After my wife’s death, my son cut all ties with the family

Tell Me About It: try to keep a brave face, but sometimes I fall into a state of despair


I am a widower in my late 50s. My beautiful wife was taken from this world in the past three years. I am still numbed and confused by the trauma of her passing. She was beautiful, vivacious, tempestuous, intelligent and a wonderful and funny mother to our two children.

Because of her spirit, love kept us together even during the most difficult times. Now I, as a father, feel inadequate to the pressures of the situation. Thankfully, our children were adults when my wife died, but although life carried on after the initial period of grieving, nothing has been the same since.

My daughter lives close by, is in college, and misses her mother terribly. I try to be a mum and dad to her, but there are some things fathers can’t be to their daughters. The glue that holds many families together is the mother.

My son lives elsewhere and has done so for some time. He is the eldest and has two children of his own. He is a handsome man, and his mother adored him. Now, all of that is in jeopardy. A family dispute has meant my son has finished with his sister, his aunts and uncles, and me. I can no longer see my grandchildren, and my daughter has lost the brother she loves dearly. I try to keep a brave face, but sometimes the mask slips and I slop into a state of depression and despair at the way things have turned out. My wife would be horrified.

My son decided this, and I have no intention of pleading with him in the future. I must look after my daughter as best I can; her future is my main concern going forward.


There are two problems in your life right now and they are not necessarily connected. You are in the throes of deep grief, and your loneliness is bordering on despair and depression. The split with your son may or may not be connected to your wife dying – you have not given enough information to know what caused this schism.

However, something as drastic as cutting off all family relations often has deep roots and points to a person who feels they have no options left.

I wonder at your statement that you have no intention of pleading with him. The grief in your family is profound and, as the head of this family, it might be up to you to lead the way to reconciliation and healing.

Staying in contact with your grandchildren – remembering their birthdays, first days at school and achievements – all demonstrate your continuing love and care. Perhaps speaking to your son’s partner and telling her that you will take any opportunity for contact will copper-fasten the notion that you will always be open to reconnection and will continue to be a father no matter how your son behaves.

To maintain the position of conflict, each side has to constantly remind themselves why they will not reconcile, and this means that focus is always on what the other person did and not on the love and care that previously existed in the relationship.

If you are to have the energy and hope to tackle the family break-up, you must first tackle some issues in your own life.

You are only in your 50s and you have a lot of living yet to do. Do not be too proud to ask friends for help. You will get support, understanding and encouragement from them. Joining the world again is part of healing, so engaging in any activity that you might have enjoyed while your wife was alive is a start. Initially your heart will not be in the activity, but with time this will improve. You might even become open to the possibility of another relationship at some stage.

You are the glue your daughter needs at this time. She needs you to live again. Being open to her needs is a good way to be the best dad you can be. Love is a powerful tool. Hold to the belief that your family can be whole again.

Family mediation is well worth considering.