Sorrow, tragedy, and death occur at any given time of life. Are you prepared to answer the difficult questions that your kids have about such issues? Do you know how to give your children answers and explanations that they are not even capable of formulating questions for? Many times we are overly worried or concerned that they will not be able to handle this information. I want to encourage you that kids are resilient and stronger than we give them credit for.
In 2013, my mother passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. I never tried to shield my kids from the ugliness of this disease or the ultimate end. This was not going to be a happy ending, at least not in the way that we wished. During these times, kids, regardless of age have a very pointed and direct way of asking the hard questions. “Is Mimi going to die?” That was a question that went straight through my heart. “Yes”, I answered as my daughter inquired. “When will she die?”, she asked. “I don’t know”, I replied.
Thankfully, mom was able to be with us for some time after my daughter’s question. It was okay that I didn’t know everything. What she was counting on from me was the truth. Astonishingly enough, my daughter came to be a wonderful caregiver and loving support for her grandmother. She would brush her hair, rub on her, and little caring things for her. The strength that she had was amazing. These were some of the most beautiful moments that I have ever witnessed.
I think that we try to explain too much. We feel as if our kids are weak because of their size or age. However, I believe that they have strength to give us. They have a miraculous way of moving forward and comforting those around them. This does not mean that they won’t express sadness or grief. What it means is that they can handle things better than we expect. However, they must count on us to be transparent. They need us to be truthful and reassured of our love and support.
Don’t hide your emotions during tough times. You are not protecting anyone. Dads, we have the toughest time doing this. We feel as if we must default to a stronger than life character. Being strong never means a lack of feeling. It means not walking away…physically or emotionally.
I can remember a very long time ago when my grandmother was in her final days. I was very small but can remember the mood. There was sadness, but my parents didn’t shelter me from anything. My family has always had a faith that has encouraged us in tough times. I don’t remember being afraid. As young as I was, I clearly understood what death was. This was a sad time, but I also knew that as a family, we were together.
Families have and will experience situations that are far more grievous than for a loved one to lose a long battle with disease. Sudden tragedies befall people all the time. Circumstances can be extremely difficult and painful. While prolonged suffering allows you to prepare better, the loss of life is the loss of life. Be honest about the situation. Go through the time together. Your children will give you a sense of strength that you won’t have on your own. In time, allowing yourselves to grieve together will reinforce your own bond.
Life has suffering. You and your kids will suffer. However, suffering can produce a beautiful bond that goes beyond explanation, much further than I can put into words. For those of you that have experienced this, you know it to be true. Those of you that are young or inexperienced in this area, allow me to tell you that you will understand in retrospective. These tough times in life, seeing your kids experiencing it, and trying to make sense of it to them is difficult. My advice to new fathers is to speak openly about such issues when they come up. Develop a sense of trust with your children. Don’t shield them from understanding. Understanding has its own sense of comfort regardless of the truth.
Life is going to happen. Your kids are going to have some very pointed questions. Are you prepared for them? In a way, you don’t have to agonize over it. Just be honest. Don’t paint a picture brighter than it is. If you don’t know the answer, say “I don’t know”. Be a sense of stability by the fact that dad’s word can be trusted. Be the best dad possible.