Grief, Dead Dads, and Children

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

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.

Pink – “Who Knew”

Being a Widowed Single in the Midst of a World of Couples

Suddenly losing your “Plus One” when your spouse dies just sucks. Plain and simple. It does. It is an ancillary issue that grief causes – there are many of course, and most suck. Becoming a single in the midst of your group of friends is hard. You have had this social partner for a long time – in my case, 15 years. You had a partner, you had someone to talk to at a party if there was a lull, you had someone to rescue you from an awkward conversation, you had someone to wink at from across the room, you always had a plus one for weddings and events. You had a vibe and a rhythm and no need to worry about who was refilling your drink or taking you home.

This strikes me again today strongly for two reasons. One is that a mom I know lost her husband to suicide last night. 9 days before Christmas. A great family with 3 children – lives changed forever in an instant. Even though my husband died, it’s always shocking and hard to fathom when someone dies. I found out late last night and have been thinking about them ever since. Another wonderful human that has lost their Plus One. I am not close to her but all of a sudden I feel a bond to this newest member of the club – “the club that no one wants to join.” It is a club like no other however, one in which its members comfort each other and come together in such a strong way for support – because no one can understand what this experience is like, really understand, unless you have lived it. We all know that, and when a new person enters that tribe, they become emotionally connected to all.

As I was thinking about this woman and her family this morning, I was also thinking about a Christmas Party that I am invited to this evening. I have been debating for days about whether or not I will go. I adore the couple that are hosting this annual party and I know many of the people that will be there. Many of the couples that will be there (it is almost all couples). I have gone to this party several times over the years, a few times with a date, but most times that I have gone, I have gone alone. Getting up the courage to go to events like this is tough. Going alone to an event that is mostly filled with loving couples always brings on a lot of anxiety for me. What if I walk in and have no one to talk to? What if it’s awkward AF? What if I am standing alone in the corner? What if the people that do talk to me are doing so because they feel sorry for me? What if they are talking about me – the single in the midst of couples, the widow in the midst of marrieds, the recently re-singled woman. What if they see me the way I see myself? The chubby odd woman out. Some of my fears are reasonable and some are not – I realize that. But my brain practically explodes with the anxiety. When thinking about these events, sometimes I push through and take a deep breath, look as good as I possibly can, and put on my mask of extreme self-confidence and go for it. Often with a drink or two before I get to the event. Sometimes I stay home and binge watch Netflix and eat ice cream. Often with a drink or two.  And typically regret not going. But these things ARE HARD! They reaffirm that your spouse is gone, reaffirm that you are on your own, reaffirm that you are lonely, reaffirm that you have massive anxiety and self-esteem issues, reaffirm what a mess you can be.

As I was thinking about whether or not I should go to the party, it occurred to me that this woman – and her husband – were also invited to this party. And that she was now, among many, many other awful things, going to have to deal with this solitary bullshit. I hate it for her, I hate it for me, I hate it for all of us.

After way too much overthinking, I have decided I am going to go to the party. I have had so much support these past years and a lot of that support came from the people that will be at this party. I need to remind myself of that, remember that these are people that have had my back. I have come to realize that many widows do not have the type of support I have had and for that support I will be forever grateful. And you know, as a widow, there are only so many invitations you receive. You have to say yes whenever you can and get yourself out there! Sitting at home watching a movie does absolutely nothing for your low self-esteem, nothing to relieve your sense of loneliness, nothing to sooth your anxiety, and certainly nothing to make you feel less of a mess. This is the time to look yourself in the mirror long and hard – which is therapy in and of itself – and remind yourself what an amazing, bad ass, gorgeous, special, interesting woman you are. This is the time to feel your own vibe and be your own Plus One. This is the time to remind yourself that there are many that are indeed grateful to have you in their lives. You have come so far in this life – walking into a party alone is not the biggest mountain you’ve had to climb – unless you tell yourself it is.