Over the weekend, I took my little girl out to the local amusement park, Pleasureland in Southport. This is what I like to class as ‘quality’ time together. We generated lots of fun and laughter. It had generously refilled my love, happiness and content levels to the brim. I also, subconsciously had my writing cap and the day got me thinking. Without sounding morbid. As widowed single parents, how sad are we, and how sad have we been? And why is it people like me, that like to let you know.
I know that the real factor behind this thought was that I now have a long-term outlet for my grief, my blog. I have the ability to reach out to fellow widowers. My intention was never to discover the answers. My aim is to communicate the themes of loss and grief for men. I want to provoke some thought into my experience. To support people just like me and give some insight into the answers I originally fought for.
By the end of the day, it became apparent that my initial feelings had led me to see just how far I’ve come in 2 years. I’ve realised that I’m now at a point now where I was balancing the demands of my full-time job and the demands of my child. She was only adapting to this new world. A world where she doesn’t even know her Mum or the events that have occurred. Yet, she is the happiest little girl that any parent could ask for.
Despite what has happened in our past, I have always put my family first. This made me feel good. Good in the sense that I have confronted the reality of my new life. As an adult, I reached out for support when I’ve needed it. As a blogger, I’ve also strived to communicate as effectively as I can to everyone around me. Now I can start to see the outputs of my decisions and actions. The positives in my life are really starting to shine through.
I gradually started to reflect on exactly what were my actions and how did I employ them? By the end of the day, I thought to myself, “I need to get the main points out of my head and onto paper”.
Intervention when I needed it
I’ve managed to get through the heavy and hard stages of grief. I’ve managed to accept them as they’ve come. I’ve waded through each one in my own time until I was ready to move onto the next wave. I’ve allowed myself the time I needed to also heal some of my wounds. I’d sought counselling when I needed it. My process of learning to cope without my wife was and is a tough, complex and complicated path. Being able to accept the counselling I needed has also helped me become a better Dad to Margot. I’ve developed a warmer, more nurturing and sensitive side for her to enjoy.
I also joined various support groups for those who have survived the death of a spouse. One was with the national charity, Widowed & Young (WAY). I was always aware of WAY, I just never got around to explore the organisation at the beginning. However, this is where my self-assurance in widowhood really started to grow. They offer a vast support network tailored for young widowed men and women. When I discovered how members sought to understand and help others, the feeling of isolation seemed like a thing of the past. Peer support from someone who suffers from their own pain of bereavement is probably the most selfless and noble ability I’ve witnessed.
Since the beginning, I desired the ability to communicate with others in my position. It was here all along, physically and virtually. My only regret is that I never became involved earlier.
Accepting help from my friends and family
When help was offered to me, I always accepted it. For me, there are few things in life more tragic than losing a wife and the mother of my child. My family, friends, neighbours and extended family members all offered help to me. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t been willing to accept it graciously and allow others the opportunity to serve my family.
I kept traditions alive
No matter how big or small, I maintained our family traditions. Though traditions are predictable in certain points of time. Amongst the chaos, for me, they brought real stability in my home. Decorating the Christmas tree early was a thing; I chose not to ignore the tradition as much as I didn’t mentally feel like doing it. I even ensured I took my daughter away holiday once a year, even if it has to be modest to be affordable. Whatever the traditions are, hang onto them as a family.
I organised my home
Getting yourself organised as best you can be tricky whilst grieving, for obvious reasons. Some of the family routines had been Katherine’s domain, but now it had fallen upon me to take them all on. The more I made routine tasks more “automated,” the easier the transition became for me. When I eventually managed to schedule my weekday evenings for things like laundry, shopping, and cleaning, the more single parent life became manageable.
I discovered that when I could get these tasks completed in the week, it took a huge amount of stress off the weekends. More importantly, I work full time. This enabled me to experience more fun and quality time with my daughter.
Healthy body = Healthy Mind
The hardest and most important balance of them all is monitoring your health. Like me, many newly widowed fathers will neglect their own physical, mental or emotional health while going through grief. Before my wife passed I was an active runner. Each week I would run 3-4 times a week. When she left us, exercise seemed like the most impossible element to maintain in my life. I rightly focused on my own daughter and not me. I drove myself into the ground. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t eat right and when the night came so did the drink.
If and when you can. Try to include as much exercise as you can. Even if it just playing in the garden or going for a walk with your child. At one stage, during the early days. I bought a treadmill and placed it in an empty part of my house. I would purposely set my morning alarm an hour before my daughter would wake, I’d run 3 miles before breakfast. For me running was more like meditation. It would allow me to ponder my thoughts and let me focus on the day ahead.
If you are a recently widowed father. You can find lots of support, help and advice. You will no doubt need to follow your heart when you feel you’re ready to accept it. At first, it will be difficult to see any horizon. By taking the process slowly and naturally will allow you to move through this most difficult of situations and transitions in a more positive way than you might see presently. I have listed a few of the services I’ve used within the ‘Widower Support’ page of my blog.