Monday, 6 October 2008

Hi, I'm A Widower

Late last week I was banging-on about others speculating about my circumstance, rather than simply asking me outright.

When I started that post I was actually going to stretch it to talking about how it feels to tell someone the truth, or my version of it anyway.

With the September changeover, kids off to school, and new kids in at the nursery, there have been a new set of parents, and some new staff, to get acquainted with.

Amongst them are the parents of twin boys, who I’ve discovered live on the very road that we do, and will be in the same school year as Junior.

The boys have been playing, one in particular, very well with Max at nursery by all accounts, which is absolutely wonderful.

I love watching his friend circle grow.

I’ve got into a few chats with both these boys parents. They seem really nice too.

As they live on the same road, our walks home have coincided a little, the boys continue their play, which leaves the adults to observe and natter.

Nattering wasn’t always a strength of mine, but through sheer hard work, and much practice, I could now add it to my social CV.

I learn all about the family and where they are from, what they do, the plans for the kids, all sorts of stuff. And all the time I’m thinking – I’m going to have to tell them in a minute – in fact, my aloof and unfocussed expression probably makes me look rather rude.

I’m at peace with our situation, I’ve accepted it, and I’m dealing with it, on a breath-by-breath basis.

It is the mixed emotions I get in others when I tell them about our status quo.

It is pretty emotionally charged stuff to tell someone that you’ve suffered huge loss, and the wonderful little boy in front of you will never get to know his mother.

And the thing is, if you’re not expecting it, it can hit you even harder.

The other side of the coin is I don’t covet sympathy, I don’t need it.

If people want my friendship, they can have it, but I don’t want anything out of pity.

In the past it has made the immediate aftermath uncomfortable for everyone. Generally it is best to tell people just before we would naturally part anyway.

They can go and deal with the information outside the pressure of my gaze.

I had a situation on Saturday, on a train trip back from a football match.

Due to the marvel that is odd numbers, I ended up sitting by an ever-so lovely 30 something lady.

We got talking and I established she had a young son, was divorced and thus, like me, was a single parent, albeit by a different route.

I told her about Max, but chose not to elaborate on our circumstances unless pushed.

Thing is, we were going to be stuck on the train for a good while, and it had been a long day, which I didn’t want to lengthen.

Luckily she didn’t probe well enough, and was satisfied, with my - he lives with me –answers.

But, it did feel a bit like lying, even though I know it isn’t.

This isn’t going to go away, and I’m unsure if there is a better tact for me.

Just something to live with and learn from, and perhaps I could find less dramatic means of explanation. But I supposed they will ultimately all involve death.

Gives a whole new meaning to the devil is in the detail, doesn’t it?


harassedmomsramblings said...


I am trying to think if I was dating a guy in your situation what would be the best way?

There really isnt one - so I suppose honesty really?

When I meet single dads now with full time custody I generally blurt out "where their mom" before tact hits me!!

I would definately feel for that person on some level - its a terrible thing to have to live thro but I would definately not pity or drown you with sympathy!!

Xbox4NappyRash said...

God I dunno.

It's the real elephant in the room as such.

It would be very easy to never mention it, but at what cost later down the line.

Sympathy is inevitable I think though. You need to be as comfortable receiving it as people are giving it, I think.

Useless comment this, because I really do not know how I would even begin to handle it.

Mama Nabi said...

That is a tough one. I've actually learned to not offer information simply because when I happened to mention that I am a divorced single mom, the conversation I was enjoying ends up being about me, my divorce, and how sorry the other person is. And I am not sorry about it at all so the end result is the conversation has taken a different tone and I come off as a callous bitter woman. (Well, even on good days, I come off as such but neither here nore there)

On the other hand... a comment such as "As you might know, I am a widower, so..." etc., etc., I think I would say, "Yes, I knew... I am so sorry" OR "No, I didn't. I am so sorry..." and that opens up for the next conversation in which I would ask (politely) how she died... unless he seems unwilling to discuss further.

Not really helpful here, am I?

dadshouse said...

I know you don't want or need sympathy, but do you accept it if given? Maybe that will help with the telling. I know it's a difficult subject for all parties. Everyone reacts differently.

As a single dad, I have to admit I'm getting quite good at "nattering." Assuming I figured out that word's meaning... Haven't heard that word here in the Stats!

T said...

Wow. Maybe you don't want the sympathy because it will make you emotional too?

That's a toughie.

The Dotterel said...

It's a dilemma, for sure. But honesty is always the best policy; if other people can't cope with that, it's their problem.

Tismee2 said...

I think it depends on the other person and their outlook on loss.
I wouldn't have known what to say to someone who had lost someone close before I lost my mum. Now I find it easier and tend to be more matter of fact than sympathetic.

but everyone is different.

XBox - what's the 'elephant in the room thing'? I've never heard that one before!

Xbox4NappyRash said...

Maybe I have the meaning wrong lol, I believe it refers to when there is something obvious, but no one talks about it.

Penelope said...

I think that you should talk about your situation as and when you feel comfortable. It's your private life, no one else's business. If people ask *the* question, you can choose how to reply and you should not feel guilty.
For the record, I only like you because you let me swear, nothing to do with pity ;o)

The Grocer said...

As a dad of twins I have noticed that people generally when faced with a given situation react in a similar way, so you get the same comments or questions over and over again.
I suspect that this would be the same in the reactions your situation prompts.
I was thinking that armed with this information it might help formulate an adequate response?

Ms. Single Mama said...

My father died when I was 21... my sister and I talk about it often - about telling people. Now that I'm older and it's "expected" it's easier. But we have concluded that there are people who have experienced death personally and those who haven't. And we're definitely on different planets.

I'm not sure why I wanted to add that, but it will never be easy and I can completely understand withholding that on a first meeting.

Ms. Single Mama said...

The point (to that point) - is that there are people who look at you like you're an alien or something when you tell them you've lost someone - they just don't know how to react and it's incredibly awkward.

Or they fein sympathy and that's just incredibly annoying. In my experience those who have lost someone just nod and there's a solidarity there...

Enough rambling.

Elaine Williams said...

I am a widow of almost five years. When it comes to that point in a conversation, I just remark in a matter-of-fact way that my husband passed away. People always say I'm sorry. I simply nod or say thank you, and then continue on with the conversation. Perhaps I am at the point where it is merely what it is, a piece of my life, and that's not to downplay its importance, but not to worry or get mired in details. We as the bereaved set the stage for tone and reaction, I believe.

Single Parent Dad said...

Harassedmom - Tact is much over-rated! I appreciate you are going to feel for someone, it just doesn't help sometimes to see it.

Xbox - Not at all, you've somewhat proved my point, that it is just one of those things. As you get to know people, the elephant disappears.

Mama Nabi - No, you are helpful. It is a similar situation, and I'm the same, I try to tell people for the first time, when we both have limited time to respond to it. Conversation is so much better once people have had a little time to compute.

Dadshouse - I'm a bit sporadic. But generally yes. I have done 'the you've got nothing to be sorry for' but appreciate it is a natural response.

I've linked Nattering for you, must have to remember my visitors aren't all from these shores.

T - Sometimes definitely. If I'm a little low myself, it is exhausting to deal with.

The Dotterel - Amen.

Tismee - There are those that have, and those that haven't isn't there?

Penelope - I do, and I think I'm not going to get it right all the time, it's about learning your boundaries I suppose.

Swear away my dear ;-)

The Grocer - Yeah, but I haven't really found a 'fits-all'.

Ms Single Mama - Very good points. People do handle it differently. I can remember an Irish woman I worked with, when I was very young lost her dad. She was early twenties. When she came back to work, I never mentioned it, until she did, always trying to formulate a reasonable response. Others would offer sympathy, or make it noted, which would upset her, and much later on, when I left the business she wrote the most beautiful letter to me saying how wonderful I'd been, when in reality I hadn't done very little.

Hi Elaine - I'm a matter of fact person too. And generally that is how I deal with it. But I do sometimes struggle to return the conversation to normal once that disclosure has been made.

Elle Charlie said...

I see how that's a dilemma. I can understand how it's difficult to share and difficult not to. I won't say more, as I know nothing of what it's like to lose a spouse and have learned, recently, that most of what people try to say to help when you suffered something traumatic is actually not helpful, really. Still, it's always nice that people try. So that was me, trying.

Elle Charlie said...

I would just add that sympathy is not people feeling sorry for you and thus being nice out of obligation, it's just people liking you or relating to you enough to feel your pain a little. Perhaps think of it more as empathy. That might make it less awkward and unwanted?

Single Parent Dad said...

Elle - Very good point, or points. Haven't really thought of it that way. But will sure cross my mind in the future.

Shinyung said...

I don't have any advice, but just wanted to say your post is very moving. It's hard to find this level of writing in blogs...

Single Parent Dad said...

Shinyung - Thanks for that comment. And welcome to my blog, I hope you stick around.

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