View Full Version : Death of a spouse...

06-06-2007, 11:36 AM
In my WIP my MC's significant other dies. He is left to raise their 5 year old daughter by himself. If you've lost someone what where some things that you didn't expect to miss, or things that they did that you had to start doing? If you haven't what would you expect to have trouble with if you did loose your SO? I'm thinking along the lines of she always gave the little girl a bath, washed the clothes, made the coffee. Just daily things that you would have to get used to doing on your own.

Plot Device
06-06-2007, 04:31 PM
I lost a cousin I was very close to, but never a boyfriend/lover/husband. This is a tough area.

I have only second-hand experience with it in watching others mourn. I'm about to ramble a bit for you.

I'm told it's like losing an entire leg from your body, or even one whole leg and one whole arm together. You're suddenly half a person. You wake up in the morning and reach your hand over onto the other side of the bed, and there's no one there.

I know a man who lost a wife of well-over 20 years of marriage, and when his brother temporarilly moved in to help him, he confessed to his brother that he didn't know how to operate the clothes washer because she had been doing it for all those years. (When he was a bachelor in college, he went to the laundromat, but the in-home washing machines of today are nothing like the commercial machines in laundromats of twenty-plus years ago, so he was clueless on how to do it.) Other very modern appliances that were exlusively the wife's domain might prove puzzling to a suddenly-widowed husband.

I sense that a lot of guys don't know that the fridge needs to be cleaned out periodically (once a week is preferable) and that crumbs and crud can collect all over the shelves and in the drawers if it isn't.

A lot of guys MIGHT know how to sew a button, but might not know where the wife kept the sewing kit.

A lot of wives run the household finances and might have a system in place that is not of a business quality. So after a spouse dies, she might have a desk full of bills and a filing system not easilly discernible. All kinds of phone numbers to credit card companies and AAA and the insurance company and the plumber and the landscaper and the names and phone numbers of all the doctors and dentists and the vet, etc, is all in HER system of filing that he might not be able to decipher.

Taking care of a child?

He might not know her preferences for her hair. Most daddies I know are only able to brush their daughter's hair, but placing an elastic or a hair bow is usually beyond their grasp.

He might not know that her feet are a little but narrower than the average child, or a little bit wider, and he'll get befuddled when some of her shoes don't fit right. And he also probably wouldn't be shrewd enough to know when to use thick socks for one pair of shoes, or thin tights for another pair.

He might not know the breakfast foods she eats, and the fact that she is supposed to take a vitamin after breakfast every day.

He might not know that bathtime also includes an application of body lotion after she dries off.

He might not know that when she brushes her teeth, she needs some help with the flossing part.

He might not know that she's supposed to pee before she goes to bed or she might wet her bed during the night.

He might not know that she's supposed to wear a totally new pair of underwear beneath her pajamas--or (some familes do it differently) that no underwear at all is to be worn under her pajamas.

When it comes to laundry, he might not know that the little girl get rashes and so he needs to buy only those laundry detergents with no dyes and no perfumes; ditto for dryer sheets.

He might not understand no TV in the morning.

He might not understand her sense of time (or lack thereof) and mistakenly babbles to her about what time it is and how she needs to hurry up or she'll be late for school. He doesn't understand she needs to be guided through the morning routine.

06-06-2007, 05:52 PM
In my WIP my MC's significant other dies. He is left to raise their 5 year old daughter by himself. If you've lost someone what where some things that you didn't expect to miss, or things that they did that you had to start doing? If you haven't what would you expect to have trouble with if you did loose your SO? I'm thinking along the lines of she always gave the little girl a bath, washed the clothes, made the coffee. Just daily things that you would have to get used to doing on your own.

I lost my husband to cancer in 1997.

At first I couldn't sleep. I missed his snoring. I missed his stupid jokes and compulsion to correct people's grammar.

Since he was sick for a while (17 months) I had taken over all the household duties that were originally his.

But what was odd, it that I picked up his habits. I was the one who was always late, he was always early. Now I'm always early and I can't tolerate people being late. I make the stupid jokes he would have made. I'm organized now, like he was. I had the temper, he was the calm one. Now I'm calm.

It's almost as if I were filling in the void by emulating his behaviors. It's not something that I did conciously. Just happened.

If you have any specific questions, you can PM me.

06-06-2007, 07:00 PM
There's a message board dealing specifically with grief and loss issues. I think it's www.beyondindigo.com or something like that. Take a look around there and you will probably find all sorts of interesting anecdotes.

06-06-2007, 07:23 PM
Thank you so much for your responses! I know this is a tough subject. Being only 26 and having only one serious relationship under my belt I don't know much about the dynamic of things and what happens when that dynamic just stops. You guys have helps alot with little details I couldn't have thought up on my own...I'll be checking that link too! Thanks again...

Tsu Dho Nimh
06-06-2007, 07:27 PM
And the kid will keep saying "But mommy always did it this way".

Steve W
06-10-2007, 09:28 PM

Don't go for missing the cute or ordinary stuff, go for more unusual things like the arguments, their bad habits, the really, really irritating stuff that all those we love do, but which we dearly hate. Things like that will add so much more depth.


06-11-2007, 01:11 AM
I haven't lost Mr. Maryn, but I came close. He was hospitalized for months at a time over a period of about a year. Our kids were 6 and 8.

Things I missed or that especially bothered me, in no particular order:
him taking care of everything financial except day-to-day deposits and bill-paying
the silence in the house once the kids went to bed
having respite from childcare
being able to go out for a forgotten grocery item, or to exercise
his physical strength, from storm windows to mowing to opening jars
having someone to listen to me
his side of the bed remaining smooth and unmussed
cooking fast junk the kids would eat instead of good meals
Lately I seem to be thinking about this period a lot. Maybe it's trying to work its way into what I'm writing?

Maryn, glad to report she and Mr. Maryn cleaned the garage today

Ol' Fashioned Girl
06-11-2007, 01:33 AM
My two best friends - one died, the other lost her husband. Both those left behind confessed to sniffing their clothes - the ones left unwashed - to see if their smell lingered. Refused to wash the clothes for the longest time, and even then, wouldn't give them away for months more.

06-11-2007, 01:49 AM
Oh, that's a good one. I tended to wear one of Mr. Maryn's shirts as an overshirt quite often--but not to the hospital. (Even then, I couldn't close 'em over my hips.)

Another one I saw in a movie that rang very true to me is the widow's refusal to change her husband's voice recording the response on their answering machine. She would call her own number just to hear him. It made me cry. (And come to think of it, she wore his oversized sweater.)

Maryn, misty eyed

06-11-2007, 02:30 AM
A lot of widows also keep their bills (like phone, etc) in thier husbands names. My grandmother's husband died 20 years ago and the phone is still in his name.

After reading this thread I relize that the Duke does just about everything around here. I feel quite useless.

And my heart is breaking at the thought of ever being without him.

06-11-2007, 02:59 AM
Since he is raising a daughter, the mother would also be greatly missed during Mother/daughter events and some extra-carricular activities that are traditionally overseen by mothers, such as Girl Scouts .
My mother passed when I was young, so I was often the only child accompanied by her Dad to many school and other events. My Dad taught me to sew, cook,do laundry, clean and shop, as well as repair bike tubes, work complex math problems, balance a checkbook and change the oil on my first car.
He did a good job, but was at a loss to explain girlie things to me. He did remarry, and I do think part of his motivation in doing so was to provide a female influence for me.

06-11-2007, 03:10 AM
I remember my Dad saying no matter how many people were in the room with him, he still felt alone. . . grieving for my mom who died after 49 years of marriage.

The persons I've observed after losing a spouse sometimes seem to "go into themselves to cope". I can see losing track of caring for the child. . .forget to pick her up from dance class or not knowing how to help her decorate a box for the valentine party, etc.

Someone mentioned not knowing how to work the washer. My dad didn't either. He'd never cooked anything much and had to learn to cook for himself.

Another thing is dressing the child. My husband used to dress our daughter in stuff like dressy clothing and play shoes, or striped shirt and plaid pants.

06-11-2007, 03:10 AM
Also, public places like bathrooms and dressing rooms can present a problem.

06-11-2007, 06:11 AM
Thank you all so much for your responses. I know this is a very sensative and tough subject. I appreciate all of the suggestions more than you know.

06-12-2007, 07:34 PM

I am a person who lost their Dad when I was 5 years old. I have tried to think of anything that might help but not sure:

My dad was in the airforce so he did actually work away a lot. So my mom just told me he was away when ever i aksed about him. When I finally understood (which was about 7 years old) i didn't cry for him coz he had been away for such a long time.

My mom couldn't settle and would move from place to place until we finally went back to her hometown to be near her paerents. We moved many times in a few years. There was this unsettled no peace sort of thing which only improved somewhat when she was near her parents. People close to her.

Hope this little helps.