Hi Christiane, first of all you have my prayers. I lost my wife 1-1/2 years ago and we are raising our granddaughters that were 1-1/2 and 3. My wife was the main care giver so I was deeply concerned. I decided to go with my gut feeling and to be honest but use simple explainations. So far they have adjusted well, they know mama is in Heaven and sometimes talk to her. When we are out at night they find a star and tell me thats mamas star. If they miss mama I tell them mama is always with them just put your arms around yourself and squeeze and thats a hug from mama. The girls are doing better then I had hoped. I think dealing with them helped me through the hard times. I hope this helps. God bless! Dave
My wife died 8 months ago. The boys were 10, 8, 5 and 3. Her death was especially hard (could it have been otherwise?) on them because it was sudden. We tucked them into bed, mommy had her good-night-love-and-kisses with them... and she was gone when they woke up.
I have resisted much of the advice on getting them a counselor, going to grief therapy and the like. The thinking is that people managed for thousands of years without these crutches and I don't want the boys thinking they ought to run to some counselor whenever they're upset.
That's not to make light of the situation or to suggest that they're left to suffer alone, quite the contrary. I have let each of them cope and grieve in whatever manner best comforts them. Mom is talked about several times a day either in one of us relating a memory or me just telling them about her.
My youngest often asks questions like "What's mom doing now?", "Is mom getting ready for bed, too?", "Can mommy still eat pizza in heaven?" He is the best adjusted most likely because at his age 8 months is a significant portion of his memorable life. For him, time has healed much of the wound.
My 6 yo has been the hardest for me. He is quiet and reserved by nature but wears his heart on his sleeve. And his grief tears at my soul. I hear him in bed at night talking to her... Each evening he picks out a picture from somewhere in the house and puts it in her place at the dinner table. He asked me if he had been a good boy last year and when I told him that yes, he had been a very good boy, he said for Christmas he was going to ask Santa to let mommy come home.
And he is, I think, the one most attuned to God. A few months back there was a local story on the radio about a toddler that drowned in a pond. That night, he said God told him why mommy died. He said that since she was the best mommy ever, God needed her in heaven to help take care of all the babies there.
The older boys have grieved in ways more like one would expect: anger, acting out, lots of crying; this was mostly in the 3 months following. My oldest has coped through his art- he is a prolific writer and draws in much of his spare time. He doesn't like talking about his mom, and that's ok too.
My 9 yo is pretty much back to his old self. He is pretty mature anyways. The thing I'll always remember is the afternoon after she died he was comforting his younger brother saying 'It's ok. God will bring her back one day, just not today.' To hear my son voicing one of the central tenents of our faith in such a simple and innocent manner filled me with joy. I thanked God for the peace that brought me; I knew then we would make it through this. In the days that followed I told the boys to remember the love and happiness our family always had together, that the love never left and the happiness would one day return.
I'd suggest giving your kids the freedom to find their own path, with your guidance. They are much more resilient than we adults like to admit. Mine have helped me immensly in my own healing.
My son had just turned 5 when my husband - his Dad had a heart attack. Everyone is different and you will find your way - I called it my new normal. Here are a few things I did with my son - so he could express himself - he wrote notes and drew pictures that he knew his daddy would like and he had some secrets of his heart - then I got a bunch of helium balloons tied the notes to them - we went to one of our favorite places and let them go - and watched until it was out of site. My son is now 14 and on occasion he still does this. Also he was having nightmares and was genuinely scared of something in his dreams. He drew a picture of the "clown" that was bothering him - then took it outside lit it on fire & that was it gone! I hope this helps My prayers are with you
LET THE CHILD TAKE THE LEAD. Don't pry. Don't suggest. Don't "lead" their emotions.
My younger children were 5, 2, and 2 when dad died. They have no memory of him at all. (While that has made things easier, it hurts to have your child say, "That man looks like Daddy. I know because I saw a picture!") I personally am not sure that very young children can process grief for more than a very short time, and then they accept it as they'd accept a change in the weather.
My older kids were 11 and 13. I did not intrude on their grief, and they did not bring it to me. (Dad died in our home after a long illness.)
But I always made it a point to bring up his name in conversation, casually, when something reminded me of a happy memory of him. Examples:
Daddy had a dog like that one when we first met.... You like chocolate syrup? Daddy used to like honey on his ice cream.... Oh, there's a car like the one Daddy drove in college! You laugh just like Dad...
I'm new to the forum, or any CM forum for that matter, but wanted to tell you all how nice it is to read of other parents struggles and questions on how to deal with our own grief and our childs. I was widowed 11.5 years ago when our daughter was 7.5 months old. It was an accident while we were in a foreign country (my husband's native country) and he is buried there. I left on vacation to introduce our daughter, the first grandchild, to his parents and returned to the US 7 weeks later a widow, alone and confused.
We have done well and through a weird turn of events 4 years ago found myself going to work for a children's bereavement center. There are similar organizations throughout the US and you can search through the National Alliance for Grieving Children, NACG website is childrengrieve.org for a center in your area.
I love sharing and introducing my daughter to her father through daily events. Our Catholic faith grew out of his death as I wanted her to grow up knowing what a family was (mine was not a good example) so I began a search for a new church/religion. I had been away from the church for many years. My search took me to several Christian religions but the day I walked into a Catholic Mass I felt HOME. We have been Catholic for seven years and I am active in my parish through many ministries, including the Grief Support Ministry. Our family has grown and she is growing up with some beautiful examples of fathers, mothers, and children of God.
Our priest wrote a beautiful book on grief, No One Cries the Wrong Way and recently a children's book on grief/death Sometimes Life is Just Not Fair, Hope for Kids through Grief and Loss. My copy of No One Cries is slightly dog earred from flipping back through it when I hit a rough patch along this crooked road.
Thank you all for sharing, and may God's peace be with you and your children.