When my wife passed away on August 22, 2019, from Glioblastoma multiforme (a fancy name for brain cancer), my life and my daughter’s were changed forever. We were no longer an intact, two-parent family with one child. I was, with some advanced notice in the form of my late wife’s terminal diagnosis, parenting alone. This was something very different from what I had envisioned: sharing holidays together, celebrating milestones like graduation and birthdays, growing old, retiring, playing with a grandkid or maybe two.
Parenting alone as a widower didn’t come naturally to me, it was like learning to parent all over again in many ways. You become even more self-reliant reaching out to friends and family where you once had someone by your side to walk through all of this. Luckily, through my work supporting Angela and my work as a marketer, I helped establish several Dad Only groups for Life of Dad. These groups and more specifically the volunteers that run them are a fantastic source of support, ideas, and encouragement. From time to time, I see that encouragement in these groups is one of the best things we can do to support each other.
Parenting alone as a widower isn’t like single parenting. In single parenting the other parent, no matter how good or, awful the circumstances of separation or divorce are, they are still somewhere out there. And may share custody, help with kids and expenses. When parenting alone, the other parent is completely gone. Not available to talk about even the most mundane things, share custody, make alimony payments, or anything. They are just gone. And that has been one of the biggest changes.
The other things that have changed for me as a widower? There’s no adult to share budgeting, cooking, laundry, or housekeeping. Even a simple thing like dealing with a dropping a car off for service becomes an ordeal involving people who don’t mind but, you really don’t want to impose upon. It’s just the fact of dealing without the built-in support I used to have. I adjusted to many of these things as Angela’s cancer progressed and didn’t allow her to walk around the house and help like she did for the 22 years we were together. Now that she’s gone, I have to admit that her declining health was a sort of forced boot camp for anything I wasn’t handling. In so much of life we used to share so much, I am now flying mostly solo.
In this process of learning to parent alone as a widower, I got a real appreciation for what my Mom went through raising my brother and me as a single parent. And to single parents in general, I have a deeper appreciation for what you do to keep the new to you single parent family unit running.
I have learned that we really only have now. That yesterday is done and tomorrow is not guaranteed or worth worrying about. So, I focus very intently on the now. It takes effort and energy but the reward is a clarity that I didn’t understand before.
Note: A version of this was published on Triad Moms on Main