I’ve never felt emotional pain the way I did when I became a young widow. Sadly, most people don’t realize the ripple effect death has on the surviving family, particularly one of the toughest areas of this journey, being a widowed parent.
My son, Caleb, will never have a relationship with his dad, he was two when he died. His only memories are those that have been implanted into his head by pictures, videos and stories. No matter what I do to preserve some sort of relationship, the reality is, the bond deprived will forever leave a void.
I also grieve the loss of “creating memories.” Richard was not there for Caleb’s first basketball game – a bond they have without experiencing it together. Richard is not here to marvel with me at our son’s innate talent, ability to learn quickly and mimic NBA players at the tender age of 5. He is not here teach him everything he had planned (i.e driving, girls, sports, and other “man stuff”) which all create life long memories.
I continue to grieve as my son becomes more aware of “death.” Just last month he said, “Mommy, I don’t know how Daddy died.” I wasn’t ready. I didn’t answer. Then it came up again, but this time more direct, “Mommy, how did Daddy die?” I didn’t tell him the whole truth, I still have my duty to preserve my son’s innocence as long as possible. But there will be a time when he has access and the ability to read about his dad’s death on the internet. I grieve that particular moment. And as he matures he may experience emotions we’ve all felt due to the way my husband died…. Confusion, anger, deep pain, loss of trust, loss of security, and maybe even hate. I grieve that rollercoaster pain that I know he will feel when he starts to process the reality of this cruel world.
I grieve the additional losses my son doesn’t deserve. Being separated from his sister, who he asks for almost daily, and the other side of his family. The most beautiful thing we can offer our children is the bond of family, but that has forever been broken for Caleb. The overwhelming love, joy, safety and deep connection that is normally interwoven with both families, does not exist. “It’s just me and you,” that’s our mantra because that’s all he knows.
I grieve his awkward moments with friends, “Do you have a daddy? Where’s your daddy, Caleb? How did your dad die?” I’ve heard of some kids being bullied, I pray that is never the case for my son. I would definitely grieve that added pain inflicted by peers.
You see, as a widowed parent, my heart continuously breaks for my son. Almost every morning he says he had a dream about his dad. There are long moments where I see him staring out into space and then with a whimper he says, “I just miss my Daddy.”
I want to be a great parent to Caleb, I want to fill those voids and work my butt off so he doesn’t feel the pain or any limitations by way of a single family income. But does everyone realize how much energy it takes to be a great parent when you’re widowed? It’s an enormous balancing act of managing household responsibilities, along with emotions that are physically and psychologically crippling, and not to mention trying to survive instead of choosing the “give up on life” route.
A salute to my fellow widowed parents- silent super heroes whose courage and strength often goes unnoticed. Remember, there are no perfect words to comfort a grieving child. But there’s love, and love is always enough.