I had a friend call me recently and asked me to talk with a friend of her’s who just lost his wife and the mother of his two children. My friend was wondering what she could do for the obviously distraught Dad.
I am not a therapist. Nevertheless, I tried to give him come concrete next steps in the spirit of “putting one foot in front of the other” to keep moving forward. Here’s a recap of what I suggested.
Remember that his initial instinct will be to protect the kids. That’s okay, as long as he remembers he will need to start the grieving process himself as soon as possible if he is to get to a place where he can provide the most support for his children.
- To get started with the kids, look for local grief counselors. Many cities offer these services free of charge. Check with the local Children’s hospital if there is one or a local palliative care facility or hospice for referrals. As soon as possible, find a way into a regular program of meetings, usually a group, so the kids can witness others going through the grief process and it is normal.
- Consider putting together a “memory book” with photos of important events each kid experienced with Mom. They can keep this book under their pillows and refer to it every time they think of Mom or are sad.
- Get Dad through his process separately from, but in addition to, what the kids are doing. The Dad lost his partner, co-parent and probably his best friend. His journey with grief will be different.
- Remember that this is a life long process. The kids and he will revisit the loss often as they move through life. The kids because of increased maturity and awareness and Dad because he will see how it effects the kids.
- If there are female members of the immediate family that the kids like, try to organize as much time with these women as they can spare with the kids. They won’t be able to replace Mom, but they too will be experiencing the loss of someone close and can help the kids by relating to their pain. They also may help kids that are stuck longer than normal in the denial phase of dealing with a loss.
- If there are no immediately available female family members, consider resources like KWM to help the kids confront their loss and help them to work through it.
This is not something a family should deal with by themselves. There is a whole grief network of professionals who can help.