A story of grief by a man and a boy

revealing yourself

A good friend of mine is in a lot of pain at the moment after suffering a similar loss to my own. Thinking about how he must feel right now has made me reflect a lot on the unbelievable pain I was in when we first lost Des.

You would probably expect that experience to make me the ideal person to support anyone who has been bereaved, but I don’t think it works that way – no one and nothing is enough when you’re grieving.

Experience doesn’t give you the right words, either. What use could words even be when the world you once knew has been torn apart? I scrambled around desperately trying to say the ‘right thing’ when I first heard the news, and the clichés I’ve always hated almost starting spilling from my mouth. 

I came across a quote from The Fault in Our Stars, which stayed with me, though: ‘Grief does not change you, it reveals you.’

If someone had told me that three years ago (it’ll be the 3rd anniversary of Desreen’s death next week), I would certainly not have thanked them. Back then I could only have interpreted it as someone trying to tell me that I’d spent my whole life hiding a insomniac, alcoholic, anxious, lachrymose, resentful wreck inside.

I understand those words now, though. And I’m writing this, not because I’m trying to suggest that everything will be okay for my friend, but rather to show that there’s hope and decency to be found down the line.

Grief has revealed a person in me that I often feel sad Des wouldn’t necessarily recognise. It’s made me do things that I didn’t know I had in me. But it has also made me depressed and, despite occasionally being more driven than I ever was before grief came along, depression has often made it difficult to muster the energy to do anything. As I look at it today, I think depression and anxiety has stopped me doing the right thing for too long.

Without knowing it my friend has inspired me to take that leap. I’m going to ask for you all for your help with something soon. I’m going to get behind a cause that might just help make a shred of goodness come out of all the pain.

I’m doing it for Des and I’m taking the leap because of my friend. They’re both very much in my thoughts.

More soon.

9 comments on “revealing yourself

  1. Margaret
    November 5, 2015

    I am 2 yrs & 7 months away from my normal life as I call it. I can identify with everything you say. Ive been called upon several times to return the goodness of some who were there for me and I honestly feel I didnt perform as well as I should have. I feel guilty but yet cannot call on the resouces necessary. I think when we find intense love it looks like it does damage to us when we lose it. Good luck with your new venture…

  2. Bill Wright
    November 5, 2015

    Hi Ben,

    Long time no speak.
    That’s a really good quote. Grief has revealed to me a steady, cautious man, when much of my life before Anni died was spent trying to protect a vibrant, gregarious personality.

    Interested to hear the coming project.

    P.S I hope the drinking is nothing you can’t handle. Us bereaved types are a high risk category. In my bereaved Dads support Group I’ve seen the guys there tick many of the boxes that bad TV shows like to present as typical behaviour of the ‘crazy’ bereaved parent.

    I hope Jackson has settled well at school. Ed is doing well and for now, it has stopped being difficult seeing him in his school uniform without his twin sister beside him.

    I hope the difficulty anniversary next week goes as well as can be expected for you and Jackson.


  3. sharrongordon
    November 5, 2015

    Three years ago I had not experienced the death of someone that you love.
    Like all of your followers on this blog we felt it for you and your family.
    Three years on I have now experienced and experiencing every single raw emotion that a loss brings. We must all see ourselves in what you write, because it is written with complete honesty.

  4. debburley
    November 5, 2015

    Simply sending you ❤️

  5. theunholyghost
    November 5, 2015

    I am not a widower, but lost my best friend/husband of 14 years. It feels like a death in many ways. I had listened to a line from a Florence and the Machine song many times over, and the quote you posted is similar. Her line was ‘Let loss reveal it’. “It” in the case of the song is everything from strength to weakness, beauty and joy to despair and incapacity. I also think my former husband would not recognize me as so much of who I ‘thought’ I was has been stripped away, leaving me with a shell that – curiously – is becoming more lovely even in the overwhelming grief. Your post was beautiful, relatable, and I am thankful I stumbled across it this morning. I had taken a hiatus from blogging and reading and I’m glad I came back today to read this.

  6. Clare
    November 5, 2015

    Ben, I’ve been following your heartbreaking story since it happened. And then last August my 20 year old step son was hit by an eldery driver who also got the pedals confused. He survived but suffered major injuries to his legs and ankles and will be affected for the rest of his life. He was just paying for his car park ticket at 3pm one Wednesday afternoon after finishing work. We’ve since wanted to highlight the issue of eldery drivers and the lack of competence testing. Happy to get involved if you need us on your team. We’ve all signed your petition too. Keep doing what you’re doing. Xx

    • Life as a Widower
      November 5, 2015

      Thanks so much, Clare – I’m so sorry to hear about that. Please join me. If you message me with your contact details, I’ll keep them but I won’t publish them (I approve all comments before they’re seen) x

  7. leah burke
    November 6, 2015


    I love reading your blog and I’m so sorry your beautiful wife is not here with you and your son .. I’m not a widow but I am a heartbroken bereaved parent .. we lost our 8 week old Samuel to SIDS nearly 15 months ago but the grief and the trauma and the after effects feel the same ie our world turned upside down… I love that you are going to work on a good cause Inspired by your friends pain and loss too . Since your so creative I thought you may find some inspiration in Carlymarie Dudley s work .. she is an artist from West Australia who lost her son 8 years ago and speaks about how after 18months of unhealthy grieving she decided to find out what healed her .. and returned to art photography and frienships etc .. she runs grief workshops for people to meet other people in the same situation and also create art good food .. yoga .and show people skills how to heal etc through music writing meditation..bereavment counselling etc with their grief .. spending time with people that just get it .It’s really given my grief and depression a new angle as it’s all about how to live a good life as possible with your grief and honour your loved ones legacy by doing that ..And as you spoke of grief revealing you and how to rebuild and heal etc .. not sure if that makes any sense but it is just a nice to way to muddle through this grief abit gentler . She has a great website facebook and instagram and was the creater of the Capture Your Grief October month project on instagram . Looking forward to seeing your ideas too. Lots of love to you and your son from Dublin .

  8. handikwani02
    November 11, 2015

    The one thing which has remained consistant in your writing is the honesty, the thought which came into my mind is- while you are very clear that grief is something which has to be worked through. As one who has read all your posts on this blog I can say with confidence that you continue to cope very well with dealing with days like your son going to school for the first time,yoyr wife’s birthday and the annivesary of her death.
    Like you say you can never be sure how you will feel on any of these days because each day will be different. I have recommended your blog to people who have had similar experiences like yours and they arew ever so grateful for all your posts.

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