Children in Grief
Article by Elaine Williams
Elaine Williams copyright 2008
I have three boys who were 11, 18 and 19 when their father died from cancer. They all reacted differently to this loss, and many times I felt at a loss myself in trying to determine the best way to help them through their grief.
My oldest son moved away from home a year and a half after my husband’s passing. It was a move for the best, a need for him to establish his independence, but at the time it was very difficult for me. My son had relationship problems, moved into a dumpy apartment and associated with people I didn’t know. He fell into a drinking and partying lifestyle.
My middle son retreated emotionally, becoming distant. Even though he still lived at home, I had to wonder many times what was going on in his mind and his heart. I knew he was as wounded as I felt at the passing of his father, but he was unwilling to share even the most minute details of what he might be feeling.
My youngest son clung to me as if he were afraid to let me out of his sight. He asked me once what would happen to him if I died, as his father had died.
I calmly reassured my youngest that I expected to live a long time, I still had a lot to accomplish. But I also reassured him that his grandparents or aunt would take care of him if something did happen to me.
Being newly widowed, at times the struggle threatened to engulf me. Day-to-day living felt hard and there was no getting away from it or retreating. Frightening, hard, taxing, tiring, exhausting. In the beginning. The first two and a half years I now look back and realize yes, I came through it, as did my children, and I would never want to live through it again, but we did okay. We lived it each day doing the best we could.
We made some bad choices, but we learned and came away with something valuable. Speaking for myself, I felt ripped in two many days. When I made dating mistakes, it hurt incredibly, and yet the biggest wounds, after my husband’s death, were the wounds of my children. I felt like I could handle anything at any time that happened to me, but when it involved my children, all bets were off. I wanted to take away their hurts, soothe them over, make everything okay again. But that’s not how real life is, and indeed, it’s not how it should be.
My kids grew through their own experiences, and that’s how they learned that life does go on. Mom supports them and helps to a degree, but they have to learn to deal with their own things that come to them in life. We held together as a family and I like to think my husband is still watching over us, keeping us safe in his way, and admiring how we’ve all come through this trial of grief and loss. No one ever said it would be easy, but then again, no one every really brought this subject up before we had to experience it first hand. That’s just he way life is, sometimes it smacks you in the back of the head and you don’t see it coming, other times you see it but hope it’s going to miss you. If we’re lucky, we rise to the occasion in the best way we know how, without bitterness or undue pain.
Life wounds each of us in various ways, it’s how we come out of the wounding that tells the truest sense of who we are, or can be.
About the Author
Elaine is a writer across various genres, published in women’s fiction, but also enjoys writing children’s books, self-help and screenplays. She is a mother of three boys and when life saw her a widow at 47, she eventually picked herself up and wrote about her experience. The resulting book, A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss will be available June 2008, http://www.ajourneywelltaken.com