A few weeks ago my Father, aka Big Daddy, "graduated from the school of life with honors", as I refer to it. He was quietly a remarkable man who raised four successful kids, surviving the death of his oldest son 36 years ago, and continuing to live with honor, dignity and integrity. After living with Cancer for 13 years and having a few health scares over that time, my family and I were somewhat prepared for his mortality, and when his body was too tired from his long and graceful fight, we knew it was time for him to go.
We each will experience our grieving process, as adults, but what about our kids? While there are certain expected phases to the grieving process: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, not everyone will go through this process the same way, and the duration of this process will vary. Kids also experience grief, however, the way they experience emotions will likely not be the same way you do.
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Acknowledging the Truth
My daughter is a precocious five year-old in some ways and in other ways all of five years old. When I knew I had to leave to try to see my Dad before he "graduated from life" I told my daughter, with tears in my eyes, that Bid Daddy was sick and may not live through this, knowing that she would not fully understand. When I was trying to tell her about "Big Daddy", she understood that something not good was going on, and she was trying to change the subject, kept turning away, and then grabbed my face to try to make me laugh. It was clear that she was feeling upset, and my daughter does not like to cry. Instead, she will do things to distract, be funny, change the subject… It is very important to know how your child responds to emotions and to not expect them to behave like you do.
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After my Dad's death, I had hoped to be able to come home from Tucson and talk with her together with my wife about what happened, but because of some family events that occurred my wife had to tell her. That was okay with me, as life often happens when you are making plans, and my wife did a masterful job with this discussion. Sometimes in life, things don't happen as we want them to and you may have to make do with what you have. Don't expect to be able to control what happens or to control how your child behaves, especially when it comes to the death of loved one.
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When I came back home, we talked. I asked her how she was feeling and she said she felt sad, she then asked, "What happened?" I told her that Big Daddy had been sick for a while, and his body was tired and it wore out. He lived a long life and we would always have our memories. I said that Mommy and I were not sick and expected to be here for her through the years, but I stopped short of making promises I know I couldn't keep. Over the past few weeks, we continue to ask how she is feeling about Big Daddy about every third day, and she often says she feels sad, and I let her know that whatever she is feeling is okay. I want her to know it is okay to talk about the situation and her emotions.CONTINUE READING ON INTENT.COM