others understand us and some of what we have been through. Its pretty crap all round (and years later) to suffer such a loss and nothing can alleviate the pain.

    I found it so helpful when others who have suffered longer than me in their widowed young journey showed that unlike most perceptions of grief that show the pain/grief diminishing, its a much more helpful picture to show that the ball of grief/loss/pain etc pretty much stays similar(as powerful? as meaningful?), but what changes is our capacity for life grows around the loss as we go through life over time.

    I know there’s no words but well done for getting so far, and well done for being so loving to your beautiful boy despite all the pain.

  16. Luci
    March 12, 2014

    I’m on Year 5 as a divorcee…and I feel it getting “easier”…..I forget to remember……the pain and grief…..and that’s an achievement. Going from “us” to “me” was a shock but am now getting comfortable with just “me”. Yours is a different boat but there’s no escaping rough seas…..keep the faith.

  17. C
    March 13, 2014

    I identify with this so much but had never realised what I felt until I read your, very eloquently written, piece on Year 1 vs 2. Year 1 is so raw. Year 2 is some kind of acceptance but on a level where you’re just exhausted and sad. Everything takes time and you just have to kind to yourself and not expect to ‘be’ at a certain place at a certain time. Grief never works like that and those that refer to it in that way have surely not been through it.

  18. Lauren
    March 13, 2014

    My year 1 is ending in June and I have experienced the same sentiments. The loneliness is palpable. I miss companionship outside of my children. Although they give reasons to smile, laugh and play everyday. I miss being a wife! Now I feel like a statistic. Single, black, mother destined to be unhappy and alone. 😦

    • Wayne
      March 13, 2014

      Hi Lauren.
      I know how you must be feeling at this very sad time I myself have only lost my wife six weeks ago and the loneliness is terrible . Unlike you I have no one living in my home with me and am struggling with life at the moment . Take comfort from your children and enjoy the good times and cherish your memories I feel like I have lost half my body but I know the love me and my wife had will get me through.
      God bless you and your children.
      All the best

  19. beverleyann
    March 14, 2014

    I’m just starting year three without my husband, Sean, and I know exactly what you mean about things quieting down. It’s not that people forget about you, but they figure after a year you just don’t need as much support, which is not always true. I chose to fill my time with finding a new activities (Muay Thai has been particularly amazing),which in turn have opened me up to making new friends and trying new experiences. Just staying focused and busy has been therapy in itself. Hang in there, it does get not necessarily easier, but more manageable. And I would never thought I would have said that two years ago.

    • Janice
      March 14, 2014

      Yes, Beverleyann. I’m just beginning year 3 too and ‘staying focused and busy’ has been my therapy too and things are getting more manageable although life has completely and utterly changed!

  20. Ali
    April 25, 2014

    Ben, perhaps you could read my ‘e’ mail dated 2/9/13 regarding my experience of year 2. Year 3 makes me feel absolutely sick to the stomach of the loneliness that I feel and still the shocking disbelief that my husband Grahame is not here making plans with me. I said to my friend recently that I feel like I am ‘going through the motions of living my life’. She said and that’s what you need to continue doing until you feel truly happy again. Then we giggled as she’d read an article which indicated it took 7 years to feel truly happy again. Maybe I never will and that scares me… I take strength from my 3 children aged 9 and 5 yr old twins and they give me hope. I worry that I now don’t have dreams and ambitions for myself for the future, but I guess it’s because all my strength is going into living a positive ‘happy’ today….

  21. Nky
    April 26, 2014

    I have spent the morning reading your blog for the first time and I can honestly relate to all you are going through.. I am now approaching the first year anniversary of losing my husband suddenly and leaving me the sole carer of our three children. My youngest was three when he died and to continually try to explain death to him and why his daddy isn’t coming back is so painful and all I want to do is make everything better for him and his older brothers. You’re writing is wonderful, insightful and your son is a very lucky boy to have such a determined strong dad who very clearly is fighting to get him through this .. I have much admiration for you..

  22. Terri
    April 27, 2014

    I am so glad I came across this blog. I was starting to think there is something seriously wrong with me. I lost my Tom suddenly in a work accident one and a half years ago and I didn’t think I could feel possibly any worse than I did the first year. You are right, now the shock has begun to wear off and the realization that I am alone has set in. Not really totally alone, as I have legal custody of a ten year old granddaughter, which we were raising when he was killed, but now find myself a widow and basically a single mom at 57. People tell me I have to get used to the “new normal”, but I hate it. The only thing keeping me going is my granddaughter, but some days you just are so exhausted from trying to keep up the happy appearances. How do you do it and keep yourself from withdrawing from the world?

  23. Phil
    January 5, 2015

    I’ve just come to the end of year 1, but as I’m 65 it seems unlikely that I shall meet someone to share the so called twilight of my years. I’d always thought myself & my late wife would spend this time together travelling around the country seeing the places we’d always wanted to and doing the things we liked without the restrictions and pressure of work, but this now seems to have been stolen from me. I realise that I will never meet anyone like this wonderful woman that I am now grieving for and there seems a great void between now and the inevitable – everything we enjoyed is now in the past. Is this the reality?

  24. clive
    June 27, 2015

    Hi reading all the experiences of others makes me realise I am not alone . I lost my wife of 9 years last month , and loneliness is the biggest thing, empty house , no welcome appart from my 2 year old Labrador. I am 56 as was my wife , worked hard all my life and planning to retire at 60 and enjoy life together, what now.

    • shyam
      June 29, 2015

      Well it is tough in the initial months. However as the time progresses one starts to accept the loss. However, the greif never dies. My wife of 30 years passed away a couple of years ago and even today the loss troubles me.

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