Admittedly, it’s been a while. About 3.5 years worth of a while. I can’t say whether this is a full reentry or just a for now post.
Today is the anniversary of Francis’ death. Four years ago, on a foggy morning in Tallahassee, Florida I told my son that his dad was going to die. I said my final good-byes. I let Francis know he could go when he was ready, and that we’d never forget him.
That was his biggest fear – being forgotten.
It’s almost laughable to think of the impossibility of that. There’s a massive, gaping hole in our lives where Francis resided. The memories and stories do a pitiful job of filling that void, but without them the pain would be unbearable.
Now I’m seeing the impact on the little lives that orbit mine. The children’s art therapist from hospice was great in working with Couper when he was just three years old. She advised me that I would need to revisit grief support for the kids; that as their cognitive development progressed so would their processing of their father’s death.
At 2-years-old, Couper had quite the temper. He didn’t like to be told “no” (who does?). He went through a particularly naughty period where he had to spend a couple minutes in timeout for hitting. When I would position him on the stool, he would scream in my face (at the top of his little lungs) over and over again.
I would calmly explain that he couldn’t do that and give him a warning that if he did it again I would take away a toy. I started with the iPad, moved to the trains, then the cars, then the Legos. At that point, I was worried that we didn’t have any more toy options for the day and it was still morning.
It was a difficult day, week and month to break the screaming habit, but we survived. He learned healthier coping techniques and we moved on to different parenting challenges. He still has that temper, but has learned to managed it much better than he did at the age of two.
My kids are awesome. Somehow I’ve managed to raise two kind, loving, well-adjusted, well-mannered children despite being a solo parent. Much thanks is due to loving and caring family and friends who support me in my parenting and them in their growth and learning.
Recently, though, Couper appears to be struggling with his temper/anger. His kindergarten teacher is a big proponent of mindfulness practice in both her classroom and her own life. I can’t explain how thankful I am for this in Couper’s life. I am certain that it is growing his emotional intelligence and helping him identify his own strong emotions.
And here’s the truth, my son is angry and negative. He knows it and I know it, and now others are beginning to see it where they didn’t before. It’s not constant throughout the day, and it isn’t necessarily daily. And the worst part is that I don’t know how to help him.
Parenting is hard. Throw a death of a parent into the mix and it just gets harder. Life shouldn’t be that way, but it is. I try desperately to keep a positive outlook on life. I clung to positivity in Francis’s illness and even since his death, but I don’t know how to inspire that in my beloved little 6- almost 7-year-old.
There are resources here locally for grieving children, and I’ve already gotten the ball rolling toward getting the help I need. I don’t know why I feel compelled to write this except to say that if you’re struggling or your children are, you or they don’t have to do so alone. No matter how lonely I feel, I know I’m not the only woman who has been a solo mom to two children because cancer killed her husband.
I hesitated to write about this because: 1.) I want to protect my children, and 2.) It isn’t very happy or pretty. But I find it exhausting to be in a world where we try to hide the ugliness of everyday life. Where we are desperate to maintain the perfect “social media-worthy” life despite the painful realities unfolding around us. But, life isn’t perfect. I’m not perfect and neither are my children. I’m guessing those of you reading this can relate (don’t worry, I won’t call you out on social media).
Where perfection becomes dangerous is when I take my little ones by the hand and pretend they aren’t hurting. When I fail to recognize my short-comings as a parent. When I think I can figure it out by myself.
Maybe more than anything today, by remembering to remember Francis on this anniversary I can help myself and my precious little kiddos grieve in a healthier way – with all those wonderful, loving and caring people around us who might just know better than I do.