When a man loses his wife and is left alone with the kids, his world collapses. Here is some advice from a widowed father himself.
When a man takes a woman to be his wife, he sees his entire life with her. He dreams of their unborn children, of the home they will create and all the beautiful memories they will make. But the one thing that he doesn’t imagine is what life would be like without his wife. What happens if in a tragic twist of fate he loses her? What would life as a widowed father be like?
It’s depressing. It’s uncomfortable to talk about. It’s unthinkable for the most part. But it does happen. Many fathers have lost their wives to the nasty, vile and villainous cancer. Others have lost their wives in accidents.
Take for example the recent tragedy that saw a 38-year-old mother of two young children succumbing to her injuries after getting hit by a bus. During the wake, her husband despaired at the thought of life as a widowed father.
Seth is another example of a man trying to adapt to life as a widowed father. He lost his beloved wife to cancer when the oldest of his five children was just twelve. The children were devastated and he was at a complete loss of how he would juggle the demands of his job and raising his children who were still not used to life without their mother.
All of this was in addition to him still grieving the loss of his wife. It was overwhelming.
So from Seth and other men who are battling the struggles of life as a widowed father, here is some advice on how to go on.
1. Grief doesn’t have a timeline, so don’t rush it
The process of grieving, acceptance and moving on can take a really long time and it should never be rushed. Allow yourself and your family the time and space to grieve, and do it together, as a family. Work through the stages of grief as they come and be each other’s support.
People heal differently so just because one family member is ready to move on it doesn’t mean everyone is. And grieving isn’t linear, be prepared to take two steps back just when you thought you saw progress in moving on.
2. Don’t be afraid seek and accept help
Life as a widowed father is unimaginably and unforgivingly tough. So don’t be too hard on yourself trying to do a one-man-show. When friends, neighbours and other family members come forth to help, accept it graciously. Give them a chance to help you. Give yourself a chance for some space as well.
Don’t reject and push away everyone in the process of grieving because there are big-hearted people who genuinely want to help you.
You can even consider joining a support group to find people who have lost their partners in a manner that’s similar to yours. You’d be amazed to know how much comfort you may find simply by knowing you are not alone.
On another note, the process of grieving and adapting to life without a mother can be a lot more complicated than you imagine it to be. The feelings are complex and the children may be caught in a cycle of denial, anger and depression. You may try your best but it’s impossible for Dads to replace Mums so if your children need counselling or professional help, please don’t shy away from it.
3. Keep the family traditions going
Traditions spell predictability and familiarity. It could be the one thing that provides calm and comfort in the surrounding chaos of life as a widowed father. In fact, even more so for the children. As crazy as it sounds and as much as you don’t feel like doing it, if you know that Christmas would never have gone by without your wife decorating the Christmas tree and hosting a dinner party, then put up that tree and have the dinner.
Hang on to these traditions as a family no matter what changes. These are fragments of the life you once shared and they ought to be celebrated and remembered.
4. Get organised
It won’t happen immediately and you will be a colossal mess for some time. That’s fine but it’s best you get organised sooner than later for you will have many new responsibilities to take on. The more routines are in place, the easier it would be to get these things out of the way. This will help prevent frustration from building up or worse, breaking down because you are completely overwhelmed.
Simple things like laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning should be made ‘automated’ so that it reduces some of the stress that comes with life as widowed father.
5. You need balance
It’s a period of unimaginable pain and you dread waking up to face the next day. Many fathers who are struggling with life as a widowed father end up neglecting their physical, mental or emotional health. They sometimes do this unknowingly because they are too focused on the children.
But failing to eat and rest well, to exercise and to practise some form of mental relaxation or connecting with spirituality may cause great harm to yourself. Remember that you need to be strong for your children so in order to look after them you have to look after yourself!
Spending a little bit of time and effort in rebuilding your personal strength will go a long way in helping you to bear the burden of being a single parent.
6. Don’t rush into dating
Life as a widowed father is demanding, stressful and tiring, especially in the initial stages. While social interaction is necessary, dating too soon after the death of your wife can cause serious complications in the healing process for both yourself and your kids. Your kids may not be willing to allow someone else in their life and home just yet. Take things slow and move with caution.
7. Invest time in your children
Yes you miss your wife but the truth is, your children miss her more. In this difficult period, you must spend time both as a family and one-on-one with your children. As resilient as they are known to be, the trauma of losing a mother is not something they can get over easily. Your love will help them as well as your own grieving heart.
Dads, if you are adapting to life as widowed father, our hearts go out to you. We feel your pain and we hope that you will get better in time. And do remember that there is help and support available if you are open to it. Take your time, follow your heart and accept help. One step at a time, you will get through.
Source: The Spruce