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Life as a widower.

We would like to welcome Benjamin Brooks-Dutton to DAD as our Thursday blogger.

Ben is dad to two year old Jackson. On 10th November 2012 aged 33, Ben was widowed when his wife Desreen was tragically killed. Ben blogs regularly on his blog Life as a widower. We thought the best place to start would be with Ben’s first two blog entries. 

Opening up      JANUARY 6, 2013                                                                 This is syndicated content from Life as a widower

On November 10th 2012 just after 8pm I left my friends’ house a happily married father. By 9.17pm I was sat outside their house in an ambulance, a widower in shock. I only remember the time because I noticed the hands on the clock were in the same position as when our son was born two years and three weeks earlier.

A lot of people know our story already (well at least part of it) because it was tragic enough to make national news and touching enough to keep people talking long after. This blog, however, is not really about telling the story. It’s about being a man that opens up about how it feels to lose the woman with whom he shared eight years of his life in an instant and what happened next.

In my shock and utter delirium straight after my wife was killed, I almost started blogging straight away (grief from sudden death does crazy things to your head). I’d always wanted to start a blog but wasn’t convinced I had anything that interesting to share.

I quickly realised I had more important things to focus on in raising a child as a sole parent than keeping a public diary. That was until I spoke to a man called Steve Smart at a charity called Care for the Family. They offer a telephone support network for widows and widowers, a kind of buddy system for when people connected by the death of a spouse need to talk to someone empathetically. He said that sadly there were very few male volunteers, perhaps because men find it hard to open up about their feelings. Fortunately for me I don’t. I use the word ‘fortunately’ because I think opening up now is going to make living in my own head somewhat less difficult in the future. That’s what the books I’m throwing myself into say anyway.

So, I’m not exactly sure where this blog is going. I’m not sure how I’ll tell my story and whether I’ll go back to the beginning or start from where I’m at now. But I can’t help but think that some poor ******* will wake up tomorrow morning, realise their wife has gone forever and that it wasn’t just a nightmare, and search for someone who can relate to the hell that they are going through. Perhaps if I keep writing they’ll find that someone. Perhaps a few more blokes will be encouraged to open up about how they feel. Perhaps the process might act as catharsis and make things easier on me. Perhaps when the next bloke calls Care for the Family there will be a few more guys to talk to.

Let’s see how things go…

Reproduced with kind permission of Benjamin Brooks-Dutton.

 

Being strong      January 7, 2013 

This is syndicated content from Life as a widower

I’ve decided I’m not going to write about the incident. It’s really easy for people to say, “You need to see a counsellor and go over what happened on the night”, but I’m not convinced. I know what happened better than anyone else at the scene, I know the outcome and I know that I can’t do anything to change it. So why revisit it publicly?

Fortunately the professionals seem to agree. I imagine I’ll replay it in my head every day for the rest of my life, but I don’t think it helps me or others to discuss it at length.

That said, I am seeing a counsellor. In fact I’m seeing about 20 because if you can open up then suddenly your closest friends and family have invisible letters after their names.

But the first three paragraphs of this post are really just a bridge to some points I wanted to voice about grief.

Point 1: Grief is ****** up. I’m planning on using swear words sparingly on this blog and only when I really mean them, but in this case I do.

Grief (the shock and numbness phase) made me crack jokes minutes after I saw my wife die. It made me tell my friend off for having a runny nose in the ambulance. It made me apologise to the police for wearing a fleece blanket when my wife would have scalded me for it not being Welsh lambs wool. It made me check that everyone was okay for drinks when her best friends came to my house in the middle of the night unsure whether to believe what had happened. It allowed me to plan a funeral for my wife with as much gusto as our wedding. It enabled me to stand up in front of countless people in a packed church and speak about her without really shedding a tear. It’s tempting to say that Valium and rum played their parts too, but in my heart and I know I could have done it without because shock is more powerful a drug than either.

Point 2: Grief is totally unpredictable. I wanted to ‘be strong’ on the day of the funeral because I felt it was my duty. People have told me how strong I’ve been or encouraged me to be strong along the way. But it’s really not a badge of honour when your wife has just died, it’s simply a matter of wanting to do her justice.

Now I wonder whether it would be better if people said, “be weak”. Why? Because if I’m strong the whole time then I’m not letting grief have its way with me and, trust me, we’re all grief’s b*tch in the end. It just depends on how long we’re prepared to flirt before letting it have its way with us.

That would be quite a nice thought to finish on but this blog is about men and grief and my last point is more specifically about fathers.

Point 3: Grief shouldn’t be hidden from children. If we are only ever strong and hide our true feelings (and tears) from our kids then perhaps they will think they shouldn’t cry or show their feelings in later life. I can only use my son as a reference and I’m no psychologist, but if he hides his tears from me because I was ‘strong’ and hid them from him, then I’ll have failed him.

Sadly for me right now, when he does see me cry he snatches my hanky, wipes fake tears and says, “Oh boo hoo hoo, daddy” while throwing himself around the room dramatically. One day he’ll know that this would be the worst time to mock his father’s feelings, but for now I just have to believe it’s his way of making me laugh. So it’s just two guys trying to make each other feel better. One 2 and the other 33.

Reproduced with kind permission of Benjamin Brooks-Dutton.


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