Sometimes, some of the hardest moments in parenting come when we ourselves – those who are supposed to be in the know – are floundering. Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to keep our own head afloat while we care for and support our little people. Sure, sure, we are supposed to put on our own proverbial life jackets before we assist others, but parental instinct will have you reaching for your kids when you see them struggling, even at a cost to your own well-being.
A tough topic to broach, and not sure I do it justice, but death of a spouse or a partner can be a debilitating event. Not only have you just lost the person you love, the person you were supposed to be spending the rest of your life with, but also you have to deal with their being gone without their aid. Seems like a double slap in the face. AND you have to help your kids deal with it, too.
I have not, thankfully, lost my partner-in-crime. I have not had to recover from the kind of blow that no married person is prepared for. You do not walk down the aisle or accept a marriage proposal and come up with a Plan B for ‘after’ because at the time – and for always – you are focusing on now, and next year and there is never a time when you don’t see yourselves together. But. It can happen. And because of the very fact that we don’t plan on being without our partner, we struggle to find the way.
I have, however, lost a loved one. When my sister died, I had a hard time getting past the foggy daze, and I could see my hubby picking up the pieces I was missing and dropping. My kids didn’t know my sister that well, and to them her being ‘gone’ didn’t have the same enormity that it did for me. This is a bad example, I guess
When a loved one dies, when your wife or husband passes, it is hard to move beyond. It’s hard to focus on what needs to be done. Enough abrupt things have happened, so living in a fog becomes easier; hiding behind soft-focus can be less stressful.
What to do, what to do. How do you move on? Is that really what you need to do?
When you suffer a loss like this, you’re at a loss. You cry. You weep. Perhaps you rage. You question why. You wish for things to be different. You fight against the new now because it is not acceptable yet. Imagine, now, that you are a child and don’t have the benefit of having adult understanding and comprehension.
As a parent, we might feel that we shouldn’t let our kids see us cry or struggle. We shouldn’t share these strong emotions with them. We shouldn’t let them see us flounder. May I suggest, though, that this is exactly what they need. Unfortunately, this is their new now, and they need to learn to deal with it. They will likely not have the right emotional skills to do that – just as you might not – and this is a learning experience. It’s unfortunate that they have to develop the skills, but reality is that loss is inevitable. Be it a beloved pet, a best friend due to a move, or a parent, loss is going to happen, so it is important to learn how to deal with it.
So really, what to do, what to do. Here’s my suggestion.
Be honest about your feelings. Your kids need know that you hurt too. Your kids are confused, upset and it will help them to know that you are struggling as much as they are. It’s okay to be mad about what happened. It’s okay to be sad, and to struggle, and to be angry. What’s not okay is to keep all that bottled up inside. Same thing goes for your kids. Emotions aren’t meant to kept buried. There they fester, balloon and very quickly explode. You know what? You have the right to be angry. You have the right to feel cheated, and angry and you have the right to feel that life is not fair. Because it isn’t. And you and your kids have just been dealt a shit burger. And this too is something you can deal with; dealing with it together will be a lot more enjoyable and bring you closer together than all of you being miserable on your own.
When you are ready, have the conversations with your kids, and your friends about your partner. It’s hard, but it does help to voice your memories. It helps to talk about how you are feeling. How much you are missing your spouse; give your kids the opportunity to share when they are ready, too. After it doesn’t hurt so much, remember and embrace the good.
I’m not going to go on and on about how out of loss comes growth, proverbial phoenix, blah blah blah. You don’t need to hear that. What you do need to know is that loss happens. It bites, but it happens. It’s hard, but you can move on from this. And no matter how hard it might be, you need to realize that your kids have also suffered a loss and they are less equipped to deal with it than you might be, however hard that is to believe. Together you can heal and grow and move on, slowly but surely. A lot of hugs, a lot of tears, and eventually, you’ll realize that you still miss your partner very much but that you’ve redefined family and created a new unit. And that’s a good thing.