Big big hugs. It totally bites. I was seventeen when my father decided to leave the home and I was the oldest of five. I loved my dad, but he was completely self-absorbed, self-centered and selfish. He didn't show up for my graduation and only reluctantly paid for my graduation announcements as a loan until I got paid, and boy was he calling on my payday. I went to work full time my senior year (the year he left), in order to help my mom take care of my younger siblings. My dad struggled with an alcohol problem off and on throughout the years and became so involved in AA that we effectively didn't matter, only his sobriety and that of the people he helped. He also decided to live an alternative lifestyle. . .as in gay. I was so busy with school and working full time that I missed much of the encounters my younger siblings had with dad as a "gay" man. I wrote my father a letter one day telling him that I thought he was not gay but opportunistic and it just suited his wants at the time. He called me and said, I was right and we'd talk about it. We never did. We had little extended family, so losing that didn't play a significant role. I can remember after I married and stared having kiddos, he would occasionally pop by and I would be so very excited, I'd make coffee for him and hope he would stay and talk, because growing up we had done lots of talking. I'd no sooner set the coffee in front of him and he was up and out the door. My husband could barely tolerate him. And, I know it was because he knew it hurt me.
The last time I spoke with my father was when he was in the hospital at Christmas. My mother always kept the door open for him to come to family gatherings etc and he did several times, never staying long, but he would show occasionally. So, this Christmas we hoped we might see him, instead we got a phone call from one of his room mates saying he was in the hospital but didn't want us to know. Ironically, I was the executrix of his will, although he had nothing by then and was the contact for the medical board, as my dad had set up to donate his body to science. he changed the disposal of his remains from being returned to the family to being interred within the communal plot after cremation without telling us.
Anyway as the males were headed to the hospital and I was making phone calls, my dad calls, and tries to give me this song and dance of how he had tried to make relationships with us, but it just didn't work, etc. It was the first time in my life that I snapped back at my dad, I was 25, and I told him, the lack of relationship was on him not us and I would not carry that for him. It was the last time I ever spoke to my father, he died the following August. But, I had reclaimed something for myself. At that moment, I refused to allow his behavior to continue to influence me, I refused to allow him to define me and accepted the fact that he was too sick to be able to truly love anyone else. It of course makes me sad, but it is exceptionally liberating as well. Of course some things continue to haunt, but I can actively refuse to accept them.
It breaks my heart anytime children have to go through such losses, and the confusion associated with a parent who all of a sudden rejects them. I know you are doing everything in your power to help your children through this, and that it breaks your heart as well. Try if you can to empower them to speak their mind to their father, it may be like hitting a brick wall, but say it anyway. And, then let them reclaim their power in the situation. It won't completely erase the hurts believe me, but it can give them strength and allow them to measure their worth not by his rejection but by their own accomplishments. Your children are beautiful, beautiful gifts and it is his loss not to be in relationships with them, but he is so tangled he does not know this, nor can he appreciate this. I wish there was an easy answer to this, but there isn't. I will keep the situation in prayer. Big Big hugs!!
Thank you for sharing your experience. I have encouraged my kids to speak up when their father is around and both of my sons have said, 'I can't so "no" to Dad because he will get angry". Though they are both bigger and stronger than their father they are still afraid of him; he is extremely volatile. Hopefully one day they will have to courage to stand up to him and not let him manipulate them.
Blessings to you,