It’s SO MUCH! The poor damn KIDS. I would give anything to change places with my children, especially when it first happened. Anything to take that pain away. And it’s pain that stays with them – FOREVER. And, they get the pleasure of re-grieving the loss – FOREVER and CONSTANTLY. Sorry for all the caps but damn, this pain and trauma that children go through with the death of a parent is so big, so powerful, so life-altering. I don’t think it’s given enough attention.
Our losses, as adults, as widows and widowers, are also huge and I’d never minimize it. My girls and I suffered the same loss and yet very different losses. I lost my partner, my husband, my co-parent, my lover, my helper, my friend, my love. My girls lost their DAD. Their dad. At ages 4 and 6. And one at age “negative 9 months”. They have very few clear memories of him. He’s not been there for ANYTHING for years. No soccer games cheering them on, no kudos for good grades on tests, no celebrating huge accomplishments, no singing happy birthday, no accompanying to doctor visits or surgeries. No visiting him at work, no take your daughter to work day. No dad teaching you how to drive, no dad to help you buy your first car and teach you how to pump gas. Looking forward, no dad at graduations of any kind, no dad walking you down the aisle, no dad turning into a grandpa.
And every damn time your kids experience each one of these things that their dad is not there for, they re-grieve the loss. As they get older, they re-grieve the loss.
The side effects of grief are many and they are profound for children. Fear, anxiety, attachment issues, distrust, depression, learning issues, substance abuse. These issues do not effect every person that is grieving but it’s impossible to escape unscathed.
Don’t discount what children and adult children of deceased parents endure. Love helps the most of course. Love and affection. The ability to talk about what you are feeling, the knowledge that whatever you’re feeling is OK. The support felt from your tribe and being with others that have experienced similar loss. The men that step up to the plate and want to be there for your kids in a way only a man can. These children are strong and brave. They become the most amazing adults and parents. They have bigger hearts than most and often enough empathy to fill an ocean. These kids have been to hell and walked thru the fire. Scarred and different, but they are walking tall thru this life as best they can. Let’s not forget that and not forget to give them props for simply walking around upright. They are survivors of the highest order.