Diary of a Widower

Daily entries by a husband, who stayed behind with his two sons

Finding the right words

FRIDAY, August 20 – A colleague’s former husband has taken his own life. He’d had enough of his bouts of depression. During the viewing, on the eve of his funeral, people remarked about the expression on the face of the deceased: something akin to peace. A kind of acceptance. This is a source of consolation for the bereaved who will no doubt continue to ask themselves how it could have come to this.

I don’t think about him; he is dead. My thoughts are with her and even more so with their son. I search for the email she had sent me earlier this year which then plunges me into the hundreds of messages that arrived during those first few weeks. Messages of bewilderment, disbelief, anger. I notice how often the word ‘speechless’ appears.

I can’t find her email, but I recall that it was an open-hearted message in which she mused about the process of mourning. Whether by death or divorce, you are left behind and this heralds the start of a period of shock, denial, depression, and acceptance. Her words had given me courage. I wrote back to her that she was right, to the extent that I had been able to grasp her meaning.

Now, sadly, I am one of the ones who’s better able to understand her situation, but still it is always difficult to find the right words. In the end, I write the following:

Dear S,

I’m thinking of you, just as you thought of us. That gave us strength, believe me. The words and promises we received in the weeks following Jennifer’s death were comforting and heartfelt, like a warm embrace. But before long the day comes when you have to straighten your back. Sometimes and perhaps often you’ll find it difficult to summon the energy. So it helps when friends, but often strangers as well, write to tell you that they’re still thinking of you. As I will continue to think of you.

Give yourself time to get back on your feet. Allow yourself to fall once in a while. Sometimes lying there gives you more energy than trying frantically not to fall. Follow your heart and not your head, when you ask for advice. You’ve always been a resolute colleague, a strong woman, and a devoted mother, and that will help your son to grow up and prosper.

It will get better. And that, too, is really true.

For now a big hug,


Well, you’re either a field expert or you’re not. No use claiming that ‘words fail you’.  Half an hour later I got an email thanking me for my ‘good words’. We both know that, as she put it, ‘sometimes life can really take you for a ride’. That particular realization is just one of the many steps she is about to take.

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