|My dad, my cousin and me about 2 years after my mom died|
The two of us had to navigate this new life we didn't plan for. He never got us any professional help and he didn't have much of a support system that I know of.
At school I was the only kid who'd lost a parent. I felt utterly alone and Mother's Day was torture for me as I tried to pretend I had someone living to make a card for.
At Camp Widow West this weekend, I was a part of a panel of amazing widowed people who came to a session to hear from adult children of widowed people. The facilitator and I were the two of us who were both widowed AND children of widows. As each parent took their turn to share their story, a common theme revealed itself. They just wanted to do their best to make sure their kids were okay.
Then I was asked to talk about what helped me when I was a kid and I realized that what would have helped me tremendously is if my father had reached out for help more often like these parents were doing.
Regardless of how he handled his grief or my grief, I turned out okay, though. I'll grieve the loss of my mom my whole life, but I'm okay.
I wanted so badly to reassure these parents that their children would be okay, too. Showing up at Camp and reaching out for help on the journey was a step my father didn't and couldn't really take advantage of. I can only imagine what it might have been like if my father and I had had the resources that SSLF and other grief groups offer.
He needed support for the Herculean task before him and he didn't have it. I can't imagine what it must have been like for him, but I do know what it was like for me. I needed to talk about my pain and my loss. I needed to be with other kids who'd lost their parents. I needed female figures in my life who would take me under their wing and provide some mothering. I needed my teachers to know ahead of time that I didn't have a mommy so they could help soften the blow of Mother's Day. I needed to see a counselor. I needed to keep some things of my mom's. I needed to keep her memory alive as much as possible. I needed to feel loved and wanted by my remaining parent.
Most of this I've managed to either find or create for myself as an adult, but ideally I would have had them as a kid, too.
If you're raising kids as a widowed person, I want you to know (from the other side) that it will be okay. Reach out for help as much as you can. You can't do this alone. Please don't hesitate to have you and your children seen by professionals. If you can, find a camp or a support group for your kids so they have a community of children like them to be a part of. Reach out for help whenever and wherever you can.
And come to Camp! There will be so much support for you there. So many people are out there, doing their best to raise kids after widowhood.
I won't tell you that my childhood wasn't difficult, but most of what made it so was my father's inability to reach out for help, not my mother's death. You are not alone. Please remember that. Reach out for others who are traveling this road, too. We need each other.