Issue #23 / January 2019
Three and a half years ago I lost my wife and I was left to take care of my (then 2 year old) daughter. She’s a happy little girl but I know she’s happiest when her father is happy. I’ve been finding it hard to find happiness. It’s not my loss – I made peace with that a while back. I just haven’t found my life again. You’re a happy man. We all get that vibe when we see you play live. Has it always been this way, have you always been able to cut through the heavy moments in life to enjoy living?
WILLIAM, BROOKLYN, USA
Thank you for your question. Please accept this answer, in the spirit that it is given, as a simple and supportive response to your letter.
It seems to me that you are reacting entirely appropriately to a devastating situation that has ransacked your life. This is not what you signed up for when you got married – to be alone and looking after your little daughter. When you said that you have made peace with the death of your wife, this may on some level be true, but the residual feelings of aloneness, loss of control, and cosmic betrayal must still hold a powerful sway over your life. No wonder you can’t find your life. That life you once had does not exist. You have a new life.
No wonder you can’t find your life. That life you once had does not exist. You have a new life.
Three and a half years have passed, for both of us. We feel we should be better. We feel equilibrium should be restored. We feel we have in someway failed and that we should have made peace with the world. We feel people must be sick to death of us, and our fucking grief. But grief is beyond our control; it is omnipotent and invincible and we are miniscule in its presence and when it comes for us, all we can do is to kneel before it, heads bowed and await its passing.
But, as you know, grief is also tidal. In time, it can recede and leave us with feelings of peace and advancement, only for it to wash back in with all its crushing hopelessness and sorrow. Back and forth it goes, but with each retreating drift of despair, we are left a little stronger, more resilient, more essential and better at our new life. I can feel these tides of anguish and restoration move through your words. They say so much about grief, but also the sanctity of fatherhood. What a glorious thing fatherhood is! Within your words, William, great hope resides, for you, for your daughter, and for us all.
They say so much about grief, but also the sanctity of fatherhood. What a glorious thing fatherhood is!
Nothing, of course, happens fast enough and we just want to be returned to that uncomplicated life we once had – we want stability restored – but it is not to be. Now we have a new life; unchartered, uncertain, beyond our control, and that we are on some level undertaking alone, even within the company of the ones we love. Our worlds are still raw and new. They hum with suffering, but there is immense power there too.
We are alone but we are also connected in a personhood of suffering. We have reached out to each other, with nothing to offer, but an acceptance of our mutual despair. We must understand that the depths of our anguish signal the heights we can, in time, attain. This is an act of extraordinary faith. It makes demands on the vast reserves of inner-strength that you may not even be aware of. But they are there. As your little daughter dances through her father’s tears, she leads the way. The way lies there before us.
With love, Nick.