A story of grief by a man and a boy

single boredomhood

It occurred to me the other day that I don’t really see myself as a ‘widower’ anymore. Nothing about losing my wife feels any different, but it’s only really when I have to fill in the marital status section of some sort of form that I think, Oh shit! That’s me!

I guess that might be because I feel single enough to please myself and to not be entirely defined by my past, but – honestly – I think it’s actually because I have a title and status that is altogether more pressing and all-consuming: I’m a single parent.

This is a hard one to explain but I often feel like a fraud. Over the last few years, I’ve experienced this strange sensation – a feeling like I’m not really living my own life – many times. It’s as though I’m playing a role (or perhaps even a series of roles) that I’m not entirely comfortable with.

When I tell people what I do for a living, I feel like I’m not really telling the truth. It’s as though my life changed so much after my wife died that I don’t even really feel like I have the same life or career as I did before I lost her.

On the odd occasions when I’ve said ‘I’m a writer of sorts’ (rather than referring to my more consistently accurate job in PR), I’ve always felt somewhat disingenuous, as if putting forward this accidental identity felt like a rather uncomfortable pretension (strange because pretension was something I was always quite comfortable with before).

Even when an Uber driver pulls up and asks if I’m ‘Benjamin’ (the name I only began to use when I changed my surname to incorporate my wife’s), I chuckle to myself a little and think, Don’t be ridiculous. It makes me wonder if I went for a wholesale identity change to make sense of senseless and now it all makes less sense than ever before.

The one status that never eludes me, though, is that of a sole parent. It’s all too real. You can change everything else – your name, your career, where you live, how you look – but this inescapable responsibility, I’ve come to realise, will entirely define your life.

What I am clear about as a father is that I am blessed; it’s an honour to experience the joy and unconditional love of parenthood. But it’s also hard. And single parenting is incredibly boring sometimes, too. Perhaps doing it alone through the permanence of widowhood makes it that bit more laborious still, simply because it so rarely lets up. I might have the means and support to temporarily run away, but the guilt of depriving my child of his only living parent never fails to pull me back emotionally. How much easier things could be for me if I just went ahead and sought help. And yet how much I know I would make myself suffer as a result.

Of course I’ve reviewed all the options – the long term family support, the nanny, the au pair – but even four years on I find myself steadfastly stubborn. I simply want my home to be my sanctuary and not a environment of egg shells, indebtedness or employment. It’s a parenting checkmate that I sometimes feel has robbed me of myself. A sociable guy left mostly antisocial by situation. The person who would never have chosen to live alone essentially doing just that every day from 7:30pm. Feeling like I’m ‘doing the right thing’ but mostly isolated and frequently bored as a consequence.

I suppose it’s true that we have made progress, but I feel like I have been left on hold. Sure, I have a lot to be thankful for already, but when you know how much more you could be with the time and support you once assumed you would have through the intrinsic partnership of marriage and parenthood, it’s hard to reconcile your unexpected reality.

Living a life that would otherwise be in full flow, but instead has slowed to a pace that makes me feel older than I am and more solitary than I thought I would ever be. Yearning for spontaneity and yet being a slave to routine. Wondering if I’ve had ‘my time’ already or whether I’ll feel like I’m really living again someday. Torn between wanting to give my son the best life I can and not wanting to deprive myself of (another) one of my own. Trapped in a situation that I both love and loathe. Scared to admit how I feel in case it makes me sound ungrateful for everything I still have.

37 comments on “single boredomhood

  1. Melinda Fargo
    January 29, 2017

    Yep, that. We almost want to stay in a state of full-throttle grievance to give our new life – or do I mean past life – some sort of meaning. The ‘who am I now?’ in your words resonates deeply. And now you’ve made me cry. Crying for you, me, and the complete and utter senselessness of it all. As you say, the role of ‘single parent’ keeps us from running away.

    • Life as a Widower
      January 29, 2017

      I’ve been on the edge all day. In fact, completely out of the blue, some friends offered to have Jackson today and I went to the cinema and pretended to get emotional at the film!

      • melindafargo
        January 29, 2017

        Okay, now that made me laugh! Running the gamut of emotions today. Don’t forget my offer when we met of always being willing to listen or talk with you. My best, Mx

    • Weyman Holton
      March 26, 2017

      I can’t imagine what I would have done without my children. They have been my liferaft than any sense of an anchor. I lost my wife unexpectedly about the same time as Benjamin. A pivot doesn’t even comes close to describing what comes after a loss like that. Yes, the roles thing is something we do…it’s what helps us know how to act…we have seen others in those roles and so while we ‘fake it til we make it’ we press on. But here we are all this time on and… I am still asking, but who am I now? Thank you Ben for putting your story out there. Most widowers become part of the woodwork and silently suffer.

  2. Julie
    January 29, 2017

    Yes single bordomhood sucks !! Hope you are both well.

  3. Vanessa Jack
    January 29, 2017

    You deserve to keep living a fulfilled vibrant life. Do not put that on hold. Sarifice wont make you a better parent. A social life will not deprive your son of a secure home. Live a little …. leave the guilt behind. Aloneness has no reward X

  4. Sam Ramsay
    January 29, 2017

    I cannot pretend to know how you feel, but don’t I believe you should feel guilty for having those feelings or for being able to express them particularly since they are so thought provoking.

  5. sevenyearsstillsingle
    January 29, 2017

    I’ve been single parenting my 3 kids for 7 years, divorced. Their father is involved a lot with them but my life is most definitely on hold as a) I’m knackered, b) no man seems appealed by a (cute fun loving slightly bonkers) mum of 3, c) when they are away from me there’s no on around to hang out with.
    I have no answers except to indulge yourself in things you love, don’t be afraid of doing stuff on your own (the hardest bit is getting on the bus!), have no expectations of anything and have a little dream of what you’ll do when life changes again. Mine is to live by the sea which I’ve never done. I take my goodness from seeing the quite amazing creatures my children are and how we are a gang of 4. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I tire of people saying ‘I don’t know how you do it!’ (no choice perhaps dumb ass) and long for some help/go out for dinner/make me laugh with adult chat/stop feeling so lonely etc.

    All I do know is this is just another phase in my life and I live it day to day – never knowing what’s to come, I find its the best (only) way. After many years of dealing with the head stuff I realise my best is good enough for the kids and I am actually a very awesome gal!
    Hope your movie was good, what did you see? And if you’re ever in Northumberland, I’ll shout you a beach walk and a coffee 😊

  6. Katharine
    January 29, 2017

    At your stage I would always try to remind myself that the restless boredom is major progress from the numbness and searing loss of the first few years. You are doing all the right things and you describe it very well – a life on hold. It feels like a pat on the back for me at nearly 10 years. Best wishes xx

  7. Larry
    January 29, 2017

    Know the feeling. Wife died almost four years ago and been raising my three children pretty much by myself, as neither my wife or I had much family.
    People are always bugging me I should do more but can’t bring myself to put my needs before theirs.

  8. encounters
    January 29, 2017

    Ben as always you express so openly how you feel. I can understand the torn between wanting the best for your son and you being yourself whatever that may mean.
    I think the fact that you are feeling bored is an indication that you are acknowledging your own personal needs which you may have ignored because of wanting the best you can be to Jackson. I am sure beginning to do things just for you is not bad and it may prove to be good for you.

  9. Amy
    January 29, 2017

    I’ve been a widow my son’s entire life. I went through the alone boredom and feeling like my life was no longer my own, but it gets better as your child gets older. Just make sure to take time for yourself. Our kids need us at our best and we can’t be our best if we’re exhausted, frustrated, and worn out.

  10. Sarah P
    January 29, 2017

    I used to get very bogged down with the question of…have I had my turn at ‘life’ now? Am I now destined to become a recluse with lots of animals instead of friends when the kids move out?! Will I meet anyone else or is my job/purpose now just to look after the kids? These thoughts were with me quite soon after D Day since my only wish in life was to have a husband and kids. 4 years on and I hope I have waded through this stage. I can say I’m mostly happy now to go with the flow and not question much anymore. I think the age of your children may have something to do with this? Mine were 5 and 7 when they lost Dad. They are now 10 and 12 and being with them is a delight. They are much more independent and sensitive to my feelings and realise I need my time now and again. So hang on in there Ben, boredom is definitely a step up from feeling like Gollum …xx

  11. lisaloop
    January 29, 2017

    I’m single through separation not bereavement so do have alternate weekends and one weeknight “off” – although that bizarrely also feels like a punishment as my home feels weird without my child in it ! “Sociable guy made mostly antisocial by situation” really resonates..

    • Sagessffs
      January 5, 2019

      You get time off as a divorced parent. Wow. Well, the widowed/widower parents does NOT. You, divorced person, have NO idea what you are even talking about so bog off please.

  12. somekindofwonderful1
    January 29, 2017

    I love this post. It sums up some Patenting perfectly. My husband, though still living physically, is unfortunately overtaken by severe depression and alcohol addiction . This leaves us grieving the husband/ daddy we had yet confused that he lives yet not within our reach. I like the title ‘sole parent’ as it explains so much more, that there is no ‘ downtime’ or ‘ free weekends ‘ . Yes it’s hard and lonely and sometimes frightening that maybe this is it. And that all that you thought you were going to have is gone. It’s the little things. Someone to make you a cuppa on a Saturday morning, or to hold your hand after a tough day. Then I look at my two lovely, settled, happy children and know that as long as the grow up ok, then I’ll be ok too. Thanks for the post, really touched me this one x

  13. Sarah Harris
    January 29, 2017

    Yep, spot on xxxx

  14. Hannah Richell
    January 30, 2017

    This is so true. Your last paragraph in particular – thank you.

  15. Suze
    January 30, 2017

    To some extent this is a function of your boy’s age. In another 8 years, you’ll have a lot more flexibility.

  16. Lea Gorgulu webb
    January 30, 2017

    Lovely post! You’ve hit the nail on the head by identifying the isolated life of a single parent after 7:30.

  17. Adam Watts
    January 30, 2017

    This is word perfect for me, too. I have 5 boys, 14, 13, 11, 9 and 6. February 26th 2017 will be the fourth anniversary of Eileen’s death.

    I honestly don’t think I have grieved properly in the intervening years. There has always been a routine to follow, coupled with working from home. The number of pieces I have to constantly cut myself into has been numerous and unforgiving.

    I feel my life is on hold for at least the next 10 years, when my youngest hits 16. I’ll be 61 then. I do try and make plans for me, but life always takes over

  18. Widow Strong
    January 30, 2017

    Put perfectly! I completely understand the feeling like you are living someone else’s life. I’m almost 3.5 years in with 11 and 14 year old girls and I definitely feel like this isn’t my life at all! Like I’m on hold, and it’s confusing and exhausting trying to figure out my way back to me! My one constant is I’m a solo parent. Day in, day out that doesn’t change.

  19. Carol Shaw
    January 30, 2017

    Very well put, sometimes I read your blog and realise you have verbalised something I was not able to put into words and explained it so well, I’m unsure how you change the feeling of boredom and then guilt from doing things on your own that is a constant challenge

  20. aloelivingsite
    January 30, 2017

    Guilt is a wasted emotion that is really a form of defence, Don’t forget your son one day will be an adult and you’ll be thinking blinking heck where did that time go and then have to find yourself, If you are happy your son will be happy, maybe you are ready for a complete change rather than trying to keep to the life you had,
    Noone would judge you and it could be the chance to move forward, Do something new, We all change what we like do’nt like, job choices, houses etc.Do not feel guilty, you are allowed!!! x

  21. smc68300
    January 30, 2017

    This: “Scared to admit how I feel in case it makes me sound ungrateful for everything I still have.” Not only scared to admit it to others, but struggle simply with feeling it. Mike doesn’t have the privilege of helping our beautiful, brave boys grow into amazing young men. I feel that I should be grateful for every minute, and in many ways I am, but in other ways the relentlessness has turned me into a different, more exhausted, grumpier version of the parent I was before.

  22. Megan Stirk Wilkinson
    January 30, 2017

    I fortuitously came across your post this morning. I was struggling with these exact emotions this weekend, 14 months after the death of my husband. I am so glad I stopped to read it, you took everything I had been thinking/feeling recently and put it into words. I find the loneliness and isolation of being a sole parent to a four year old tortuous and what frustrates me is that I feel there is no good solution. For all the same reasons you have listed. And the Boredom!! You are spot on with that. I feel like, for the most part, I am just waiting around…for what, I don’t know. My life to begin? Everything is for my son now– every decision, every action, every bit of energy and excitement I can muster– nothing is my own anymore. Nothing I do is for me. On top of losing my husband, I feel I have lost myself, as well. I can only hope that with time, I will be able to find a way to bring balance back to my life.
    Thank you for making me realize I am not so alone, after all.

  23. bethramirezblog
    January 30, 2017

    I am quite the “newbie” here on WordPress. I have had the site for almost a year but never really knew what to say or how to say it. I stumbled upon your heart here for the world to see. I thank you Sir! Thank you for bearing all of your soul here for strangers to see. I have read several of your entries and just know this….you are doing so much good with what you are doing. Installing hope and some kind of normalcy into the lives of people across the world that you may never see or meet. Reading your story has sparked something in me and I am forever grateful. Thank you for everything!

  24. Vanessa
    January 30, 2017

    Another poignant post Ben. Being a single, divorced parent is of course very different but I’m often solo after 8pm too and know that feeling of blessed but bored. Hang in there

  25. lemon
    March 21, 2017

    Being a single parent for whatever reason is hard. It is hard to find a balance in everything! I am constantly bored, lonely and failing and yet I am also fulfilled and happy. I find the hardest struggle with the parent/friend balance. I am also appalling at disciplinary action! I don’t really have a life outside of my son and my blog. I used to be really sociable but caring for my disabled Mother ended all that and I have never regained the confidence (or the energy) to ‘get back out there’. It is really hard not to lose the social/fun part of you after a loss but nobody should feel bad trying to find it again.

  26. Pingback: single boredomhood – Kristalin Davis' Musings on the Human Condition

  27. Racheal
    May 14, 2017

    I believe it was a few days after I first heard the word “widow” applied to me that I came to the full realization of also being a single parent.
    This sucks.
    I literally did change my job. I tried to go back to work, and realized I just could not give a crap any more. My entire plan for my life had collapsed, and my high stress job no longer fit into my life plan.
    I am so thankful that I can be here for my kids. My biggest wish is that as they grow with this pain that they will remember feeling loved during this time. I want the pain of loss to be somewhat offset by the security and comfort of a present and involved parent. They also give me strength, often being the only reason I see a need to get out of bed or get dressed.
    Still, the relentlessness of it is excruciating. All of us are at high stress and at each other’s throats. For a couple of weeks we were trading fevers, so it was no school for the kids. Two weeks just the three of us at home 24 hours a day. It was unbelievable.
    I’m trying to find my own space while being there for them. It’s not easy, and I’m sure I’m doing it all wrong.

  28. Lynn
    September 19, 2017

    How true. Felt like I am just existing going through everyday. I wish I could have those simple happy carefree smiles like back then.

    September 21, 2017

    Touche. Ppl inexperienced will never fathom this. Childless yet I too am feeling quite stuck these days..voluntarily bc in a way it soothes too know ur honoring another life taking care of biz of sorts.involuntarily bc you can’t change the past .title or not our loved one dearly missed,memory wise will always be afront of sorts to whatever we commit .? If i wear a wig Am i the same person.. So how does all the activities ventures or adventures dismiss the Me that I am Now. Not only can i not afford it but is the tradeoff equally or more fullfilling towards healing,progression at the time I’d beg to differ as societal indulgence just Remind I’m alone… Again. Like i never planned for a life per lifetime apart. Maybe one day when my finances are well id like to take a neat trip somewhere nearby being staycations where a Thing for us back then.or have a pro.massage for tension &maybe even the sake of being touched by another human being… Never imagined how isolating LIFE becomes. Afterwards.. Ilovemypuppy coldnose warm heart.#Tell me there’s more

  30. cynthia bowers
    November 11, 2017

    I found your blog this morning quite by accident — I had googled “widow six months” and voila! Though my story is so different, but possibly identical to other’s… I was married 45 years. Husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer. Gone five weeks later. While I can and do identify with so much you have written, I was struck today by your comment that you had a more significant identification/status — that of single parent. I am left yet again with recognizing that I don’t know who I am, not having reached that point of figuring it out. And yes, I keep busy, I fill my time with painting, teaching, cleaning… all seems rote and meaningless. I am seven months out…. damn…. when do I get to the other side of this?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on January 28, 2017 by .
%d bloggers like this: