My biggest concern after my husband died was, “Oh my gosh I have to tell my kids. How?”. How are they going to react? How will they handle this? I knew I was going to change their world forever with what I had to tell them.
There is no manual for this kind of thing. There are no instructions that tell you how to break the news to your kids that your dad has not only died……..but he did it to himself. So for months, I watched them like a hawk to see how it would affect them. I have two kids who were 12 and 10 at the time of their dad’s death and they both handled it very differently. I offered both of them counseling right away. My daughter agreed my son did not. His father wouldn’t get help and so my son mirrored his same reaction about getting help.
My son was angry! So angry…….it came out in just about everything he did. I felt hopeless. I knew he was hurting and there was not anything I could do to take it from him. He did not even realize himself why he was so angry. He would tell me, “dad abandoned me”. One night we went to dinner with a group of family and when the waiter asked for his drink order he couldn’t even order a drink. He completely broke down crying and so angry. I didn’t know what to do. After a few minutes a sobbing he finally said to me that he had been having a recurring nightmare of trying to save his dad. But his dad always died in the end anyway. He was angry, hurt, confused and abandoned. What do you say to all that?
My daughters grief started off with just tears and sadness. But she appeared to be okay. Not acting too different or being constantly sad. When school started she was doing great and was doing well in classes. I thought ok this is not so bad she is okay. She is sad but she is dealing with it. Then her grades started to slip, and she slowly became more withdrawn. It all came to a head for her one night when she had thoughts of hurting herself. I realized she was hurting so much more than she let on.
Kids, like us, grieve differently. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s quiet. It can be hard to see and like us they do not always understand it. They too can have grief fog. Both of my kids have come a long way and learned how to fight to be where they are. The most important part was letting my kids know it’s ok to feel what they feel and that they can talk about it. I was always very open with them and so were the adults surrounding them. It’s okay to not be okay. They will always miss their Dad, but they are surrounded by people who love and check in on them.