I love the quote: “a parent’s greatest revenge is when your kids have kids”. I twist this quote a bit to say that once my kids have children of their own, then maybe they will understand just a wee bit the struggle I went through as a grieving solo parent after Keith died.
The other night, I was lying in bed with my daughter, as we remembered together a special teacher of hers who recently died. The shock of this sudden death is starting to wear off, and reality is setting in. She is now beginning to process this tragic loss, and her emotions are coming to the surface.
Between hugs and tears, she looked at me and said: “How did you do this when Keith died? This is my teacher – not my husband.” “It must have been so hard.” “You didn’t have anyone to sit with you – you were all alone.”
For a long time, she grieved in her bubble – her grief was all about her. And it should be. Grief is selfish. Her world changed dramatically, and she needed to figure out what she wanted her new world to look like. As a young child, she did not have the tools, vocabulary, or maturity to express her grief, so it often came out in her behaviour. Heck, let’s be honest. As an adult, I did not have the tools, vocabulary, or maturity to express my grief, either! And sometimes my behaviour was not the best!
As we both grew in our grief and learned from each other, I came to the awareness that she was grieving like I had been grieving 12 years ago when Keith died. I mean that she was beginning to understand the magnitude of what her Dad’s death meant in her life, which made her grief acute and intense. This was what my grief was like during those first years after Keith died. Only she was getting to it much later – about 10 years later.
This awareness opened my eyes to her journey, and I believe helped me to support her differently. Perhaps, with more compassion and understanding.
Her comments that night reflected on me and how difficult my journey must have been, which broke my heart. This showed me that she is growing in her understanding of grief. Her bubble is starting to break, and she can see that so many other people were impacted by Keith’s death. Also, she is beginning to see just how hard it was for me.
So, as we sat and remembered her teacher – a very special, kind-hearted soul –, I was left with contradicting emotions. Sad as I mourn the death of this special lady. Heartache for her family and friends who are grieving her death. Proud of my daughter and how she is coping and managing her emotions. Heavy having to bear witness to her pain and knowing that I can’t lessen it. Humbled by the compassion and care my daughter can share. And a wee bit angry that she even has to know what grief is at her young age and that she can begin to understand what I experienced when Keith died.
Yes, deep down, I will admit that I do want validation from my kids for how I parented, managed, and grew from Keith’s death and my grief – but I did not want it because my daughter’s favorite teacher tragically died.
Always remembered, Ms. H.