Moving Forward as a Widow Parent

by Natalie Altieri
Originally Published: 

Image via Shutterstock

It was the night of January 3rd, 2013 and, suddenly, I was a widow with a four-month-old son. I was now a widow parent to an infant when just a few weeks ago my entire world seemed so hopeful.

I tried to fall back into the life I had, but it seemed impossible. Daily tasks that once seemed simple were now arduous. Making dinner, which was once one of my favorite pastimes, was like climbing a mountain. Bathing my newborn was difficult and going food shopping welled me up with tears. Not only did I lose my life partner, but also my son would now never know his father. I went to work each day only to come home and sit in my bedroom each day silently crying. I didn’t know how to take the next step.

As months went by, I realized that something needed to change. I didn’t want my son to grow up in a house strewn with sadness; I wanted him to see that tragedy can transform into strength. So I walked out of bedroom and made a plan for my family.

I asked for help: Asking for help is something I always had trouble with. I want to be known as someone who can handle it all without a second pair of hands. My mother lives in my house so she helped me with daycare. I was afraid that now as a single parent, my son would be raised by someone in a daycare facility that I don’t even know. My 71-year-old mother took care of my son every day while I was busy at work in an ad agency and kept an eye on him as I worked online from home. I couldn’t have financially made ends meet without my mother’s help.

I asked questions: My late husband’s family is like my own. They know things about my husband that I never learned and they can relay those stories to my kid as he grows up. His spirit remains alive in my son and through the stories they have told me, the pictures they have shown me and the videos that I have now seen. I also now have two sets of extra parents with my sister- and brother-in-laws and a bunch of cousins that playfully surround him every time they see him.

I give up feeling guilty: All parents, especially single parents, feel guilty about not being a good enough parent and not being present enough. As a widowed parent, I feel this in droves! My jobs leave me little time to spend with my son, but I know when he is not with me, he is with people who care for him immensely.

I started to take care of myself: More than anything, I want my son to live in a positive household, which is difficult. I am obviously sad and feel a piece of me is missing, so I made my mental health a priority. I started going to weekly therapy and recently joined a widows’ support group. Taking care of myself can only help my son so he sees his mom as a strong person who triumphs over adversity. This example will hopefully show him how to do the same, as he gets older.

I let myself lose control: I was the person who wants to be control and plan everything meticulously. Before my husband passed, we moved into a new house and I planned out everything from the dreadful mortgage process to the labor and the actual moving. The thing is: nothing went as planned. Every single thing went wrong. As with many homeowners, the mortgage process took quadruple the amount of time it should have. We had our baby two weeks early, one day before we were about to close on the house. And we had to move in the new house a couple of days after my C-section. Four months later, my husband was gone and I sat in our house alone with my son and now had an outrageously high mortgage on a single-person income.

So, now I take things day by day. I carve out time to be with my son—even if it’s just him coming with me to Trader Joe’s every Saturday, which he seems to love. I have small outings for just us. And I do things that will instill his father’s spirit. A couple weeks ago, I brought my son to a Brooklyn feast, one that his dad went to each year. It was unsettling. For a minute, I felt like a three-legged table; I wished that my son would be able to walk down the crowded feast street with his dad holding hands. But he just has me instead… and that’s ok.

This article was originally published on