What It’s Like To Be A Widower

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Widower Paul Roque shares how his wife’s passing has changed his perspective on life and how his loss made him a better person

On the 3rd of January, 2018, I officially became a widower. My late wife, Jen, died after giving birth to our second daughter due to a rare complication during pregnancy. I was hopeful she would survive, but the chances of survival are very slim. I was constantly praying and talking to doctors about what was needed for her to recover. At the same time, I was talking to visiting friends and relatives. Bills were piling up but it didn’t matter; I just wanted Jen to survive. We tried everything necessary, but it was all in vain. She passed away peacefully and I became a widower after three years of marriage. Here is my story:

No time for sorrow

At 28 years old, I became a widower with two daughters: Nissi, my three year-old and my newborn, Jireh. Filling out Jen’s paperwork was physically and mentally challenging but I didn’t have time to grieve. I needed to source breastmilk for my newborn, sort our bills and prepare for Jen’s funeral. She was laid to rest after a week.

A whirlwind of tasks

After the funeral, I had to sort out Jen’s weddings. She was a wedding planner and had 40 weddings in process. After talking to all her clients, 35 couples decided to push through with me as their new planner. Two weeks after the funeral, I had my first wedding. It felt like I spent one year just collecting breastmilk, organizing weddings and studying for my teaching certificate.

Jen on our wedding day.

Parenting as a widower

Because I always felt strapped for time, I found myself getting easily irritated. Simple things like tying my kids’ hair or picking clothes or other girly stuff would frustrate me. I had friends and family who were helping out with all the day to day stuff, but I know I had to deal with my emotions.

I now had to play the role of mom and dad, and it was hard. I thought that my kids would easily get over their mom’s passing, but I was wrong. I had to accept that I needed to grieve and so did my kids.

When counseling helps

I went to church to seek counseling and I was fortunate enough to be guided by Pastor Dan Harder, who was also a widower. He gave me parenting advice, which I knew I needed. I also joined an online community of widows and widowers and eventually started my own group, specifically for widows and widowers in the Philippines, which is now 932 members strong.

Jen and our daughter, Nissi.

Connected by heart

I think that widows and widowers are connected by heart, which is why it’s easy for us to talk to each other. We all understand that everyone copes differently — some take months, years to move forward. And even when we think we’ve moved on, we still find ourselves breaking down every now and then.

A lot of people think that time heals all wounds and that it’s easy to move on. They’re wrong. If they want to help, they just need to pull up a chair, listen to our stories and just empathize.

Getting back on my feet

I found a new career in wedding planning, which I grew to love and enjoy. It also gave me the freedom to be more hands on with my kids and take up relevant courses. But, as luck would have it, my house burned down. In one year, I had lost my wife, my house and my dogs. I survived all that too.

Visiting Jen as a family.

My life today

I’ve embraced my role as a dad, and now I’m homeschooling my kids. I’ve also signed up for another course — Accredited Wedding Planner at Weddings Beautiful Worldwide, the number one bridal school in the USA. I’ve also continued to build my Filipino widower and widow community, helping others process their grief. I try to pay it forward extending care to widows and widowers, especially the young ones. Through the community I’ve created, widows and widowers in the Philippines have a safe space to express our feelings! I also remember to give myself some me-time — I know that’s important too.

What people need to know about widows and widowers

People think that widowhood sets a person up for failure and a life of hardship. I beg to differ. Not only does it change your perspective on life, it also makes you both fragile and resilient. Fragile because we have strong emotions; we can relate to a loss of a loved one. Resilient because we already know how to lose what’s most important to us.

Please be kind to widows and widowers. They need to express their emotions and be strong at the same time. Be there for them, show them that they aren’t alone. Be that supportive source of strength they need — I know I would have appreciated it back when I needed it the most.

If you’ve recently experienced the loss of a family member or friend, don’t be afraid to reach out and get some support. Nobody should have to grieve alone.

To join Filipino Widow and Widower support group, click here.

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