A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
I’ve started seeing a counsellor again. I first tried psychotherapy a couple of months after my wife was killed but it just didn’t work out. I suppose I had it my head that therapy fixed problems and so I resented my assigned therapist immediately. How the hell do you think you can make this situation better so soon? I thought as I looked at her from my chair. Fourteen months on, it’s clear to me that she actually didn’t.
It took a lot of soul-searching, time, experience and research before I realised that counselling isn’t really about remedy or resolution, at all. Of course it means different things to different people, and there are thousands of different types of psychotherapy to choose from, but this time I’ve opted for a kind that feels right for me right now. This time I think I know what I’m expecting from it, too. After all of these months I’ve finally figured out what it means to me.
It means unraveling my thoughts and feelings, and talking them through without judgement. It means giving myself time to focus on me without feeling selfish or self-indulgent. It means identifying how losing my wife is affecting me mentally and physically, so I can better understand why I am so frequently ill. And, increasingly, it means having a space in which to try to understand what I’m all about.
If I were reading this post as anyone but its author, I would probably have switched off at that last sentence. I think I would have judged its writer as excessively self-involved. Yet I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to open up about these thoughts and feelings because they are helping me to better understand why I’m so tortured by grief.
In this week’s session I identified something – or perhaps everything – that makes living with such a close and significant loss so oppressive: it’s the enormity of it. I’m slowly beginning to realise that becoming widowed doesn’t only mean that I’ve lost my wife. I’ve also lost the mother of my child. I’ve lost my best friend. I’ve lost my girlfriend. I’ve lost my housemate. I have no one to make long term plans with anymore. No one else really cares about the little things that we both loved. I have no one to talk meaningless, yet such significant, gibberish with. There will be no second child. There’s no looking forward to retirement or old age. I’ve no ambition for the future. The goals I had – that we had – have become redundant.
I am, of course, the person I was physically, but the personality that made me who I was mentally has completely changed. Ambition, focus, hard work, energy, drive, image and humour were important to me. And now? Well I just don’t really care. I don’t have any real professional or personal goals, and, oddly, I’m not even all that bothered. Maybe my focus has become not having any. I’m not particularly troubled by what people think of me, either. Whether people have something good or bad to say to or about me, I seem to remain fairly unmoved. So when I say that I no longer really know what I’m all about, it’s because I truly don’t. I know what I once was, but I’m not sure what I am right now or what I’m aiming to be in future.
This week I realised that it’s not just my wife I’ve lost but my own personal identity and any surety about what now makes me tick. Perhaps that sounds like bombastic claptrap taken straight from the couch, but I wonder if maybe you need to sit on it for a while for these sort of thoughts and feelings to start to make sense.