Regardless of how long you’ve had to prepare for it, losing a loved one can have a devastating effect on your life. Chris Martin would certainly attest to that, as his wife Renee succumbed to cancer in 2013. However, five years later, the single dad stumbled across a heartbreaking email from his partner that he’d never seen before.
A resident of Melbourne, Australia, Chris was first introduced to Renee through one of his friends, who just so happened to be Renee’s cousin. The pair were in their early 20s at that point, but their romance didn’t blossom straight away. Indeed, it was some years later at a joint birthday party when they finally kissed.
Chris and Renee eventually got married, and in the coming years the couple also became the proud parents of a couple of children named Grace and Albi. However, while pregnant with the latter, the mom was given some devastating news by her doctors.
Renee was informed that she had kidney cancer. Despite the diagnosis, though, she still managed to give birth to her baby son and continued her battle against the disease for more than two years. Sadly, it was a battle that Chris’ wife couldn’t win in the end, as she passed away at the age of 39 in 2013.
Although devastated by the loss of his wife, Chris now had an incredibly important job as a widowed parent. For the next three years, he helped his children as best he could given the heartbreaking circumstances, which led to an interesting idea. In June 2016 the single father created his own blog, called Just A Dad.
In the opening post on the blog, Chris outlined his reasons for setting up Just A Dad before highlighting one of the potential benefits. “[The blog is] part self therapy (better out than in), part explanation (to my family and friends),” he wrote. “And, hopefully, part help resource for others who find themselves thrust into a life unwanted, undeserved and unplanned due to the loss of a beloved partner.”
Since then, Chris has written more than 130 posts, each chronicling various aspects of his life as a bereaved single parent. He also created a Facebook page for Just A Dad along the way, earning close to 6,000 likes and plenty of followers. And in February 2018 the widower shared a particularly moving story with his readers.
Titled “Mourning Guilt,” the blog post detailed what happened when Chris stumbled across something unexpected. “You see, I was logged into Renee’s email trying to find some information,” he wrote. “And, in my search, chanced upon an email thread where my usually un-sneaky wife (she couldn’t hide a secret for the life of her) was conspiring with my family about my 40th birthday celebrations back in 2014.”
As he started to read the messages, however, something caught Chris completely off-guard. “I was simply skimming the contents when I found some humbling and beautiful words she had written about me and what I meant to her,” the dad continued. “It was as if I could hear her voice, something I haven’t heard for so long, in the words printed on the screen before me.”
With that in mind, Chris was suddenly hit by a wave of different emotions. “I felt humbled by her endearing words,” the single dad wrote. “I was overcome by the same desperate sadness I remember so vividly after she passed. I immediately felt the dreadful hollowness of being alone, of never being able to have exactly what I once did, again.”
On that note, Chris opened up about a particular feeling that bubbled back to the surface. “The tears flowed and I felt terrible guilt course through every fibre,” he recounted. “Guilt that I hadn’t thought or felt these things for some time. Guilt that I had seemingly forgone these feelings in the pursuit of normality and, dare I say it, happiness.”
“Guilt that I wasn’t upset until I read the words,” Chris added. “Guilt that I’m here and not her. Guilt that I couldn’t fix her.” From there, the widower touched upon the unfortunate intricacies of these feelings, admitting that they’re “hard to articulate” in a conversation. He then made another interesting point.
“[The guilt] serves as a reminder – like a hammer to my kneecap type reminder, that there is more to losing a loved one than the anticipated sadness, loneliness and longing,” Chris wrote. “That there are no answers, no solutions or no ways to manipulate the grief journey. It just has to happen.”
Despite being put through the emotional ringer, though, Chris was somewhat thankful that he’d faced down those old feelings. “It’s comforting to know I still care,” he added. “Even writing this all down has been cathartic and I feel lighter already. So I guess I should say thanks Renee, still helping me out after all these years. Bless.”
Unsurprisingly, Chris’ words struck a chord online, with users sharing his post on Facebook hundreds of times. Meanwhile, the story also earned numerous likes on the blog’s social media page and generated a number of heartfelt comments. The coverage didn’t end there, though.
Indeed, as Chris’ blog post continued to grow in popularity, international outlets started to cover the story in the summer of 2018. U.K. newspapers such as Metro shared his words on their websites. During that period, the widower was also contacted by a station a little closer to home.
Australia’s ABC Radio Melbourne conducted an interview with Chris in June 2018, covering his family’s journey since Renee’s passing. When the discussion turned to his blog, though, he referred back to his very first post, touching upon how he wanted to help guys in similar positions. And it appeared that he’d been successful in this aim.
“They were patting me on the back and saying, ‘Really well done for this, there’s not enough of this out there for guys speaking about loss, about grief, about raising kids,’” Chris explained. “It’s just been a really inspiring journey so far to share what I do.”
Chris then reflected on the important lessons that he’s learned from his children in the past few years. “Kids live so much in the present, they deal with emotions and thoughts and everything in the moment,” he said.
“Unless it’s going to affect them in the next two hours or two days, it’s sort of dealt with in a few minutes,” Chris added. “I was a bit put off at the start. [But] as time has gone on since we lost Renee, these two kids have taught me so much about living in the now, and not worrying about the what ifs and what could bes.”