My name is Mark
It was midday during the May Day Bank Holiday, 2017. I was 37 years of age. I left my house as a married man and father to a beautiful 8-month-old baby daughter, Margot.
Within a few hours, I was sat next to a hospital bed, a single parent widower.
My wife, Katherine was taken suddenly within the blink of an eye, at just 35 years of age.
That day we decided to leave our home and enjoy a stroll, as a family. I always remember just how happy and content we both felt that day. We had only recently celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary. We walked, we talked, discussing life and all it had to offer us presently and for the future.
We eventually decided to take a break at a local pub. Katherine expressed how she didn’t feel quite right and needed to sit and rest. I left my wife seated next to our daughter’s pram, whilst I went to fetch a glass of water. Returning within minutes, my wife sat lifelessly slumped next to the pram, motionless. Like the flick of a switch, her heart had stopped instantly.
Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (a cardiac arrest from a disturbance in the heart’s rhythm) had taken my wife. We hadn’t even had the chance to say goodbye. It had taken a baby’s beautiful and devoted Mummy with no remorse!
In the beginning, it was horrible. I was in massive shock.
The trauma I had endured filled me with shock. This made me face a massive gap between the way my world should be and the way the world is now. I was absolutely floored by grief for a long time and I had to seek the strength to raise a child alone.
When my grief was raw I wanted nothing more than to speak to someone who had been through my pain. Support mechanisms for young men, especially single-parent widowers, are very few and far between, as I discovered. It was so easy to feel isolated – nobody understood what I was going through. Having no preparation or support on dealing with the sudden death experience of a loved one. I encountered some of the dark variables of grief. Stages such as bad health, depression and alcohol dependency. I didn’t just lose my wife, I lost my entire identity. The external labels of ‘widower’ and ‘Father’ were all I had left to define me
I somehow, over time, made the brave decision to live my life. I wanted to pick up the pieces. I had to make my own blueprint to adjust. I knew I had to keep myself mentally engaged, I wanted to choose life and meaning. I had to quickly come to terms with the new me and learn to adapt to what I was now all about. Having a child, I couldn’t afford to stop because I had someone who depends on me. To process what I’d become, I knew I had to embrace my grief first. As I didn’t want to be sad, alone, delusional, lost, or without purpose. And yet, that was exactly what I needed to embrace in order for me to process my grief.
I’ve always thought about when life comes into the world. We’re made to be prepared before and after. We receive an endless supply of professional face to face appointments and support materials. Even health visitors visit our homes after the birth of a child to ensure everyone as expected. Sadly, when life goes the other way, this is not the case.
This led me to eventually start this blog. I desperately wanted to express all the experiences and emotions I had fought through. I knew that I needed a long-term outlet for my grief. I knew I could turn my negative energy into a positive one. Even in the beginning, I realised that the words I wrote could help a lot of other single parent widowers. More importantly, it will one day help Margot understand my experience and the impact of our loss.
This blog has given me the ability to reach out to fellow widows and widowers. My intention isn’t to discover answers. My aim is to communicate the themes of loss and grief. To support people just like me and give some insight into the answers I originally fought for. I really want to challenge the perceptions of male grief and the entire ‘Harden up’, ‘Man up’ and ‘Suck it up’ medals of honour.