Three Deaths in a Row: Third Time's the Harm
I've now hit the trifecta
Three deaths in six months is a lot. Three fathers gone within months of each other is almost too much to absorb.
It's one thing to say good-bye to your parent after a long, fulfiling life. My father and Hubby's father made it to their mid 80's. That's how it should be. My father and father-in-law got to see their children married (and divorced and remarried). They enjoyed retirement and grandchildren. Losing them in their 80s is the natural order of things.
But my son's father has none of these things to look forward to. He will not see his son graduate from high school or college. He will never be a grandparent.
You see, he died prematurely. He was only 57. Our son, only 17.
It's different this time
Having already beaten the topic of death to death, so to speak, I wondered what else I could find to say. Turns out, there's all kinds of new thoughts and emotions associated with this latest loss.
Even though I'm once again writing about a man in my life who is now deceased, losing an ex-spouse is nothing like losing a parent. It's more complicated. And it feels completely unnatural. There simply are no natural instincts to take over.
Soul Meets Body
My role is ambiguous
My ex had been my ex for 12 years. That's two years longer than we were married. And yet, even in divorce, he was part of my life, as we attempted to co-parent our only child.
There were also numerous medical emergencies during and after our marriage.
It's always felt awkard stepping in and out of his world, bonded by his illness. He'd go into the hospital -- for scheduled surgery or to the emergency room. I'd take our son to visit. Mostly, I visited and Sonny mumbled a quick, "Hi Dad!" and made a quick beeline for the exit. Then he'd come out of the hospital and it would be like my bedside visits had ever happened. We'd go back to squabbling.
In between, he kept me firmly outside the circle of trust. He kept everyone out, preferring to battle his chronic pain demons on his own.
In my heart of hearts I always knew he would die exactly the way he died: Alone. But I also knew that when it happened, I would not hesitate to step to the plate (trying hard not to step on anyone's toes).
Still in fighting shape from the past few months
Having just gone through the whole dying process with my dad and my father-in-law in recent months, the tasks are still fresh in my mind.
The only difference -- and this is a major one -- is that I watched both patriarchs make their transition to the other side. My ex died alone, and more or less unexpectedly.
My ex was a loner. He was chronically ill and in almost constant pain. It was not uncommon for him to hole up in his house not answering the phone, emails, texts or the door for days on end. And that's exactly how it happened. I got a call from his sister in New York. She'd gotten a call from his workplace. I double checked with Sonny. None of them had had received a call, email or text since last week.
When I added up the number of non-responses there was no other conclusion I could draw. I prayed to be wrong -- that we'd find him weakened and needing emergency care. But on some level, I just knew.
Losing Your Loved Ones
How many of your loved ones have died in the same year?
Wish I could grieve for my son
The practical details will be taken care of. His sister is flying out Monday night. She's working with his employer on a memorial service. I don't have the familial responsibilities I had with my dad and Hubby's dad.
No. My responsibility is much more challenging. I need to help my son grieve. And I have absolutely no idea how to do that. I'm not exactly a model of grief myself. I could sooner teach him to fly a plane, perform brain surgery, or solve the riddle of the Sphynx.
The mother in me wants to grab hold of his heart and pull the pain into myself. I'm on a first-name basis with Pain. Please, God, let me unburden him. He's already been through so much in his young life.
Daddy, Mommy, I need you!
I'm caught in a situation that's more than slightly above my pay grade. It's exactly the kind of situation that makes me want to call my Dad. Or my Mom. They might not be able to do anything about it, but it's comforting just to know they're there. Alas, the only way I can talk to my parents these days is through prayers.
But more than enough about me. How must my son feel? Here he is only recently stabilized from his own emotional turmoil. Many issues still left unresolved with his dad, but they were working on them. Many future bonding opportunities now closed to both of them.
My time to cheerlead him through the ups and downs of male teen/fatherly relations is now up. The buzzer has sounded, and there'll be no overtime for this father/son pair.
I so want to help him. I want to comfort him. I want to protect him from feeling his feelings -- even though I know that's the only way he can heal. I want to shield him from any urge to regress. Old habits are numbing. They are also self-destructive.
Anyone can tell you he's extra vulnernable now. And because of that, I feel vulnerable, too.
I've called everyone I can think of. I'm not going for shock value. I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm looking for someone to give me the answer:
"How do I do this? How do I do this for my traumatized son?"
If you have any experience with losing a parent as a child/teen/young adult, or experience helping a child grieve a parent's death, I appreciate your comments.
God bless and thank you, Mighty Mom
- Death, Loss & Grieving - Death, Loss & Grieving Advice for Teens
If you have lost someone you love or care about, these links on coping with death and grief may help
- Helping Teenagers Cope With Grief
Hospice Services: Make a Donation, Find a Local Hospice, Frequently Asked Questions, The Hospice Concept, What Questions Should I Ask About Hospice Care.
- RECOVER FROM GRIEF LOSS: Creative Healing Techniques
Grief loss: so a terrible tragedy has left you or your friend brokenhearted. Trust our website for straight answers, practical advice... and hope.