MyBaby2Bump Podcast: The Widowed Dad

Here is the link my last ever ‘Grief’ share – it practically includes everything on my checklist, it’s as raw as it gets in all honesty.

It is in the form of a podcast, for those new to this media.

It has no edits, lots on the charity ‘Widowed and Young’.

Enjoy 

Mark


Main link –https://www.mybump2baby.com/podcasts/fiftyshadesofmotherhood/the-widowed-dad
Via Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/show/2ZzMmFzjg1EsPlGZ8mdYyr

Via Apple – https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/fifty-shades-of-motherhood/id1517280582

Via TuneIn – https://tunein.com/podcasts/Kids–Family-Podcasts/Fifty-Shades-of-Motherhood-p1331099/

Via Stitcher – https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/fifty-shades-of-motherhood?refid=stpr

ViaGooglehttps://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5idXp6c3Byb3V0LmNvbS8xMTQ0ODIwLnJzcw/episode/QnV6enNwcm91dC00Mjg5Mjcz?hl=en-GB&ved=2ahUKEwip1vORhJrqAhXJilwKHZcYAiUQjrkEegQICRAU&ep=6

As a young, widowed dad I didn’t think I’d find love again – I was wrong

This is a guest article I recently wrote for Metro – describing exactly how I felt about finding love again as a young, widowed Dad. This is the first piece I’ve worked on since finishing this blog – I think it’s as worthy as all my previous posts – thus the share.

Chicken Dinner

On Friday 20th September 2019, I was in Liverpool to attend the 2019 Positive Awards ceremony at the Hilton Hotel. Little did I know I would actually leave as a winner in the ‘Resilience’ Category for this blog.

I was always very honoured to have been originally nominated at the beginning. To actually be placed in the final four of the ‘Resilience’ Category and then go on to win it was a massive shock. Especially against so many other inspirational people I was up against.

Receiving this award is just simply wonderful in itself and more so for everyone who knows me and my daughter.

Though my blogging days are over I just wanted to write something to let everyone know I won and to say a big THANK YOU. A thank you to everyone who had taken the time to vote and to write so many lovely words. It means more to me than you probably realise.

You have all made my world a very shiny and proud place to be.

Moving forward

Last Friday, the second chapter of my life began as I married a caring, amazing and beautiful woman called Nicola. It was the most astonishing day that we both shared with all the people we love.

Being a widower who has become open to love and happiness a second time around. It has not only given me something I was ready for, but it has also given me something new in common with lots of other widowers. Teasingly, I can now put myself in the same category as the great Sir Paul McCartney.

For many reasons, remarriage is simply one of the various paths we can choose from grief. I hope my experience can prove that after the life-changing of loss, you can introduce love back into your life. However, I do understand this is only if we chose or allow it. I know not everyone who has suffered a bereavement of a spouse will wish to find a new love in this life. I have met and spoken to so many people who have made peace with their permanent loneliness, and this is ok.

The path we eventually chose is just how we deal with our lives in our very own way. Every emotion and choice we make is so complex and personal to each individual. For me, the path of my grief has navigated me to a new life that accepts my grief, in a world of immense love.

When I first felt prepared to remarry, two things determined my own readiness: firstly, I had accepted my loss and I was interested in sharing more than just a bed with a woman. I was interested in sharing my life, my love, and my family. The droplets of grief were starting to fall far less frequently at this time. The waves of emotion that radiated out were more manageable. I was getting stronger than I could ever have imagined.

Secondly, as I was a widower who wanted to remarry I had to acknowledge and process the natural guilt I felt at the beginning. This guilt had no effect on my feelings for being in a relationship. This was purely a new outcome from taking the next step. It manifested from my grief and for my old life with Katherine. With time and patience, it eventually became more natural to be with someone else.

Like most things in grief, none of the above will come with a timescale. The important thing for me was that I recognised how I felt. Whether I’d waited two years or twenty years to embrace love again, I always knew I would have felt the same. It was important to self-identify and to process it.

Looking back over the last two years of my journey, and all the challenges of grief that I’ve acknowledged. Losing Katherine has changed me in so many bizarre ways. None of my journeys was planned or expected but I’ve faced them all head on. Katherine had left a better man than the one she had married. I know Katherine’s life’s purpose wasn’t to leave me a better man. What I mean by this, is the fact it is all a side effect of her loss. Lessons in grief and love!

I am very happy to reproduce the happiness of my first marriage. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to do it twice in the same lifetime. Some people don’t even find it at all.

Friday I’m in love

Being lonely is one of the worst feelings. Nobody should be lonely, yet it’s part of the grieving process when we lose a spouse. I found loneliness was the hardest battleground to enter. In the past, no matter how great my day went, loneliness would trap me into its daily duel with my feelings and emotions. This was especially intense during the evenings when the world went quiet and dark.

Being at one with your thoughts in grief is a dangerous place. I would think a lot about the future and where it would take me. I had discovered so many stories about widows and widowers who had found love again. I often wondered if my life would go down this path. Would I even want it to? A lot has changed in those two years and I have really learnt so much about my life as a widower. What I actually discovered was when I lost Katherine it didn’t get easier, but it got better. In the sense of learning to pick yourself up. To live a happy life and to learn about love again.

Presently in my life, I am in a position to make lonely become ‘lonely’. By this time next week, the second chapter of my life will begin. Next week I will be married to a funny, loyal, gentle, kind-hearted beautiful woman, who I love dearly. I did hesitate to write about this, as I imagine it will shock some widows and widowers who read my blog – especially those who recently lost their spouse.

When I was newly widowed, I found the idea of another relationship alien and abhorrent. Mentally and emotionally, I was still married in my mind. Though it was only for 2 years, it was really strange for me to change this viewpoint. This made me assume, even at 37 years old, it was highly unlikely that I would ever want to meet anyone, and even if I did, it would never be as good as what Katherine and I had.

I believed that my single parent / widowed status was a clear deal breaker for any woman to even consider me in the future. It made me feel like I was ‘damaged goods’ for a long time – too damaged for another to love. It was like I had a screw loose or a blown fuse in my head that prevented me from fully feeling and enjoying the company of another. Like so many assumptions I have made, I was mistaken.

For the past year, I have been able to grow a life of love and kindness with my daughter and my future wife to be. Over time I have realised that there is no hard-and-fast “timeline” when it came to my ‘hardboiled’ grief. This also applied when it came to giving myself another chance at happiness. I can remember back in 2012, when I first met Katherine, it wasn’t planned, it just happened. We met, and we fell in love instantly – it was so natural and pure – not forced. My new partner and I experienced the exact same situation. It reminded me that we don’t always get to choose when something happens.

For all my family and friends, they understand the importance of my next stage in life. They understand I can’t stop, they understand life has to carry on. Not just for me but for Margot, my soon to be 3-year-old daughter. My nearest and dearest have all reminded me that Katherine would not have wanted me to suffer – all she ever really wanted was my happiness, and this is so true. If our situations had been reversed, I would have wanted that for her.

I can’t say thank you enough to all the people out there who have journeyed the widow/widower’s path to seeking a new life. All the information shared and the people I have spoken to have helped me understand my feelings immensely. I hope my story can help others.

This week I’ll be in full flow of turning our wedding preparations into actions. I can only predict that my next blog post will more than likely be on Father’s Day. Even now I can sense a new breath of hopefulness. I’ll have so much to write about as the next stage of my life is about to start. I hope my posts can now describe second chances, moving forward, hope, happiness and the challenges of raising a little girl.

If I could leave one piece of advice when you find love again. Please don’t get caught in the drama of being the victim or the martyr. Become the Phoenix and rise from the ashes. The journey will make you stronger and life will unfold for you in many new and unexpected ways.

My daughter is thriving as am I. Regardless of the past, she is shining like the brightest star in the sky and emerging as a beautiful, happy and kind person. 💜

Inking of you

Tattoos can sometimes translate or describe a person’s story or point of view. From my experience, I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t have a thoughtful and compelling story behind their permanent mark. My own tattoo is almost two years old this month. Recently I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I’ve been thinking about how, still to this day, it inspires me every time I look at it. It truly is a slice of mindfulness. It’s also quite common for a lot of widows and widowers to have them for different reasons. I guess I’m no different.

After Katherine’s funeral, I started to develop a desire to have something unique to represent my wife’s memory in a special way. The seed of this idea was originally planted from a conversation I had with a close friend. I remember how he presented me with a picture of a stunning tattoo his wife had done. She had it inked on her arm in honour of their daughter, who they had lost not too long ago. When describing the reason for her choice in design, I became captivated in his description of “it will always remind her of the happy moments”. From that point onwards, it was never up for debate.

Like many of the choices I’ve made in widowhood, several of my friends and family had their own options about it. I had to bang the old “you haven’t been through this, you just don’t know how I feel” drum. I just wanted something that was externally visible on my right shoulder. Something that wasn’t concealed deep within my heart and mind. I wanted to engrave a memorial to Katherine on my body for the rest of my life.

Contrary to popular opinion, memorial tattoos can be more than just names, sayings and angels. They can be more beautiful and meaningful than any tribal tattoo or fashion sleeve. If you are considering something like this then you must be prepared for some pressing inquiries if you plan to consult family and friends about the idea. At first, many of my nearest and dearest missed the opportunity to see the beauty of my design and its symbolism. Not that it really mattered, it was going to happen whatever they thought. However, as time went on I did manage to ease some tensions when I explained the reasons behind my choice.


My design was about a lesson I identified during the grief process. A lesson on the desire to have hope.

The Hawaiian palm tree is thriving and positioned in a place of beauty, signifying the full, beautiful life I have experienced both then and now. However, as nature will always remind us, nothing will last forever.

The beach is where my old life ‘was’ and will remain.

The rear-facing edges of Diamond head mountain represent the emotional heights and struggle from experiencing the loss of Katherine. My outlook is, that by conquering these ‘heights’ could lead me to find happiness again. A life I can be proud to lead; One filled with purpose instead of suffering, gratitude instead of envy, life instead of death.

Ultimately my tattoo is a symbol of my past and all the choices I have made since Katherine passed. Choices which have made me who I am today. Choices that remind me that I am far stronger than I know. It is my reminder of love and healing that will always be with me. It can’t be broken, lost or changed; It is a very clear and simple reminder of the beautiful person who left a deep impression on me.

Deep conversations

Generally, it’s never a great conversation for anyone when we talk about death and grief, it terrifies us, especially when it’s someone else’s grief. It was only last week I was having a conversation with a friend over a few cold beers in a local bar. The good thing about alcohol is that it tends to make the personal topics more meaningful and detailed, by slowly lowering our social barriers as we sip away. My friend wanted to talk about me and how I’m moving forward.

Forward, in the sense of how I was moving on. Moving on with love and grief after losing Katherine. People tend not to ask me these type of questions, so I indulged. I started off by comparing how I felt at the beginning and how I feel now, in regard to loss.

As the moments of this super dull topic went on I could sense my friend starting to lose value in the entire theme. I didn’t blame him as the dialogue started to diminish as I went into the detail of my grief. Its so hard for someone to comprehend what I say. Especially when they haven’t been through it. I gave him some added confidence by stating “Look, mate, just remember everyone you love has a 100% chance of dying before or after us, so really, everything I’m describing applies to both of us. Not just me”. The bottom line was he just hadn’t experienced it yet. However, I did my best at that moment to explain in detail my outlook on losing a loved one further. I understood he literally had no idea how messy and impossible the entire experience of bereavement is to master – it still is for me after 2 years.

I explained that we have to be fully aware that all day, every day, all around the world, terrible things are happening all the time. I said “A lot of people in this bar will probably know how I feel. This conversation isn’t just about me. You haven’t experienced it yet, but you will. It’s going to happen”. He began to realise my point and became instantly comfortable with the uncomfortable. I had to point out that every person in the world from any walk of life is going to experience a formative and traumatic loss at some point in their life. Because that’s just how life is. How we deal with it is down to that individual. I could only share my experience.

We then began to talk about my future. I described how my future had become this totally new chapter in my life. A really good chapter, in fact, one which I have opened my heart to. One thing about this present moment is that it actually makes me smile. This is because I know that I have a massive opportunity in front of me. The opportunity to live a life of happiness with my daughter and my beautiful fiancée, Nicola.

Falling in love and connecting emotionally with Nicola has really helped me understand the enormity of what I lost when Katherine died. And equally, it has helped me realise that my love for Katherine and my love for Nicola are not opposing forces. They are different energies that are simply connected to the same thread in my life.

However, one really interesting point did come out of the conversation and it’s the point I want to make here. It was when I heard the term “how do you feel about the whole moving on thing”. I knew it wasn’t meant to be received in a disrespectful way, so I immediately started to mutter my description about this term ‘moving on’- for me, in grief, all of it’s characteristics are wrong.

I found myself instinctively pointing out that “I haven’t’ moved on at all”. I’m just simply “Moving forward with my life”. I meant this in the way that whatever I do for Katherine or say about Katherine, it will always be said in the present tense. This is because I’ve not moved on because that doesn’t’ represent all the moments and feelings we shared. They can’t simply be forgotten in my life. I am only where I am now because I loved Katherine and because I lost Katherine.

Every moment I have been through with her has marked me permanently. She is and always will be present in everything me and my daughter do. When people speak to me, they will hear me say things like “Katherine is” because, for me, Katherine still is. I never refer to her as ‘Katherine was’ when I talk.

The term ‘moved on’ really doesn’t do justice to my experience. Grief is incurable and becomes part of you as much as any other of life’s insane wonder’s. Grief is as powerful as any big moment we will experience in our lives. It could be milestone experiences such as the first time you find real love or the moment you meet your first child. It is so powerful and you’ll never forget it. I mean this in the sense that you won’t understand it until it actually happens to you. Then you’ll get it.

Ultimately, Katherine’s love, life and death are the elements that have made me the person who Nicola wants to marry and spend the rest of her life with. I always think it is important for people to remember that a grieving person is going to laugh again and smile again. I am a very lucky man to have found love again and I am embracing the ability to move forward. My life is a journey in which I have to keep moving. Holding onto every life lesson Katherine has given me. There is no turning back and definitely no “Moving on”.

The reality of learning to love again

When you think about love, it isn’t exclusive. It’s not exclusive to one thing or one being alone at any given time. Within our short little lives, it is endless and ours to express to whatever and whomever we desire. In terms of experiencing a bereavement of a spouse, widowers can choose to lock it away forever or to eventually give it to someone new. The right is ours alone.

I have read a lot of fascinating stories about how widowers have found love again in short spaces of time. It is very common for young widowers to find sudden love. It was only 2 days ago I was reading a very interesting article on the Huffington Post about how ex-Sky Sports presenter, Simon Thomas found love again within 12 months of his wife’s passing. Another celebrity status widower in the form of Patton Oswalt, again he was engaged within 12 months of losing his wife. Each with their own story on how they heal and embrace their new lives.

Ex Sky Sports presenter and fellow widower – Simon Thomas

Being a single windowed parent in my 30’s I wanted to live my life too. I wanted to live my life the way Katherine would have wanted me to. I was not destined to remain in mourning forever. I did not choose to shut down, wear black and become a miserable and bitter father to my daughter. Instead, I chose to grieve in my way, in my time and to move my life towards my own design – a design that happily included new love and new adventures.

If you have also chosen a similar pathway and you’re equipped to grip the opportunity by the balls. Be prepared to generate a level of shock reaction from others. This will usually come from the people who I like to refer to as ‘observers of grief’. These individuals generally fall into the categories of friends and outsiders. For me, it was mostly a selection of my wife’s friends, 2 even being bridesmaids at our wedding. Exposing just how shallow and selfish some people can be during a time of transition and openness. More than likely they’ll probably want nothing more to do with you or your children again. I have touched upon this topic in my previous post about grief and friendships not mixing.

During my experience, I noticed an array of remarks and comments from various people in the form of “it’s too soon”, “how could he do this to her” and “he’s just not grieving properly”. As if ‘they’ defined a universal grieving time period from their book = ‘The Idiots Guide to Grief’. It is criticism like this that we, the widowers are attuned to.

The reaction of others begged an obvious question from me to them. Since when did ‘learning to love again’ translate into ‘forgetting’ our loved one?

Exactly just how long is ‘long enough’ before we’re allowed to live again in the eyes of the observer. Is it 1 year, 2, 3, 4, maybe 10 or even 20 years until they’re totally satisfied to let us move on in life, to find happiness again? The honest truth is, only we can make this decision and it has nothing to do with anyone else around you. However, no matter what time frame your heart and soul has chosen, you can’t win. It could be in 5 years’ time and the reaction from the observers will always remain the same. I always knew that their reactions would be a selfish one. No matter how you feel just remember that If they had gone through a loss like ours they would never judge a person for wanting to fall in love again.

In broad society, it’s quite common how we accept a stage of our life to be over before we can start the next one. Our thinking is very linear in how we understand our own emotional states. The thought of overlapping grief with love to the observer usually is impossible to grasp. Not being directly linked to the bereavement, how can they? They will feel like you’re being disloyal or minimising the loss of the person. They could even think they’ll fall into this category if they show a level of support towards you.

As widowers we all know we carry our grief with us forever, it cannot simply be removed or forgotten. We are not required to conclude our grieving to begin a new relationship. The love in our hearts isn’t moved to one side to make room for someone new. If and when it happens an addition is built on. The heart becomes greater. We don’t have a capacity or limit to the amount of love we can give in our lives, love is infinite.

Since my wife passed, the love I have for her has never moved, it’s still firmly cemented into my entire being. It will remain that way for the rest of my life and will never go away. Not ever. Not with the passage of time. Not with the introduction of a new person into my life. I am honouring Katherine’s legacies of love and service by continuing to move forward; by modelling the best example that I can for my daughter, by building a family unit and living a life with my new partner, whom I love deeply. By doing all of these things, I am indeed honouring the legacies of love and service that Katherine left for me to carry forward.

I believe that all young widowers can do the same, if and when you choose to do so. There is no time limit when the time is right. When it does happen, and you let it in. Embrace it and carry forward the legacies that were entrusted to you by your late spouse. If you choose it, living your new life can include companionship again… and love. Just choose carefully, choose wisely — and love again abundantly.

Because you can!