Father’s Day for Widow’s Children

The next time you think you have it bad, think about a child who has lost their Dad. That’s right, as Father’s Day approaches there are people all around the country not happy to celebrate this day. I have talked to many adults over the last 8 years who lost their fathers young. I am intrigued by their sharing. Why? Because they help me know what my own children could be feeling. I lost my partner Jon when I was 34 years old. I know my own feelings. I have watched how my children process things as they get older. I can infer how they feel, but my Dad is still alive so I don’t truly know what it is like for them to not have their father.

I do however get to deal with their range of emotions on any given day, by any possible trigger. Recently, my seven year old son nonchalantly told his Dad after school “Today I could write about a special person, and I chose you. You’ll get to see it soon.” Hours later after his (2nd) Dad left for a meeting, I got the anger and confusion from this school assignment. I got the “you know I could pick my favorite person to write about today and I didn’t choose you. And of course I didn’t choose Dad Jon. (Biological father) I chose Dad Tom. Now anger coming out, he continues “Fathers are supposed to raise their children and be there for them, Dad Jon didn’t raise me and he is not here for me!” Yelling, tears, and anger came next. He tried shutting the door on me as he went in the house. He headed for the living room, hid under a blanket and continued yelling and crying. I think to myself, this sucks, but good baby boy let it out. He was so angry with me. Angry and saying I caused the car accident.  Angry at me for “getting another husband and you were probably happy Dad Jon died”. That stung, because in these 8 years of raising my boys without their bio dad a lot has happened. But I always put them first. I didn’t cause that accident, I was home sleeping with my 3 year old son.  I wasn’t even in the car. But my youngest son didn‘t know this detail maybe or he didn’t remember it……after all he wasn’t born yet. My second son was born six months after his father died in the accident.

His older brother was only three years old when Daddy died. I do know that a child’s sense of security is taken when their father dies. Anxiety can be a result of this loss. Other challenges for children who lost a father can be: feeling alone, depressed, wishing they could go to heaven to visit their Dad, being angry with their Mom because she isn’t a Dad no matter how hard she tries. But most of all kids just want to be like other kids and have a complete family, both of their parents.

I also know that although I raise two sons who lost their father, their circumstance are very different and therefore their grief and loss is unique to them. One son wishes his biological father never died and he still had his best friend. He wishes he could remember him but his memories have faded. My younger son seems to long for the father he never met, the one he is not in any pictures with. He wishes he had any memories with him at all. At his tender age of seven he is processing his loss in a different way, trying to make sense of it. Both, circumstances are so difficult, but I have faith they will be okay. Their loss is woven into who they are. It’s a part of them.

For the now adults that lost their father much too soon, I send love to you. I hope you got a wonderful male role model in your life. If you didn’t I hope you become a wonderful role model to a child that could really use one. My sons are blessed they did get a man that came along and needed a family. He needed us just as much as we needed him. I do believe God and Johnny sent Tom directly to us. For that I will be eternally grateful. To all the Moms out there being both parents, keep your chin up, smile…. you are beautiful and keep proving to your children what a true Warrior is, a fighter who never gives up. To all the Dads out there being both parents Happy Father’s Day, hug your kids and be assured your wife is smiling down on you and your family.

 

Written by Julie Brennan

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Mother’s Day Story

http://enterprisenews.com/news/20180513/for-brockton-widow-motherhood-became-whole-new-world

Recently Heather Bartlett a We Do Care Support group participant was interviewed by a local newspaper The Brockton Enterprise. She made the front page on Mother’s Day! Just look at her beautiful children. This article gives you a glimpse into the journey of Heather raising 4 children who lost their father, Larry. She shares the importance of finding a place to go during her grieving. We hope you enjoy reading about how our programming is working and helping young widows and children who have lost a parent.

Vulnerable

One cold February day I hurriedly took out the trash. A bag in one hand, the recyclables in the other hand, I took a fast slide on the slippery sheet of ice on my driveway. I ended up lying there with my left ankle twisted under my other leg, feeling the sharp and sudden pain of the fall. I had screamed quickly and loud as I fell, the scared feeling and surprise in my yell.

My son just leaving for school with his Dad ran out. Then my paramedic husband came next. “Alright what hurts,” he says as I lay there. My pride was probably wounded the most. I fell. I hurt myself. I could barely get any words out. I think I finally muttered “I twisted my ankle” grumpily, then got up abruptly put most of the pressure on my other foot, quickly got into the house, grabbed an ice pack, sat and iced that ankle. I had left them standing there. (I think I heard “whoa Hun take it easy, slow down.” As I made my way to the safety of my home.) I did want help but I just wanted a do over. I wanted to not have fallen and been laid out on my back, hoping someone heard me yell.

As I sat on the couch, icing my ankle I cried. Yes it hurt, I’d be okay but it hurt. And my morning now had to be figured out. This was not the day I had planned. I remembered this is vulnerable.

Vulnerable, when you feel weak and helpless. When someone offers you help and you can’t respond. You don’t know what you need you just know you are hurting. You need something but it’s either too hard to ask for help or you really have no idea what you need. The word vulnerable stems from the Latin roots vulnus meaning “wound”.

Have you ever been there? Feeling wounded sucks. Being a strong independent woman I can count on one hand the amount of times in my life I truly felt completely vulnerable. For those of us warriors where life gave us obstacles to overcome, we know how to fight back. We know how to stand strong on our own with little help. However there comes a few times in life when even the strongest warrior needs an army.

Grief is something many in our American society steer away from discussing. Death and dying is a topic we don’t casually bring up in conversation either. Most of us are not fortunate to have taken a class on the hardest stage in life death and dying. When each of us gets to that moment in life when we lose our closest person, can we ever be prepared for that? Will each of us know how to help our people when they experience close loss and are feeling vulnerable.

To be that person trying to outstretch your hand when your friend is falling deep into the darkness of grief, what can you do when they won’t accept your offer? You’ve called and they are not taking your call. You’ve said, “call me if you need anything”, and meant it. It’s got to be tough being that friend and feeling pushed aside when you truly want to do something to help and just want to be there for your friend.

What you can do is simple: Just keep trying! Be right by them when you can. When they let you in and you have time to be with them be there without judgment. Everyone responds in his or her own way to loss and death. We all have our own unique journey. Let your friend travel their journey. Tell them you can listen or just sit quietly with them in their sadness. Go cook a meal at their home. Really, food brings people together, and a good home cooked meal can nourish their soul. Help them find resources that may help them. But allow them to feel in control. Vulnerability is tough because you have a sense that you have lost control of your life. Not being in control is hard to feel.

If you are that friend reaching out be compassionate and kind. Look around and see what needs to be done, and just get it done. When a person feels in despair even the simplest of tasks can seem like climbing a mountain. Help your friend be ready to climb back up to the top, at their pace. At times they might need a piggyback. Other days it might just be a snack break they need to just keep climbing. Other days they might surprise you and themselves and be capable of so much. Offer your friend hope that this vulnerability won’t stay forever but you will.

Raising Grieving Children

Raising children who grieve might be the hardest thing ever.

I thought telling my 3 year old son back in February of 2010 that his Daddy died was the worst thing I ever had to do. That his “heart stopped beating. that although the doctors tried very hard to save him and usually doctors DO save people, his father had died. His Dad’s heart stopped beating.”

Yes, those words, while sitting on my lap a cold February day. The boy just turned three years old. His Daddy was his best friend.

Six months later, when his beautiful baby brother was born, and that precious little three and half year old baby boy came into the hospital room so eager to meet his new baby brother, he walked right over to him. Bent down, and whispered in his ear: “My Daddy died.”

That’s right, only hours in this world, and Anthony heard it first from his “Big brother”. My response was “Jayce it was his Daddy too.” Jayce then said, “Our Daddy died”.

My Dad had to leave the hospital room. That was hard. Hearing my tiny little boy say that was hard. But it was empowering for 3 year old Jayce. He let out a secret. He told his new little baby brother, they had lost their Daddy. “Their Daddy had died.” They had a bond. A “shared experience of loss”.

I was 35 years old that day.

I understood death.

I loved my children.

For seven and a half years, I have raised these children the best that I knew how.
I did the best that I could in that time.

Today I was told a lot of things by an expert. An expert who did not raise grieving children.

With tears rolling down my face, I type, raising children who grieve their father, is very hard stuff.

——————————————————————————————————————————-

Instead of judging, do something.

Just do something.

Instead of labeling, a kid with anxiety. Or whatever you think that kid needs to be branded.

Meet that child where he is today.
HUG his parent.

‘Cause lord knows she has tried with every ounce of her being…..to be there.

She has tried to be his superhero.

Maybe she succeeded and kept it all together most days.

Maybe she screwed up as we all do some days.

But give a care.

Go visit that mom.

Go play with her kids.

Feed her kids. Clothe her kids.

Hearing your child say: “I wish I got to meet Dad Jon.” or “Where is my picture with my father holding me?” “I wish I could die, so I don’t have to watch my parents die, because it’s too much to handle” while getting in his pajamas. Or “I wish I could go to Heaven see Dad and then come back”. Those big ideas that come out of my son’s mouths at any given moment take my healed heart and rip it out of my chest and twist the hell out of it. How can it not?

Yes, death is a part of life.

Young loss is a horrible part of life.

Children knowing this young loss is tragic.

Raising babies who grieve is like running a marathon when you have not trained. Running that marathon when a quarter of the way in, you break your ankle. But you can’t stop running, because there’s an attack dog behind you. If you stop for water, you might get bit. If you tie your laces, you might not get back up. You have to run. You have to get to the finish line.

Healing your yourself in your own time, is like crossing that finish line. Helping your children grow and learn and grieve is crossing that finish line.

Thanks for listening.

Now go care. Judge less, spread light, give hope. You may just pull up the shades on a day that seemed pretty dark.

~Jules

Dealing with Fear after Loss By Mel Tibbetts

Almost four years ago I was about to learn that my happy world was about to be ravaged by fear.  In August 2013 as I went to pick up my husband from his colonoscopy appointment with my 4 year old and 7 year old in tow, the secretary told me that she would watch my children for me in the lobby. She told me that the doctor wanted to talk to me along with my husband and that my children should not go into the room with me.   At that exact moment I knew.  I knew that our world was going to change.  I felt fear enter my body, my mind, and my soul in that room as the doctor was talking, as my husband looked at me with a tinge of confusion, as I saw the doctor’s mouth move, and as I wondered what my children were doing at that moment.  

 

I would lose my husband, my co-parent, my best friend, and my soul mate in 6 months.  I would watch him waste away from cancer.  I watched my children’s confusion grow.  I watched my husband pull away from his role as a caretaker and father because he did not feel able anymore.  I was about to see my children go through one of the worst experiences of their young lives.  I would see my children lose their male role model; a love of their lives.  I was about to see my husband’s life end and my children’s hearts tear into two.  I was about to lose him and me.    

 

While my husband was being ravished by cancer, he continued to teach me about love and bravery.  I wanted him to stay to teach me more.  I was not done being his student.  He showed very little fear in the process of dying.  I envied him.  I knew that once he left this world, fear would ravish me.  I was scared as hell, but I could not express this openly.  I had to be the strong wife, the strong caregiver, the strong mother, and the strong survivor. He died on February 23, 2014. Three days later I turned 40 years old.  

 

Fear has been my closest companion for the past 4 years.  Fear has had a strong hold over my hopes, dreams, future, and heart.  Fear turned me into an overthinking, double guessing, not good enough person.  Fear has made me believe that what I want, what I dream for in the future, and what I deserve are not attainable goals.  Fear told me that I was not worthy of more.  Fear made me believe that I do not deserve to be loved again.  Fear has hidden itself as practicality in most of my decisions since that moment almost 4 years ago.  It is practical to take care of your family first. It is practical to take what you can get.  It is practical to stay risk free. It is practical to use your brain more than your heart.  It is practical to believe that your wants and needs do not come first.  Or worse yet, that you are not important.  It is practical to want what is best for your children over what is best for yourself.

 

I am finally at a place that I am ready to decide how much fear will dictate my life.  I have armed myself with the necessary tools to control fear’s role in my world.  I have filled my heart with love once again.  Love for the future.  Love for my life.  Love for myself.  I have connected with a great group of young widows and my children have seen that they are not alone in losing a father.  With these tools in hand, I am about to take fear by the horns and take fear out of my decisions.  I am about to put myself first. I am about to discover who I am again and what I want for my future.  I am about to live a life that I know that my husband would want for me and for our children.  I am ready for love and happiness to dictate my life and my decisions once again.  I am opening my book of life to a new unknown chapter in which fear is not allowed.  I am about to let life come to me with open arms and to let the universe give me what I want.  I am ready to accept love and peace into my heart. I am ready to take a leap of faith for the first time in a long time.  And I know that with this new acceptance of love, peace, and happiness is my husband right by my side.  Holding my hand and enjoying our new life.   

 

“How Do I Live After Losing my Partner?”

What does it take to live life again after loss?

It takes a mindset that wants to win a battle that seems never ending. Grief is a nasty little f-er that plays tricks on your mind. In order to beat the “Grief Monster” at his game, you have to be two steps ahead, yet ready to move three steps backward.

I have learned a lot about how people cope with close loss. I have talked to a tremendous amount of individuals. I have read, I have listened. But, like you reading this blog, I have experienced it first hand.

Losing your best friend, your partner is one of the hardest things any human can experience. It is the number one stressor in life. Now, losing that person decades before you were ready, is an experience far too many people are dealing with these days. Young, close loss is a beast of its own.

So how do you deal?

First, feel what you feel. I say this to my support group members. It is vital. Far too many people in our society are looking for a quick fix. Grieving your closest person, is a lot of things, and quick is not one of them. Those that try to slap a band aid over their gaping wound, end up slowing their healing process. In order to heal, one must feel. Now, no one wants to be laying on a floor, sobbing their heart out for days at a time. I get that. But you gotta let it out.

  • feel sad, cry, be mad, feel cheated, guilty, hurt
  • try to make healthy choices: eat well, drink water, sleep when you can
  • get outside, especially on those sunny days, fresh air helps clear your mind
  • go easy on yourself, this is super hard stuff

Next, evaluate your own needs. Many people do several modes of help for their healing heart. Talk therapy with a qualified therapist is one way. A Support group that fits your loss is another. Surrounding yourself with positive, uplifting people is an important way to help yourself in your journey. However, sometimes being alone is important too. Give yourself time to just be you.

I mentioned the “Grief Monster” earlier. He is one sneaky, daunting fella. You just never know when he comes around for an attack. Someone might say something insensitive, it could be a song you hear, a smell, or even that you thought you saw your loved one across the room. Grief comes in waves. When they come crashing in at you like a stormy day that lasts and lasts, it is exhausting. Other times, those waves are light but steady. Sometimes the waves seem nonexistent, and you seem to be getting along just fine. Your smile is there. You want to be social. Other times, you want to isolate.

Be sure to keep your mind as strong as possible. Mental health is something we talk much too little about in society. Grieving is a process. It effects your mind, your body, your personality and changes you as a person. You become a person so far away from who you once were. You’ll miss the old you and want her(him) back. If you work on you and your healing, the new you will surprise the hell out of you. She’ll become a fearless warrior. One who is brave and can stand strong. You really do have to convince yourself, you are capable of everything and anything. Because after all, you are amidst life’s biggest challenge, living life after losing your best friend.

When you are feeling at your worst, call on a friend. Someone you can trust to just listen. Someone that will help you let those feelings out.

Wishing you peace in your journey.

 

This blog post is dedicated to our newest Warrior members, Angie, Matt, and Jesse.

-Julie

Good Grief, Anyone?

 

 

Remember when Charlie Brown used to say, “Good Grief”?  Let’s talk about good grief.

What is grieving well……what can it look like?

Since everyone is unique, the grief journey looks a little bit different for each of us. However, some things will be constant.

We will miss our dear loved one.

The pain is very strong year one, and somehow intensifies in year two as you are no longer numb.

You have to put one foot in front other. Many times in robot mode for quite some time after close loss.

So here is a little cheat sheet on how to beat the “Grief Monster” at his own game.

Good grief looks like:

  • Finding someone who “gets it“. Make a buddy. It may be a complete stranger.A buddy with some common thread. Maybe the circumstance of death, the age, the date, possibly your own connection, like your age, how many children you have, or your proximity.
  • Feel what you feel, whether it is anger, sadness, loneliness, isolation, happiness, or seeking out new friends. Feel what you feel, acknowledge it, do not hide from it. You have the right to those feelings. Not handling them and feeling them will lead to a longer, hard grieving period.
  • Exercise, yes that is right. Find exercise you enjoy. Cardio is good. I myself, balnace things out with yoga, hot yoga, and kickboxing. They keep me off anxiety and depression medication and keep my mind and body fit. Exercise releases amazing feel good chemicals in your brain.
  • Find away to express what you are going through. Journaling, artistic expression, music, gardening, and photography are all some ways to put your feelings into an art form.
  • Stop complaining about what you don’t have and really look around and see who and what you DO have. I bet you have some good things going on. It is super hard to focus on the good, when you are in your hardest part of life. However, channeling positive energy brings in and out more positive energy and experiences.
  • Work through your grief with a Grief Counselor, they are trained in this extremely difficult life challenge. Let them help guide you on your grief journey.
  • Be open minded. You deserve to be loved, get love, have fun and experience good times again. Leave your heart and mind open to new experiences.

 

Be well,

Jules