We look like graceful ducks paddling across the pond with our children, our ducklings in line behind us (hopefully). We post pictures on Facebook of smiles and accomplishments as if life is easy and awesome. As if nothing has happened. The truth is we are paddling like crazy under that water in hopes of making it through the day…or sometimes just the next 15 minutes.
We are the parents of children who lost their mom or dad…our ex-spouse.
You think that grace is born of sheer joy that the other parent of our children is gone. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The truth is that when no one else is around the kids climb on our back or our lap and cry, and yet we need to keep paddling, carrying them through and praying they will not go off the deep end. When they need something, actually anything, it is our ear, our credit card, our time that they use. We can’t pass off anything to the other parent anymore.
They exhaust us with their requests and activities and astound us with their strength every day.
A significant amount of that frantic paddling is to keep the memory of our ex alive. And rather than support in this quest, we are sued, dragged through mud, and considered insignificant. The stress this causes our children is unimaginable and sets them back in their healing. I have said “how dare you” under my breath many times over.
Here are a few things some people do not understand.
- We are now the parent who takes every single step with the kids. And, every step is on eggshells because “he” is not here and I’m not sure how they are going to process that fact – it could change with the wind. This is not fun.
- We carry around the sadness of the parent who left. I’m devastated every single day FOR John that he isn’t here to watch the girls grow up.
- The main responsibility of the alive parent is to take care of the children. Carry them (sometimes physically) through the saddest time of their lives – and then every day forward as they learn a very new normal. Every single one of your actions should support that effort.
- When you add stress to our lives it stresses the way we help our children. This includes when you sue us over life insurance or bankrupt the estate with lawyers fees and there is no financial support to help us raise our children.
- This includes when you saddle us with the deceased debt simply because he or she illegally used our social security number and got away with it – or had a loan against a property we own, or died unexpectedly and never did put a plan in place to take care of bills you can easily move to our debit column. And you smile as you do it.
- We do not need your opinion like “well you should have them in therapy.” Watch your words. What you do not realize is that I busted my ass to find the perfect therapist and/or support group and pay for it and get them there on a regular basis.
- And, speaking of therapy, check in with me to ensure your actions are not going to upset them.
- As the other parent I am the ONLY one who keeps John’s memory alive on a regular basis. No one sits and tells stories or shares pictures. Some days I feel like I am up to my eyeballs in John’s memory for the sake of my children. You can raise a glass or tell a good story every now and again, but if my kids aren’t around to hear it, trust me, it is practically meaningless. In fact, if you don’t make sure to include my children it can actually cause them pain because they felt left out.
- I have learned both personally and from the stories of others the family of the deceased is always a vicious bunch. They offer no support and ALWAYS cause problems with money – especially life insurance. They feel entitled to control even though they barely (like in my case) have a relationship with your children.
- We don’t care how you are grieving, we want you to consider our children first and foremost – there, I have said it. We don’t care how the death has impacted your life…you lost a drinking buddy…a brother, a neighbor. Our children lost their father. This isn’t about what you want to do, your actions should now be taken in the best interest of my children.
- While we are glad to be the parent left alive this is not easy on us at all. The death swallows our free time whole, strains our other relationships, and causes some chaos. Do not add to the chaos.
And selfishly, while we put ourselves last on every single list, we are grieving as well. For those of us who co-parented well, we lost a friend and a partner. We lost our time to breath when the kids were with the other parent. In many ways I feel like I lost my right arm in parenting, my sounding board – the very person I decided to have children with in the first place. He was the heart of our operation and I miss him every single day.
We survive on the love we have for our children, and, if we are lucky a few supportive friends who allow us to cry on their shoulders. My husband wraps his arms around me and tells me I’m doing a great job, as he sends me off to another swim meet, cheer competition or to get my checkbook as I pay for something else.