I am currently sitting in the waiting area of Nelson’s Journey, a local charity that supports children through bereavement.
We first made contact with them for my son almost 5 years ago. He never met his dad because he died before he was born. My son and I have always talked about his dad but I have always been conscious that my emotions or sometimes lack of them influenced what we talked about. I decided when he was small that I would let my son take the lead as to what we discussed. If he asked the question I took that that he was ready to hear the answer, albeit delivered to a level appropriate to his age.
When he was a toddler we would refer to ‘daddy in the sky’ and over time my son created a whole world up there in which he had him living. In a castle and having a plane to go on holiday in were amongst the many pictures that he conjured up. As he got older we moved away from those images and it naturally moved to us chatting about the memories that I had of his dad. Having never known him it has been a challenge as to how I portray his dad to him especially as he has a father figure in my husband, who took both him and I on together. From the outside we are a very normal family, married couple with two boys of whom have a close relationship as brothers. For me and therefore for my son too, his dad is up on a pedestal which makes it hard on my husband at times. As we have gone through the various stages of childhood changes I have noticed that it’s during the times of having to enforce discipline that my son feels the loss the most. In fact to him, I guess it’s more having a part of him that is missing rather than a loss. Inevitably he imagines the gap being filled with a dad who would let him be on his xbox 24/7, go to bed at what time he likes and only eat pizza and chocolate. It is a difficult message to give, trying to explain that his dad would have set boundaries because a) I can’t prove that he would and b) I too, have him on a pedestal. We all interpret perfect in our own way and so I understand why my son would think that way. Don’t get me wrong, I have been very honest with him about his dad and who he was but even the more negative traits that he may have had come across in a good way.
What I hope I have managed to do is highlight to him the real positives of having my husband in his life as his father figure. His dad didn’t have a choice in not being here but my husband chose to be in our lives. When we met I was a single mum with a 2 year old little boy and still grieving my partner but he took us as a whole package. We have had some real tough times but he’s stuck by us and has given us real stability and a wider family for my son.
I sense that we still have some difficult times ahead and that the road through adolescence will be bumpy for both him and I. On the darker days, I have an overwhelming feeling of guilt for my son. I feel guilty that I caused the pain that he lives with. I brought him into this world with a huge piece missing in his heart that nobody can ever fill. On those days my heart breaks for him and actually, that is a place I still don’t allow myself to go to as it’s too much for me to bear. I try not to think about where my son will go with it in his mind and just hope that he will ask questions and learn to understand that however it makes him feel is OK. The charity that he is talking to now are truly amazing. They are helping him to figure out how he feels, why he feels it and how to build up a picture of the father that he never knew. He’s almost a teenager now and if I’m honest his attitude leading up to the appointment is anything but wholehearted but when he comes out from those meetings he’s always chatty and confident which I hope means he will look back on them with fondness and see them as a part of a much bigger picture.