real life

'After my wife died, I stumbled upon an email thread. For the first time, I couldn't stop crying.'

Chris is a 43-year-old widower with two children, Grace, 9 and Albi, 5. He lost his wife Renee to cancer when she was 39. His blog Just A Dad chronicles his life as a solo dad after loss.

I haven’t cried in quite some time. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. Doesn’t really matter I guess, as long as I don’t bottle everything up and explode in spectacular fashion one day while at a school function or kids birthday party .

But out of nowhere, tonight, I did.

Well not nowhere exactly, but it was a sudden onset and totally out of left field. You see, I was logged into Renee’s email trying to find some information and, in my search, chanced upon an email thread where my usually un-sneaky wife (she couldn’t hide a secret for the life of her) was conspiring with my family about my 40th birthday celebrations back in 2014.

I was simply skimming the contents when I found some humbling and beautiful words she had written about me and what I meant to her. It was as if I could hear her voice, something I haven’t heard for so long, in the words printed on the screen before me.

And it floored me – in more ways than one. I felt humbled by her endearing words. I was overcome by the same desperate sadness I remember so vividly after she passed. I immediately felt the dreadful hollowness of being alone, of never being able to have exactly what I once did, again. The tears flowed and I felt terrible guilt course through every fibre.


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Guilt that I hadn’t thought or felt these things for some time. Guilt that I had seemingly forgone these feelings in the pursuit of normality and, dare I say it, happiness. Guilt that I wasn’t upset until I read the words. Guilt that I’m here and not her. Guilt that I couldn’t fix her.

Just a whole fucking heap of feeling like a right prick for not mourning as maybe I should still be doing.

Now I know that grief is a journey without end, and that the journey is as different for every individual just as no two snowflakes are the same. But there are commonalities in everyone’s journey, and guilt is definitely one of them.


And it’s a tricky bastard this guilty feeling. It is one of the few feelings that hit hard and fast, and leave you stunned and questioning everything. It has a cunning ability to dredge up every thought or decision you’ve made in the past and often lingers long after the initial anxiety has passed. And it provides no answers, just more questions.

And like everything else in life, it too passes, albeit slowly sometimes. But it serves as a reminder – like a hammer to my kneecap type reminder, that there is more to losing a loved one than the anticipated sadness, loneliness and longing. That there are no answers, no solutions or no ways to manipulate the grief journey.

It just has to happen.

For now, however, in a weird kinda way I’m glad it happened. It’s comforting to know I still care. It feels good to connect with deep emotions, to acknowledge things I perhaps have ignored lately in lieu of more superficial pursuits.

And contrary to popular belief, guys do like a good old sob every now and then, even if they don’t admit it. It’s cleansing. Healing. Normal.

Even writing this all down has been cathartic and I feel lighter already.

So I guess I should say thanks Renee, for still helping me out after all these years. Bless.

This post originally appeared on Just A Dad and has been republished with full permission.