He made three promises to his wife. A week after she died, a parcel arrived

Jill Foster
·5-min read
Sam Robinson with his wife Lauren and their daughter Molly. Lauren died just days before her 32nd birthday. (Supplied, Sam Robinson)
Sam Robinson with his wife Lauren and their daughter Molly. Lauren died just days before her 32nd birthday. (Supplied, Sam Robinson)

Last August, a parcel came through the post addressed to Sam Robinson. It was from his wife Lauren and contained a beautiful pen with the simple inscription: "Love Always".

It was a typically thoughtful gesture from the woman Robinson had adored for a decade. A precious gift, made all the more poignant by the fact it arrived a week after his wife had died from breast cancer, only days short of her 32nd birthday.

"Lauren was always thinking of other people, even in her final days" says Sam, 33, who lives with daughter Molly, four, in West Malling, Kent. 

"Before she died, she spoke to me about three things I should do after she’d gone."

Sam Robinson with his wife Lauren on their wedding day. (Supplied, Sam Robinson)
Sam Robinson with his wife Lauren on their wedding day. (Supplied, Sam Robinson)

"The first was about work and this pen was her way of telling me to throw myself into work because she believed in me and wanted me to do great things with my new business," Robinson continues.

"The second was about keeping myself busy with hobbies like basketball and the gym because she knew how much I loved them.

"The third was something I always dismissed at the time, but she made it clear on several occasions. She would say: ‘As painful as it is to think about, if you ever feel like you want to find someone else, it’s ok.’

"Lauren was the only person I loved and I didn’t want to think about anyone else, I wanted to enjoy the time we had left. But looking back, it was her way of making sure I didn’t feel any guilt if I ever did open myself up to a new relationship. She was giving me permission to move forward."

Read more: Recognising and dealing with grief is key to mental health during the pandemic

Robinson's wife's selfless words are reminiscent of those of actor Helen McCrory, the star of Peaky Blinders, who died of cancer, aged 52. 

Writing about his wife shortly after her death, her actor husband Damian Lewis revealed that McCrory joked about him finding love again. 

He wrote in The Sunday Times: "She said to us from her bed: ‘I want Daddy to have girlfriends, lots of them, you must all love again, love isn’t possessive, but you know Damian, try at least to get through the funeral without snogging someone.’"

Like Lewis – who has two children - Sam now finds himself a solo father, juggling widowerhood with his job as a marketing consultant with bringing up little Molly. He admits finds the prospect "scary". But his wife clearly had confidence in him.

Read more: How parents can help a grieving child

"Lauren didn’t once talk to me about what I should do with Molly in the future," he says. "She thought about writing letters or cards to her but in the end she simply said: ‘I trust you to raise her the way you’ve always raised her and I’m not worried about her because I believe in you.'

"Bringing up a girl by myself is daunting and there will be times when I have no understanding about what she is going through, but I’m very willing to learn. 

"I’ve been watching YouTube videos of different hairstyles and practicing putting her hair in ponytails. I figure that’s one thing that mums always do for their daughters and it will make a difference to Molly. There are pamper kits with face masks that I can try with her and I’ll learn to paint her nails.

"She has a fantastic support group of aunties and nans so there will always be women around her - but I want to do my best for her as well."

Watch: Heartbroken widower builds lending library for late wife

It was Molly who made Robinson get up in the mornings in those first dark days of bereavement. 

His wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, just months after Molly was born. 

Despite a mastectomy and exhaustive chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she passed away in a hospice hours after leaving the family home for the final time.

"I’m convinced that she waited for me to go home to bed that night before she felt able to ‘let go’," says Robinson. "She wanted to spare me that pain too.

"I felt completely lost and abandoned but I had to keep going for Molly. Big celebrations such as Christmas would fill me with anxiety but I had to learn to lean into those times and even experienced some happiness. I called it ‘Surjoying’ – a mixture of surviving and enjoying."

Sam Robinson said his daughter Molly gave him a reason to keep going after his wife's death. (Supplied, Sam Robinson)
Sam Robinson said his daughter Molly gave him a reason to keep going after his wife's death. (Supplied, Sam Robinson)

Over the last few months Sam has found help and support with the Widowed and Young (WAY) charity. He is also writing a blog to help other people who have lost their partners. 

"I became friends with someone who lost his partner four months before me and he has been my beacon of hope," he says. "No one understands what you’re going through unless they’ve been through it themselves and now I hope to pay that forward and offer advice and support to others.

"I’ve had counselling and now I can say I feel much more empowered by grief rather than pinned down by it. 

"I want to live in a way that honours Lauren’s memory and achieve the goals we shared. 

"Until recently I was in a place where I couldn’t even think from one hour to the next, let alone think of something like another relationship.

"But I feel I’m at a point now where I can at least think of the future, make myself open-minded and vulnerable – and I’ve got Lauren to thank for that too."

Watch: Tips for talking to your children about death, grief