I first wrote about what happened to Ben (without naming him) on this blog post where I talked about life imitating art. I’m not so sure how I first came across Benjamin Brooks-Dutton’s blog called Life as a Widower, all I know is that I’ve been addicted to his blog ever since I found it. It is a very poignant, honest account of what it’s like to suddenly lose the love of your life and the mother of your-very-young child. After all, what do you say to your two-year-old when he starts asking for his mum? Often times his blog-posts are heartbreaking, here is a man who is not scared of voicing out the pain and loss he is going through.
Read his blog and you’ll also find out that he doesn’t just focus on the pain and loss, but also about their everyday little triumphs that will make you smile and want to cheer them both on.
Tell us something about yourself and your little one.
My name is Ben. On 10 November 2012 my life changed forever. Just after 8.00p.m. I left my friends’ house a happily married thirty-three-year-old father. By 9.17p.m. I was sitting in an ambulance on their street, a widower in shock. I only remember the time because I noticed that the hands on the clock were in the same position as when our son was born two years and three weeks before.
My son and I managed to narrowly dodge the car that killed the woman I’d loved for the last eight years. Together we have spent the last fifteen months trying to adjust to life without her.
What was your little one’s birth story like?
Jackson really took his time coming. My wife went into early labour on Thursday 14 October but he didn’t arrive until the Sunday after 9p.m. Even then he only finally made his first appearance because of an emergency caesarian section. He looked so perfect because he hadn’t had to do any of the hard work that new babies tend to face in going through natural birth.
A poem I wrote for Jackson’s third birthday touches on his birth.
What do you wish you knew about being a dad before becoming one?
Given what has happened I wish I had considered that parenthood might one day be something that I would have to face alone. This wouldn’t have changed the fact I really wanted to be a father but it might have made me pay more attention to the responsibilities that my wife often took on alone.
How do you balance your time between work and fatherhood?
Soon after my wife was killed I made the decision to put my career aside to care for my son. He needed special attention, which I knew I wouldn’t be able to provide if I kept my job as the managing director of a PR firm. I needed time to adjust too; the shift in focus took a while to come to terms with. It took me the best part of a year to be able to truly enjoy the time we spent together – to be able to draw pleasure from what we still have rather than being dragged down by what we have lost. I think it would have been very challenging to not have anything other than parenthood to focus my mind on after resigning so I wrote a book about how my son and I have faced grief together. It’s Not Raining, Daddy, It’s Happy is released on 8 May 2014.
How did you manage childfree time with your wife?
Although this question is no longer applicable to me, I can answer it from memory. What my wife and I liked best was to spend time together as a family, which meant being with our son. We all need time together as adults though so one thing we used to do was take the day off work together for each other’s birthday and live it up together while Jackson was at nursery. We would then pick him up, go home and all spend the evening together. She also bought me tickets to the Olympics for our wedding anniversary and a trip to Marrakech for my birthday. Sadly we never made that final trip.
Any favourite anecdotes about your little one?
I was very proud of Jackson over Christmas. He made what should have been a difficult time really quite good fun. I loved listening to him singing Christmas carols all day, especially when he got the words wrong. Here’s a video of him tackling ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’
What is it about fatherhood that you love?
I love the unpredictability of having a child. Jackson makes me laugh all the time. I like watching him grow and seeing how much progress he seems to make so quickly. I like the fact that however hard it gets there is still unconditional love between the two of us. I suppose part of me enjoys the challenge of turning tantrums and bad behaviour into more positive outcomes too. I like to help him learn and I enjoy all of the lessons he teaches me without even knowing it, too.
If there were anything about fatherhood you dislike, what would it be?
The thing I have felt most difficult over the months is trying to act happy around my son when I feel so terrible about my wife’s death. This can make the monotony and repetitive nature of playing with a toddler a real challenge.
If you were given the chance to be a stay-at-home dad, would you take it?
I used to joke about the fact that I would give work up in a heartbeat to be able to be at home with my son. When my wife was killed that’s exactly what I chose to do. Now I can’t imagine ever going back into a job that wouldn’t really allow me to see him properly except for on weekends.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about fatherhood?
Play with your children every day and let them take the lead in the games. Don’t try to beat your kids just because you’re used to being competitive in the grownup world. Give them time to communicate with you through play and you will be able to pick up on their feelings, worries and concerns. Learn to truly hear what they have to say.
If you could have given yourself one piece of advice before becoming a dad, what would it be?
For a happy relationship with your partner and child, learn to share parenting responsibilities.
Thank you so much Ben!
The good news is Ben’s book will be out soon! I for one can’t wait to read it. Click here to pre-order the book.
And if you want to find out more about Ben and his lovely son Jackson, do follow his blog here,
Ben is also very much involved with the Charity Grief Encounter Appeal.
This post is linked-up with Post Comment Love.