I have shared much of my personal grief journey. I also have two young adult children who survived the sudden and tragic loss of their father when they were teenagers at an already tumultuous time in their lives. Hindsight is 20/20 and I am sure I could have done a lot of things differently. I was a wreck and it wasn't parenting at its best. I was falling apart and so were they. I heard a quote that stuck with me that said, "If there's a problem with the child, there's a problem with the parent." I realize this may ruffle some feathers. But, I had to get help. I did and I am better for it...and so are my children.
There's so much to say on this subject, but hopefully you can glean some encouragement from our story.
If my children were asked today what is the best thing a parent can do for a grieving child, they would say, "just be there... be present..be real and have food.” One day another widow and mom asked my son how he was doing. He replied, "I am sick of people asking me what stage of grief I am in" She replied, "Just say you are in the F-you stage!" He started laughing and THIS was the day he started getting better! Grief is an individual journey and there really aren't any stages. There are no magic pills or perfect words. It is process. (Forgive the language, grief brings out a lot of anger and more pain to now have to recover from the comments of well meaning people. No one knows what to say. We do understand...that's another blog.) But, in that moment, my kid needed someone to be real.
Let me give a disclaimer though. If you or your children are threatening to hurt themselves or others, you must take immediate action.
There are still many painful days...baseball games, graduations, holidays where his absence is heightened. Yet one of the ways my children are getting through it is by writing and carrying on with the lessons they learned from their Dad. Writing is a creative, powerful and therapeutic tool for healing.
Below are their writing excerpts:
He told me, “life is exactly what you make it, you always have a choice.” It was then I realized my answer. Every moment of my dad’s life had been leading up to this one, the moment where I was to decide to be unselfish and thrive in all the opportunities that he had provided for me thus far, the ones that he was never lucky enough to have himself. In the time since he passed on, I have come to accept two very finite things about life. It is dually controllable and uncontrollable. As humans we have a say in quality, not length. We can choose to pout in the face of an unforgiving universe, or we can make the choice to make every single moment of breath worth holding onto. As Victor Frankl put it, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” There are still nights when I mourn for his words and his guidance, and yet I wake up in the morning and everyday must make myself decide my own way; to cling dearly to my right to be alive, my right to succeed, and my right to choose.
I have had a lifetime worth of experiences during my time on this earth so far. In the middle of the first semester of my freshman year I was shockingly dealt with one of the biggest obstacles of my life, the passing of my father. I quickly had to grow up faster than I had imagined and didn’t know how to deal with the emotions at the time. My mom brought me to therapy to learn how to cope with the emotions I did not know how to express. When I started to express what was going on, my first ever grief counselor had nothing to say to me but “damn!” I did not find it helpful at all and went to find a person that could really understand what I was going through. I went through a couple of therapists before I met a young man who had relatively the same loss as me. He told me, “you can not control what has happened to you, but you can control how you use that experience and how you can change the world with it.” I then realized that I have an opportunity to change the world through the experiences I faced and the lessons I have learned from my father.
This is our story. There is hope and help when you are ready. Message me for resources.
Individual, group sessions, speaking engagements and writing workshops available.