Widowed Parenting: Struggle is not a strong enough word

In many ways I have been struggling as a single parent and as a widow. Lately, however, it has seemed to be exceptionally difficult. My daughter, our daughter, is two and a half years old now. My husband, Matt, and I always joked about the fact that, as two of the most hard-headed people we knew, we were in for it! I am so glad I knew it was coming. I don’t know if it helps, I don’t know if I am handling anything better than I would have if this were a complete shock to me, but I did know what was coming. 

Rather, I thought I knew what was coming. 

This is hard, and there is no handbook. No cheat sheet sheet. No guide to parenting at all. And while I struggle to get this parenting thing right, as we all do, I also struggle to do it all myself. Dishes need cleaning, laundry needs folding. Elsa Barbie is missing (the toddler will just die if not found in the next 240 seconds!). Shop for groceries, cook the dinner, change the lightbulbs, feed the cats, walk the dog, clean the house! It’s just so much, and it’s never ending. This is parenting. Parenting is hard no matter your circumstances. But there is something different about widowed parenting. There is a loneliness and longing that makes every decision hurt to the bones, and in ways I had never imagined I could hurt. And every time my two-year-old has a tantrum over something that I struggle to  handle, I am suddenly utterly aware that I  have no husband to turn to. Because he is gone. Her daddy, my husband, is gone. And it is so hard to do this without him. Wondering what am I doing? Am I doing this right? What would he say right now about how I am handling myself? What would he suggest to me if I could tell him about my struggles and hear him talk back? 

Losing my husband is the hardest thing I have ever gone through, and the hardest thing that I hope I will ever have to handle. There is only one thing more unimaginable, and I dare not say it. When I married my husband we had our whole lives ahead of us, to make plans, to make babies, to settle into our life together. We had a lifetime to figure everything out. And if I could go back, knowing what I know now, I would do it all again. Time and time again. But I am glad that I didn’t know, because who knows what decisions we would have made. I am glad I didn’t know. The idea that I once lived my life with him as if we had an endless road together… I miss that. How perfect it would be to go back to a moment where our time together was just beginning. 

We were married less than three years when I lost him. We had been through so much in such a short period of time. He had been through dialysis, I had given him one of my kidneys, we had a beautiful baby girl, and we were trying for another. And then one night he went out to pick up dinner and never made it home. I was widowed at 29. My daughter lost her daddy at 13 months old. She will never have a memory of her own. She will never dance with him at the father/daughter dance, he will never coach her soccer team or help her with her homework, he will never walk her down the aisle when she is lucky enough to find the kind of love that I found with him. 

I have struggled with WHY for a year and a half now. I will continue to ask, and I know that I will never have an answer. But I have recently decided that maybe it is possible that I wasn’t meant to have Matt for very long. Maybe he came into my life to give me a child. Maybe it is her that I am meant to have. I know that I will never have an answer to such an unthinkable question, but sometimes it brings me comfort to think that maybe he came into my life to make me a mother. And even though the idea of losing him still brings me to my knees, still breaks me down and shatters me over and over again, I am at least able to pick myself back up each time knowing that yes it is true that I lost him, but I had him! Even if only for a fraction of a lifetime. And even though the life I had chosen is gone, in its place is a life that he will always be a part of. I’m still learning how to do all of this; how to be a single mother, how to be a widow. It’s a lot to take on, it’s a lot to handle. There is no one lonelier than a widow. 

But the sun still rises, the tides still change, the moon and the stars still find their way to me when it is dark. So I still live. And I believe now, more than ever, that the most important thing that has ever been given to me is love. So in the wake of my husbands death I did not harden, I became softer, gentler, more willing to open my heart and let others see me. Because my husband saw me, and he loved me. And I don’t want to live the rest of my life without that kind of love.

I struggle to raise a toddler on my own. I struggle knowing that I am not just caring for a child, I’m raising a young woman who will one day make a mark of her own on the world. I want her to be proud of who she is, proud of what she will have done with her life, and proud of where she came from. I want her to be proud of her daddy, because he is someone to be proud of. I can’t fail her in this regard because I can’t fail him. He was the love of my life and he matters. He will always matter, he is her dad. He is my husband. And though I will have to, in time, live a new life that is separate from the one I once knew, the one I struggle to let go of, I will never live my life without him. He gave me her. He gave me everything. He changed my world, he left his mark. And no matter how much I struggle to keep it together (or how many texts my dear friends get when I’m not sure that both my daughter and I will make it through this next tantrum alive!) I know in my heart how much I have, because I know how much I have lost.

I love my husband. I love my daughter. One day I will love the life that I live now, even though it is not the life I had chosen. I will start by being grateful for the life that I have, and for the life that I once had. He is always here in this new life with me. He is in her. There is no more perfect thing than that.


Published by

Becky Nolan

I a widowed mom to my young daughter. I lost my husband suddenly at the age of 29, leaving me with a one year old child to raise on my own. I live in Connecticut, where I met, married, and lost the man that I am still proud to call my husband. Every day I struggle. Every day I learn. Every day I am grateful for the time I had with him, and for the little girl he gave me before he left. I have found comfort and healing in writing. I have found purpose in sharing my story, knowing that so many others have been through it, too. Knowing that everyone has experienced loss and struggle. Words can be healing when they come from that deeply honest place within the soul. Grief is too lonely a road to walk alone, so I aim to give comfort and company on that lonely road.

23 thoughts on “Widowed Parenting: Struggle is not a strong enough word”

  1. Wow…. Just wow….
    My son is going into teenage years but it all rings true…
    LOVE the line about feeling like the loneliest person in the world!
    Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My son is about to turn 14 we lost his father just passed his 8th birthday. It is so very difficult to raise a son without a father. The best I can do is never good enough on any given day. I will never forget right after Mike passed but I was asked repeatedly “who’s going to be my daddy now I don’t have one.” The only answer I have is that no one can ever replace him for either of us..

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My children were 10 and 11 when their dad, the live of my life, passed away. There was no time to think about parenting, it was about surviving and taking care of the biggest need at the time. There was simply no way to do it all. And not having their dad here, was a pain that never ceased. They will both be in college this year. On the day they move in, I will be out of a job. It’s like all of it…widowed parenting is bittersweet. But if it weren’t for them, I’d have curled up into a ball a long time ago and rolled downhill.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your honesty. I was widowed at your age too, left to raise an 18 month old and 3 year old, and eight years later the pain is still there, a little duller than previously, sitting alongside the happy memories, and even though I have lots of support it is still a lonely world, though I have chosen to be alone with my children now after a loving but failed recent relationship, I find I don’t like to share my children or compromise with a partner. Maybe I was alone too long.
    I hope you have a wonderful future with your daughter, and what ever your future holds, I hope it will be filled with love.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this poignant article. My Dad was widowed when my brother was a year old, my sister was seven years old and I was four years old. So much of what you described was something that my widowed Dad also described many years ago. As the years have gone by, I have thought how deep his grief must have been. Between working a full time job, he ironed our blouses and shirts for us so that we would have clean clothes each day. He washed the floors and did the laundry. He did not remarry. It was a very difficult road for us. May you and your daughter know peace, love and joy. Prayers for both of you

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  5. I lost my husband 15 months ago. My children are 16,18 and 19 now and there lives have forever been changed. They all have struggled with his loss in different ways none of them good the paths they have taken are just devastating. I have tried so hard to do everything I can but they are not the same children who lost there dad. They are bitter,angry and lost. I struggle daily with what would he do if he was here? What if the roles were reversed how would he handle these situations? I ask God every day why? We were together 21 years he was the love of my live and I miss him so much everyday. I feel lost and alone and stuck in between what was and what is now.

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  6. You are an amazing person! You write with purpose & do not hide from the truth! Remember your daughter is also grieving along side you … Her processing is different to yours and she needs you now more than ever … You need her now also … My husband passed on 18.2.15 after hard battle with cancer … He was diagnosed when our youngest daughter was just 3 months old … Our eldest daughter was 6 & had just nearly completed first year of school … We had to relocate from coastal rural area back to the city for ongoing care & medical treatment for our lived one. Very tough time for our family & many challenges lie ahead but we are doing the best we can with the resources available to us … One day at a time … You know what is best for yourself & your precious daughter … God bless

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am a recently widowed father of 3, our oldest just turned 4 and our youngest was just 15 days old when her mother passed. My wife and I always said we were a good couple because we matched, and now I’m alone. The future we had planned is gone. But I have 3 beautiful children to raise for her. It’s a lot of pressure, but I owe it to her.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I can totally relate , I lost my young husband when he was 26, we had a four year old daughter at the time. This has been 33 years ago. I ask myself all the same question’s , is this what he would have wanted, am I raising our child in a way he would be proud of. I have never stopped missing him even though I did remarry and have a wonderful husband of 27 years. Our daughter is now a attorney with a son and daughter of her own. I alway’s count the 5 years of marriage I had with him one of my biggest blessings and would not have missed it for the world. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you so much for writing this! I can relate to everything with exception to having a toddler. We were fortunate enough to have my husband for 15yrs and my kids had their daddy for 10 & 8 years. I love how you put words to the thoughts swirling in my heart & mind and thank you for identifying them beautifully!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was married for 1 and 1/2 years and my son was 14 months old when my husband was murdered. It was a sudden very devastating and traumatic experience. I think it would have been easier if we had known he was dying of some illness. It is still not easy by any means to lose a spouse with a young child to raise. It is hard enough to be a widowed single parent raising a young child but it is even harder to find out 10 months after your husband’s death that your child has special needs disabilities. My situation got even tougher than that 4 and 1/2 years after my husband’s death when I buried my mother after taking care of her and watching her die of cancer and 3 days after her funeral I walked into the Courthouse for the start of a 5 week murder trial. In that same week my son started Kindergarten in a regular Kindergarten class after making so much wonderful progress. A year later he had a sudden onset of different types of seizures and overall regression. 1st grade was a real struggle. 2nd grade was worse and I had to pull him out of public school. He is now enrolled in a small private school for Autism. He seems to have periods where he progresses in some ways and then regresses in other ways. It is a continuous struggle. I don’t know one day from the next how things will go. Losing my husband suddenly the way I did was devastating and unimaginable. Life keeps throwing devastating blows, challenges and struggles at me. Through it all I have learned that God helps us handle all we are given and I have learned a strength I never could be possible for any one person to have. Hug your child and know that everyday with your child is a gift and blessing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shannon, thank you so much for this reminder to be grateful. You have been through so much. I am so sorry for all you are going through but your strength comes through in what you have written here. You are a wonderful example of strength in the face of challenges!


  11. I can’t begin to explain the way this hit me…when I got to the bottom of the first paragraph I had to make sure i wasn’t reading something of my own. I have said countless times “there couldn’t be 2 more stubborn and hard headed people put together to have kids”…and oh boy do they have every ounce of stubborn that could fit in their little bodies, and then some.

    Every bit of this is how I have felt on so many different occasions…and I can’t explain it to others who haven’t been where I am…they don’t get it.
    I was also widowed at 29…my husband was 31 when he died in a car accident. At the time my boys were almost 3, and the baby was 5 months…suddenly finding yourself a single mom because your husband is gone is terrifying. Some days I don’t know my own name…
    Today is my 3rd wedding anniversary, my 2nd without him, and somehow I have managed to cry at least once an hour…I needed to read this today….
    Thank you for putting my thoughts into words….

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I lost my husband in 2009, together for 10 years, married for 5. He gave me 3 beautiful children 1 boy two girls. I was widowed at 26 years and he was sent to be an angel up in heaven. He suffered tremendously through treatments and surgeries, no matter how much time passes the memories of the pain that he went through tends to linger. I thank God for the time we had together, at the time my kids we’re 8, 5, & 2. My kids are now 15, 12, & 9. I’m so proud of who they are becoming even going through all the pain they have had to endure. I’m so blessed, I know we have an angel watching over us and God is always by our side.
    I would ask why!! For a few years I lost my emotions, How do you love when what you loved was taken from you, how do you live, when a life you thought was forever is no longer, I had to change my whole aspect of thinking. I appreciate every day, and every moment with my children and I thank God for a new day. I pray for all of you who have lost your loved one. May God bless you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m a widower coming up 7 years and there’s no good way to lose someone.

    I’m raising two boys and the world I use is relentless. I miss most that I haven’t someone to turn to for support, whether that’s taking a load off or just laughing at my attempts to parent.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I cried when I read this…I am a Grieving Mom. I lost my daughter Brittany April 22, 2016. She was twenty-nine. Her Dad and I are divorced. We also had a son together. My heart goes out to you.

    Liked by 1 person

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