Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

three years 

It’s three years today since Desreen was killed. In the beginning people always used to tell me that they couldn’t imagine what I was going through, so I decided to tell them. I wrote a post called Imagining It in an attempt to explain and share all the different feelings. I then went on to write blog posts entitled Six MonthsRemembrance SundayTwo Years, and now here we are again today.

I’ve been trying to write this one for a while, but for some reason I’ve just not found the words. This morning I decided to go into work a bit later than usual because I wanted to have breakfast with my son and then take him to school. He was noticeably more affectionate than usual and insisted that I cuddled him harder than I ever had before. ‘You nearly squashed me,’ he exclaimed with a big smile on his face.

Despite taking an hour or so out to be with him, I’ve decided not to mark today. Maybe I’ll tell him its significance this evening but, the way I feel right now, I doubt that I will. And it was while I contemplated this on my way to work that I realised why the words for the reflective format of the once traditional blog post just weren’t there.

I’ve been trying to think more positively recently. Perhaps ‘trying’ isn’t the right word – I guess I’ve challenged myself to do so. Gradually I’ve started to find that I have to try less before it starts to just happened.

So, for example, when my laptop was stolen from the pub on Friday night, I told myself that it was just ‘stuff’ and was oddly rather satisfied that I still had my umbrella (the mind can work in strange ways). When I went to leave the house this morning, I realised that I had since lost my umbrella, too. At least it’s not raining, I thought.

Also, it was Desreen’s birthday a few weeks ago and I decided then that that should be the date I mark with my son going forward. There’s nothing to celebrate today.

Today, however, is also not the day to follow the format of those previous posts, not because I’m not in hurting but because my overriding feelings are of gratitude and hope. All my previous ‘milestone’ posts have been written with other people in mind. Through them I’ve always tried to explain how grief has felt for me at that particular time, to help them understand how it might feel for them.

These past seven days, however, have made it quite difficult for me to reflect on what has become my ‘normal’ life, because they have been extraordinary.

This time last week I listened to an inspiring panel – featuring the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez – talk on the subject of protest. I made notes as they spoke, knowing that when I left the room I had a job to do. That same day I started campaigning for what I believe to be more common sense and thorough approach to testing drivers’ ability to continue to drive safely as they age. The support has been incredible, and that’s what is making it difficult for me to find the words about how I have mostly been feeling as I’ve approached today’s date.

All I find myself able to say is that today I feel grateful for the support so many people have shown for the campaign.

Today I feel sure that, if we keep on going, we can make a change.

Today I feel thankful for all my amazing friends and family who always have been and always will be there.

Today I feel so moved by the wider community that has amassed around this blog and its social channels over the last three years.

Today I feel touched that a little girl ran over to Jackson in the playground this morning with a card she’d made for him to mark the day.

Today I feel proud that when I left my son at school this morning he was happy.

Today I just don’t feel like thinking about how I might have felt yesterday or how I might feel tomorrow.

In many ways today is just another day. And yet, when I think about it, it could also be a day that changes everything. Let’s just hope that, unlike this day three years ago, it is one that has the potential to change things for the better.

To sign and share my petition please go to change.org/olderdrivers

24 comments on “three years 

  1. lottiesc
    November 10, 2015

    Beautiful and oh so true as always Ben, thank you! Having marked the 10th anniversary of my late husbands passing in May this year, I can relate and it was only a year ago that I started marking that day with my two boys, now 12 and 15. I always take the day to reflect on the year that’s gone by and just “be” and I promised myself 10 years ago that I will never work on this day going forward.

  2. somekindofwonderful1
    November 10, 2015

    Love it Ben. Just an honest open piece on where you are right now and doing what’s right for you and your son . You do sound a little more positive which is good. This’s life is a tough journey and living and enjoying small moments , I have realised recently , is often the way. Much love to you both
    Maria xy

  3. Kelly Tyler
    November 10, 2015

    Poignant and honest as always…I continue to admire your strength.

  4. Viv rogers
    November 10, 2015

    As always lovely words and thoughts. Your journey has matched many people’s even if hurdles were at different times. In my case after three years I met someone who is still in my life after 5 years. I never ever thought that would happen but it has made my life bearable.. it will never be as good as it was but it did make me think that the future can be bright despite everything that has happened to me. Good luck

  5. Viv rogers
    November 10, 2015

    Lovely words and thoughts as a always. Your experiences through your grief are similar to mine but we all have different hurdles at different times.. After three years I made the huge leap to start a relationship ship which still carries on now 5 years later. It a made me learn to look to the future but love my past and never let it go. This relationship will never be what I had before but it’s as good as it gets and I’m happy. Not that I don’t long for my past life every day but as you said the future awaits and maybe yours will have a brilliant new chapter. I surely hope so.

  6. Joanne Dwyer
    November 10, 2015

    what a truly inspirational and honest post. Marking Desreen’s birthday with Jackson is such a beautiful way to remember her on her special day. Huge hugs and support. Your petition has been signed and shared numerous times.

  7. Jenny
    November 10, 2015

    Good thoughts Ben x

  8. M. V.
    November 10, 2015

    Thank you Ben for sharing your thoughts. So beautiful and honest. I lost my father when I was just two years old and he’s always in my thoughts. I find great comfort in speaking about him with those who knew him and to my children. I can’t have him in my life but he’s always in my heart. I think of how proud he’d be knowing that he’ll never be forgotten. Thinking of you and your beautiful children, and thank you again.

  9. Laura Lovell
    November 10, 2015

    Ben. I read you post the other day with your comment ‘Grief doesn’t change you, it reveals you.’ I absolutely loved it.

    I have lost loved ones but I have not lost a partner. However, I do grieve for another reason, which I am not comfortable to share publicly. It is a grief that has taken over my life for the last 3 years and one that has made me question my very purpose in life.
    I have been battling for ages trying to make sense of it and when I read you post, I was overcome with reassurance. I realised that the situation I faced was not one that I should look upon negatively but to embrace what it brought to my life and that it was revealing new aspects of ‘me’ that I didn’t realise existed. As I said on twitter, it was a lightbulb moment for me.

    I am sharing this as I want to thank you for your blog. I am sure it means different things to different people but for me, that specific post has transformed my outlook on what was a bleak situation.

    I cry every time I read about the loss of your wife but through you, many good things are happening and I, for one, have been touched by your shared words.

    Thank you x

  10. Sophie Smith
    November 10, 2015

    I went to school with Desreen and remember her very fondly, she was a lovely person. I’m thinking of you and Jackson today.

    I have signed and shared your petition and wish the campaign every success xx

  11. Jenny Meyers
    November 10, 2015

    So pleased to read this post Ben – I have been troubled for you and this post is so very positive. You are so good and so very articulate when trying to explain your feelings. Today my thoughts are with you and Jackson. You are doing a fabulous job of being a Daddy.
    Petition signed. Good luck.

  12. stevemorton
    November 10, 2015

    I’ve been sharing your petition link around Ben. We don’t know each other, but I admire your strength and courage. My thoughts are with you and your son on this day as much as any other day. Take care

  13. PaulR
    November 10, 2015

    Glad to hear you have turned the corner and have a positive outlook on life. In my limited experience, my wife died April 2012, the first step is to acknowledge your grief and let it run it’s course. During that time it is almost impossible to hear, and accept it, when someone says that it gets better.

    The elderly driver issue is also getting more news time in the US. You may want to check out this story: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/10/08/162392507/when-should-seniors-hang-up-the-car-keys

  14. CharleneS
    November 10, 2015

    Hi Ben and Jackson just to say you are in my prayers and I pray more than anything else that Desreen is in a good place. Your post is so touching. Take care

  15. Alex Abrams
    November 10, 2015

    I have heard about your loss and you have my condolences. However, I do not agree with your petition requiring people over the age to 70 to be retested. My mother lives in a very rural area, and while her driving is very good, if she were to fail the test on a minor point, it would rob her of her independence. It was bad driving that caused the accident involving your wife, not the age of the driver. Please rethink this petition.

    • Life as a Widower
      November 10, 2015

      I failed my driving test first time round. I went away and learned how to drive better and then passed. I see no reason why a fail on a technicality wouldn’t allow for retest. If it were on medical or fundamental safety grounds, though, would you really want to see her put herself and/or others at risk?

  16. Jeff Bolen (@Jeff0B)
    November 10, 2015

    I feel that you and I are brothers in grief. I have followed you from the beginning of your journey. I have cried with you, laughed with you. I lost my wife Donna from breast cancer shortly before you loosing Desreen. It has been 3 years for me too. Back then i was searching for any understanding of what happened just as you. I’m sure it was harder for you with a young son. All of our kids are grown. We were married for 40 years.

    I still cry from time to time, but not as often as in the beginning.

    I wish you and Jackson the best. Peace.

    Jeff

  17. Ellen
    November 10, 2015

    Truth is I have been waiting for a petition like this one, my nan used to struggle to make herself a cup of tea and then minutes later she’d be behind the wheel. I have two boys, one who is 2, so reading about your last three years has had me crying and wanting to reach out to you. Keep going. Your son is beautiful, a credit to both of you. And he looks happy, a credit to you. Xxx

  18. Richard
    November 10, 2015

    You are beginning to move on Ben, you will never forget Desreen, you shared your life with you and between you created your son in whom Desreen lives on. Nearly 10 years ago my wife and I were given the devastating news that she had cancer. This was within six months of being made redundant and on the verge of moving to another part of the country. My wonderful wife is a survivor, not everyone touched by cancer dies. I have a job that I love although it pays less. Remarkably we worked through all of that. I am amazed by your resilience, I know that Jackson is your priority and because of him you are coming to terms with your new life.

    You are an amazing person and I feel it an honour to have been able to help with your quest.

    Richard

  19. Bob
    November 10, 2015

    I remember reading about the incident in the papers when it happened. I only came across this site today though. I can’t even begin to imagine what you must have gone through, what you’re still going through. I don’t feel like there is really anything I can say to help. I’m in awe of your strength and courage. Anyway, I haven’t read the whole site yet, I just hope you are able to find some happiness and peace

  20. Mary
    November 11, 2015

    I discovered this blog yesterday, via a link on the BBC News website in an article about your campaign for compulsory retesting of 70+ drivers, and over the course of the past 24 hours have read everyone of your posts.
    Anything I can think of to say would sound like a platitude or a cliche, but I still feel I want to say something … So, I hope the future brings you and your amazing son all the good things you both so deserve.

  21. Tania Horncastle
    November 12, 2015

    Thought you spoke well this morning Ben, really cannot thank you enough for working so hard on this. My wife is 65 and to be honest I feel she needs to have a test…. I cannot talk about it and have to sit there waiting for the crash or scrape that will inevitably come. She probably has 4 years of ok driving left in her during the daylight hours if dry. THIS SHOULD NOT BE THE CASE. if i mention it my goodness all hell explodes, from paranoia to tears, my marriage just cannot take it and the abuse that I would get if I dare to simply protect her, me , our family and the public.
    Please please speak for me Ben, my love and best wishes, T.H.

  22. Avni Trivedi
    November 15, 2015

    Deep gratitude to you Ben for your work. My dear cousin was killed in a car accident 3 months ago- his wife is expecting their baby in a few weeks. As sad as the situation is, I thank you for sharing your feelings so openly especially about how you listened to your son’s emotions. I trust that they will help for the new baby in the family, and give guidance on how to keep the memory of their father alive.

  23. Leigh Heath ( Ted )
    November 22, 2015

    I have just watched your interview on TV. A number of things struck me immediately, not least of those being what a fantastic father you are to your son.
    I am a 69 year old Grandfather , terminally ill with Pancreatic Cancer. I am at the stage of Palliative Care. My wife and I have a Grandson aged three, who lives with us and we are both very concerned about how to deal with telling him where Grandee has gone afterwards. My wife is a very strong woman , but quite naturally she herself is daunted about coping with life after I have gone.
    I was a little puzzled by your contention that ‘ I am grateful to have my friends and family support now, and will always have their support in the future ‘. Surely your experiences have taught you that the opposite is the truth. We never know , from day to day , who will be here to support us and who may not. I know that this has been revealed to me in no uncertain terms over recent years and months. Don’t mistake me , I am a ‘cup half full ‘ sort of guy. Like you I tend towards ‘ I cried because I had no shoes , until I met a man who had no feet ‘.
    I admire your sheer commitment to your boy, he is very lucky to have you as a Father. I do wish you well for the future , and have little doubt that your son will grow into a very well- adjusted adult.

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