The Ones Left Behind: The New War Widow

Posted Jul 25, 2007 by KJ Mullins
For some it's the daily things that are a constant reminders that their spouse will never return. Others have certain dates. Mothers and children whose hero husbands and fathers die in war find life can never be the same.
When a spouse or parent dies generally the closure is difficult but more understandable. It's hard to rationalize death by bombing. In an article with CP widows talked about their lives since losing their soldier husbands to the war.
Charmaine Tedford says it's the simple daily tasks that Sgt. Darcy Tedford did along beside her that makes it hard to move on. Tedford died in October.
Julie Mason says that it hits hardest when her three year old says she wants to die so she can be with her daddy, Master Cpl. Jeff Walsh. The mother of three walks a tightrope trying to help her young children to understand about their father. Her seven year old Avery knows what happened, Walsh was accidentally shot by a comrade inside their military vehicle on a routine patrol outside Kandahar last August. The other two are two young to understand that at ages 3 and 18 months.
"It's been my life everyday, especially with my three year old who'll say, 'I miss daddy and I want to see him,"' Mason, 29, said from her home near the base in Shilo, Man., where Walsh was stationed.
"The questions will be forever, they will never end and you hope as a parent that you have half the right answers.
At first I almost lost my mind because that's the last thing you want to hear your three year old say, but at the same time I know she wasn't fully understanding what she was saying," she said. "She understands that's where dad is and she wanted to go and be with him."
Kerry Arnold deals with similar issues with her young 23 month old son Connor. Last Sept. Cpl. Glen Arnold was killed in the line of duty by a suicide bomber. Her seven year old rushes to tell her of every Canadian soldier that falls in the war.
It brings bring the day when the army padre showed up at the door to deliver the worst news she could hear. She screamed at him to go away but it didn't stop the reality.
She explains about passing a graveyard and listening to her son:
"He was saying, 'Daddy, daddy, daddy,' and I had to say, 'No, that's not where daddy is buried,' and he got upset with me because I didn't stop," Arnold, 34, said from her home. "Connor doesn't understand."
It's not just the memories that makes it difficult to go on. Military mothers are used to being "single parents for six months" but not forever. Having to readjust to being a single parent during grief is a daunting task.
"It's the simplest daily tasks that you shared with your spouse, that you don't realize how much they did for you," Tedford said. "I cut the grass when he was alive, but he might have been cooking supper or bathing the kids. It was a division of labour and now it's me doing it all."
She recalled a recent purchase of a BBQ. The clerk helped her load it into the car for the trip home. When she arrived home it dawned on her that Darcy wasn't there to help her get it out of the car.
"I had to go and ask one of his friends, can you come help me take a stupid barbecue out of the car? Can you help me put it together because I can't do that and watch the kids and a dog all at the same time?" she said. "It's very frustrating."
Arnold is doing something about the pain. She formed a support group on the base. She also has to learn how to lean on others during this time.
"When he was alive I shovelled the driveway once and he gave me trouble for it," she said, laughing. "I never cut the grass until he went on tour. Thank God I've got good neighbours."
Mason worries that her children will forget the memory of their father. Ben was only six months old when Jeff left for Afghanistan.
"I can't even put into words what it does to your heart to think that your children will forget who their father is," she said. "That was the biggest fear for me, that they were going to forget. I just realized there comes a point that the picture will just be a picture to them and there will be no memories that go with that picture.
"That was one of the hardest steps for me."
Keeping the memory alive is the hardest thing for these courageous young mothers.
"Every night before he goes to bed he gives his picture a kiss and then he turns it to me to kiss it and he gives him a kiss when he gets up in the morning," said Arnold of her son.