tragedy, grief and the difficult child

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by myfirstandlast, Sep 7, 2007.

  1. Wish you all had more background on the situation, but I'll just have to sum up the essentials.

    My ex husband and father of our two children took his own life this week. His body was found yesterday by his mother.

    I had to tell the kids yesterday after school. I am ready to answer many questions that haven't come yet ... not sure what other ones could arise. So far they have had too few questions, and I've had to bring up things that I didn't want to because I needed answers soon so arrangements could be made.

    I told them each separately that their dad had "passed away" and just let them cry. The 9 year old didn't ask ANY questions. The 12 year old only asked "how" and had the most terrible expression of shock when I told him "he took his own life" and other than that, there haven't been questions like I expected.

    I did have to ask later if they wanted to "see him" as his parents are having him cremated with no viewing or anything. My son as expected does definitely want to see him, my daughter has not yet told me either way. I tried to make it very clear that it is OK if either of them DO or DO NOT and that it is a personal decision and ANY answer is OK.

    I think that sometime before she overhears it, I have to tell my daughter the very simple version of "how" that I gave my son. I also feel that he should hear how it happened before he overhears it, but not sure ... I'm so worried about scaring them. :frown:

    ANYTHING that would help me help them through this, I would appreciate hearing about.

    My sister works within the school district and is calling both kids' schools so that the counselors, teachers, and parents of their closest friends are notified.

    I don't have a lot of details. There was a note, it was pretty vague but there is content not suitable for the kids right now. He apparently took some medications to dull the pain and then hanged himself in his basement. Among other things, the kids didn't even know that he'd moved out of his parents' house almost 3 years ago (I didn't know either) ... he was that private of a person. His parents had not been in the house he was renting until he didn't show up for his mid-week visit with the kids Wednesday after school. There are a lot of questions I cannot answer, and I worry what they will think about finding out their dad lied about certain things. :frown:
  2. AllStressedOut

    AllStressedOut New Member

    Wow, I am so sorry for what your kids and you are going through. I don't have any advice. I just wanted to let you know I'll be thinking of you and your kiddos and I'll say a prayer that the right words come to you when you need them. ((hugs))
  3. myfirstandlast,

    I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are going out to you and your family. I would not force your children to view their dad , but I think that it could be very helpful. My father in law died sudddently and unexpectedly when he was on a trip across the country and was cremated before we could have a final viewing. It left us with a feeling of unreality for several years even though we spread his ashes in the Atlantic ocean as he had requested. We intellectually knew he was gone, but emotionally it just didn't seem real.

    I'm glad that your sister has covered the school front. My younger brother died when I was in school and the hardest part was having to tell people over and over again about his death. It was so emotionally draining for me as a 13 year old. Also, I remember being in shock for several months before the reality of his death really kicked in. Grief is different for everyone, but I'd give the children lots of time and space to deal with their loss.

    Take care and be good to yourself.
  4. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member


    I am so sorry for what your family is going through. How devestating for all who loved him. I would think that the kids are in shock right now and that the questions will begin to come as time goes by. I wouldn't think that the kids need to know about the things dad lied about if it can be helped. It wouldn't serve a purpose if you can avoid it.

    It is definately helpful that your sister can notify the schools. I think it is important to know that the kids may be processing and struggling with their grief as the days go on.

    Prayers and hugs to you and the family. I will keep the children in my prayers.

  5. lynnp

    lynnp New Member

    I know that in our state we have a Center for Grieving Children that has wonderful resources. Is there anything similar where you are? Also, our local hospice runs a group for grieving children...would it work for either of them? Good, good luck, that is so hard.
  6. jbrain

    jbrain Member

    sending my condolences to your family, especially the children. My kids' dad died when they were 12, 8 and 5. They all reacted differently to the news (it was not totally unexpected but we had hoped til the end that he would pull through--he was sick for quite some time). My son (12) was very involved in the arrangements and got a lot of comfort out of contact with his relatives. My dtr (8) heard the news and ran out to play with a friend. My other dtr (5) sobbed hysterically. The 8 yr old, who is difficult child 1, had a very rough time--she was very close to her dad. I think she is still looking for a guy to replace him with (she is 19). The other dtr is now 16--she feels cheated, that she didn't get to know her dad as well as the others and she doesn't remember him very well. My son has not shown any outward signs of grieving since the funeral. He was embarrassed to tell anyone about his dad dieing and he has never talked about it. He did say once that he felt all alone after his dad died.

    From what my own therapist told me, children grieve differently than adults. They have to revisit it as they grow--there isn't a finality to it--like a process that they go through and then they are done. I have seen this with difficult child 2. She seemed to grieve in a healthy way when her dad died but she has now had to go through it again as a teen. She needed me to tell her the whole story again because her understanding is so different now. I couldn't explain things to her when she was 5 that I can explain to her now.

    Anyway, I am so sorry for this shocking news and send my best to you and the kids.

  7. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member

    this is a hard situation. I have to tell you this:
    my lil sis had two kids to a man with issues. they divorced when the smaller one was under two yrs old. when they were 5 and 10 yrs old, he shot himself in the mouth with a gun. his mother found him. the kids went to the funeral. it was hard for them I am sure. he did not have custody of them but did visit them a lot.

    the kids are 18 and 23 now. one boy and one girl. they are great kids, seem to not be traumatized. the boy has a tattoo of his dad's first name and yrs of birth and death on one arm.

    Since they were small I have told them any happy stories I could remember of their dad, gave them pictures of him that I had and talked about him whenever they wanted to.

    people who commit suicide are too sick to realize how they are hurting others down the line. sigh.
  8. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

  9. Big Bad Kitty

    Big Bad Kitty lolcat

    How very sad, for all involved.

    Sending strength for you, to hold things together for the sake of those precious children.

    Sending prayers, that God may wrap His loving arms around those kids and comfort them.

    My best advice is to just be there for them. I am so very sorry.
  10. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    I am so sorry for you and your kids...
    My Mother took her life when I was 9. My step/adopted Dad took us to the beach and was very matter of fact, we went to school the next day. No grieving. No funeral. She had left us a few months before and there was also a lot of things we did not know, lots of lies etc. She was Bipolar.

    For me I think honesty would have been nice. I think just being ther and open and available for when and if I was ready to talk, cry or just be. If it was to scream or yell or whatever... I think some extra compassion, some forgiveness for behaviors for awhile.

    I was mad for a long time. and then I hated her. and then I hated everyone else, and then I hated myself, because if I was a better daughter my Mom would have never left me and she would have never killed herself.
    Even though I know this is not true now, at 9... how could I not? All I knew was that I wasn't good enough, she didn't want me.

    I think counseling would have been a good idea, and time, lots of time to heal.

    I am truly sorry anyone has to go through this. especially children.

  11. The questions get tougher ...

    daughter-9 asked for some one-on-one time, and then asked me how he died, was he shot, did he die of old age ... telling her that he took his own life was just like telling her he passed away all over again ... WHY WHY WHY ... poor sweet girl ...

    Told her about depression and how it is like a disease and he was sick, and that nobody knew and he didn't like to talk about it, and nobody knew exactly what he was feeling or why, and that it had absolutely nothing to do with her and not her fault or anybody's fault ... she said not even his? and I said no, honey, he was sick, and so depressed that he couldn't think about what he was doing. Lots more tears and hugs and she's wearing one of his favorite shirts all around, probably will sleep with it tonight.

    After that DS-12 wanted to know more about the "how" and I took a minute to explain how I was going to answer. That I would absolutely tell him anything that he wanted to know, but that for right now, what he needed to know was that he was not in pain, it was not violent ... this was a huge relief and he said that's what he wanted to know, he didn't need to hear more, just that he wasn't in pain. If my daughter asks, I will try to do the same.

    The exact how, and when, are still not quite known, and I don't know if we will get more info ... the police came and there was no reason to suspect foul play. Grandma put his date of death as Thursday for the obit but it would seem that he had been gone at least since Wednesday since he didn't come to see his kids. She hadn't talked to him since Saturday, so it could have been earlier, but she said he didn't look as if he'd been there long. There were rope marks and also open medicine containers. No autopsy. They were not going to have a viewing or have him embalmed but go straight to cremation, but I was certain the kids would want to see him to say their goodbyes, maybe even need to see him for closure. My son knew right away that he did, my daughter took her time and didn't tell me until today. She wrote a note to send with him. It is so heartbreaking ...

    I got a call from one of my son's classmates' mom, she said a letter had gone home to all parents of 7th graders about what happened. We didn't think they were going to use his name, but they did, and DS is kind of upset about that. He said he wanted to be the one to tell his best friends, that he wanted to be anonymous. Now when he goes to school Monday, everyone will know. I tried to explain that they have done this before for other people, and that it was probably for the best, really. How it might help other people who have gone through something similar, and help them to know that you are going through a very rough time.

    Don't know if they did the same at my daughter's school, although my sister did say that they will bring in a counselor to talk to each 4th grade class about someone's father dying, didn't know if they would say who. The school budget cuts mean there is no counselor in that elementary building. :frown:

    There IS a very well recommended grief center for children in a nearby city that we've been referred to several times already. The kids will have counseling as soon as I can set it up.

    (I should explain, my husband is step-dad to DS-12 and daughter-9 and the father of daughter-14 who does not live with us but with her mom. It is my ex-husband and father of my two kids that died.)
  12. Big Bad Kitty

    Big Bad Kitty lolcat

    Oh, my heart is just breaking for those kids, especially your daughter...

    Sending so many hugs and prayers for your family.
  13. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member

    I think you are doing everything right. A great job at being there and being honest with your kids.

    I am so sorry they had to endure this pain. It is terribly sad.

    Sending you hugs and strength to keep on helping those kids.
  14. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member

    What a really tough situation. I'm so sorry that your children have to endure this.

    I'm in the middle of figuring out the best way to tell my daughter that her g-grandma is dying. I'm having such a hard time with this. I can't imagine the pain you are dealing with. I'm tearing up just reading your post.
  15. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    Sending many gentle hugs to you and your children. What an awful thing to have to go through at any age, but especially for the children.

    I think you're doing everything exactly as it should be. In a way I was shocked that the school gave out your son's name, but in a way it may be easier for him than hearing kids talking about the 'anonymous' kid whose father died, you know? At least this way, maybe the kids will be more sensitive when he's around them.

    Gosh, I hope you're hanging in there as well - hugs to you, you must also be heartbroken for your kiddos.
  16. I thought it might be so that kids wouldn't wonder if it was their best friend's dad and panic or something ... my sister also took the names of the kids' best friends so their parents could be notified.

    Monday might be too soon for them, since the viewing and services are Sunday ... don't know how bad that will be, but I think it will be harder than even the past two days have been. :frown:
  17. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I am so sorry. All I can do is lend support. You've gotten some wise words here already.
    {{{hugs}} to you and your kids.
  18. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I just found your 2nd and 3rd notes ... I agree that you are doing everything right. And you've got one another ... you are right there for the kids.
    More hugs.
    How is his mother doing?
  19. I just heard something very disturbing. Not only did they send the letter home, which has REALLY upset my former mother in law, but apparently one of my son's teachers actually stated in class to his classmates that his father had committed suicide.

    This is a very personal private matter and I am shocked that a teacher would "out" such sensitive information. I have not spoken to anyone at the school ... info must have come from my sister and it was meant for his teachers, NOT the entire student body!!!!
  20. Star*

    Star* call 911

    My sympathies for you, your children and your in-laws. I'm sure there are a lot of questions everyone would like answered.

    My x's uncle was like a grandfather to my son. He was a shell shocked Viet-Nam vet who never really came back from the war. When my son was 5, the uncle who lived with us stuck a pistol in his mouth, left a note on the kitchen door that said Call 911 do not come in. There was no note for anyone else.

    His daughter took it the hardest, she was 19 or so. She kept asking me if I saw anything which I thought was odd. Was there a lot of blood, how did he look. Belive me I didnt look. I did what the note said. And what she was looking for was to make sure that he did not suffer. I told her that he spent his life suffering except for the times he spent with her and my son. But how we couldn't imagine how badly he suffered to have to leave us so quickly. Then she asked me if I thought he went to hell. I said that it is written in the bible that we are not to take our own lives, however; there isn't anyone on this earth that could say what God decides due to the suffering that a person who takes their own life. I said God never gives us more than we can handle, and for her Father to take his own life I felt that he felt he had been given more than he could bare. I told her that decision was up to God, but I felt all the tragedy in his life would be taken into consideration in heaven.

    I left it at that. It seemed to pacify her head. Older now and with 3 children, she speaks only about the good things regarding her dad and the good memories. She feels her Dad is watching her. So I would say how you handle the situation NOW could result in how your children deal with it in their lives.

    Basically she wanted to know: WHY? Because of her? NO! So we recapped on dysfunctional upbringing, viet-nam and the lack of counseling - all very hard life situations. This was HIS choice though!! I don't think anyone chooses to end their life, when you are that sick the illness makes the choice for you. Did he suffer? Yes,only in life the end was so fast he never knew he was gone. HOW could he do this to me? OH you misunderstand - he did this to himself due to his illness, the best time she had were with you don't ever EVER forget that.

    I think you have done a lovely job of guiding your children through an awful situation. I hope you count us as your friends to lean on when you can't stand up. I hope YOU are okay. My prayers go out to you.

    Hugs & Love