Imagine you are in a boxing ring. A professional boxer looks at you straight in the face, winds up and you see the glove coming straight for the middle of your face. You think to yourself...no way I can dodge this...its going to happen. BOOM! You take a blow. But it doesn’t knock you out...it just takes your breath away for a second and you are back ready for more.
That is a glimpse to the life of someone who has lost a spouse or a parent.
You can feel you are in the ring at any point in time, any place, in any circumstance. And this boxer can creep in to give you a punch when you least expect it and for sure during the best moments in your life. It is inevitable.
Today I ate dinner with the boxer right behind my chair. It was not only a blow straight in the face, but left and right at my sides too. And it attacks the best of my teammates - my daughters.
The boxer struck me the first time when a friendly couple sitting next to us (that turned out to be parents of a student in Anna’s class) asked where Isabella got her blue eyes. People see her eyes and we here a reminder of Papa and how he is not with us. My sweet Bella will have to deal with that her whole life (just like I had to deal with “you must look like your dad”). So I told them what happened because I could tell they saw a potential “couple friends” - and well, I am no longer a couple (blow #2).
Then we kept on eating dinner the 3 of us, and the waiter came and spoke with us a little and in a very nice but prying way asked why he didn’t see The Mr. with us when we went to the club to eat. Blow #3. So I told him what happened and within 30 minutes I got two of the same reaction...a look of pity, shock awkwardness and sadness.
All meanwhile enjoying a salad and burgers and making sure that Isabella didn’t ruin her pretty dress with ketchup and Anna didn’t fall out of the chair.
Of course, Isabella said in a loud voice...”I miss Papa” and Anna agreed. And I agreed.
Then, the father of the little girl in Anna’s class took her outside to play because she wanted “daddy time” and the girls heard. Of course they wanted to join. Since I had just shared what happened with the mother she stood up and said “Oh I will take them!”
It was nice because she could see what was happening. But I just felt like the girls were entering their own ring and with out me know. Something I have to get used too. They went outside for a little while while I wrapped up dinner and then I met them outside. They were running and playing. I felt relieved. Like a break in the match and I was getting vaseline (or whatever they put on their face to heal the open gashes) on my face and water. I knew what would come next...I noticed when I met the couple that they are good parents. And that the father is a father of 3 little girls and he is in love with them- he is a good dad. So in the next 15 minutes we were there, I faced Mike Tyson with my arms tied and a smile on my face to let the girls know this is all ok and we are ok.
The father danced with one of his girls, then carried his 3 month old and sang an entire song to her while holding her tight, and then spoke of teaching the other one golf this summer.
They looked at him like the most priceless gift ever...and untouchable for them at this point. I could see Isabella remembered Mark and I could see Anna seeing what a father is like and wanting one.
Then he said as he grabbed all of them, it was time to go home because his famous NFL draft was tonight...that almost knocked me out.
That used to be our life. Now 2 years later...here we are with so many blessings around us and making a life of our own. He is what is missing. We can not escape the pain and it will be with us forever because no matter what you can not replace a human being and the love you have for a spouse or father/mother.
We pray that God hears our prayers for a wonderful man to enter into our family - as Isabella says - a daddy here on earth to love and play with. I know God has His plan and every time I feel the punch, it somehow fills me with more Faith. I get beat up in the best of times that I have, but I will not get knocked down.
Imagine what Jesus felt like during The Passion...
Please read this article so you can be aware of how you can help someone in our situation and when you find out about a loss. Yes, it is shocking to hear, but try to get over the shock and remember this article. Please pass it on it can be applied to any age. Thank you!
Don't be shocked when you meet a grieving child
Awkward silence needn't occur upon learning of death of a parent
April 24, 2012
There I'd be, a teenager more or less minding her own business at a school event or a social gathering, when a well-meaning adult would start quizzing me about where I was born, how many brothers and sisters I had, and what my father did.
"My dad was a doctor," I'd say. "He died."
"Oh, I'm so sorry. That's horrible," the adult would say, and then proceed to stare at me as the conversation ground to a halt.
I'd be thinking: "I'm 15. You're the adult here, you brought this up, and now I'm supposed to say something to make you feel better?"
The answer, of course, was yes, and I got pretty good at it, but I never stopped hating the way that conversation made me feel. When I finally found a close friend who had been through the same thing, we bonded instantly over the weirdness of an adult being shocked, just shocked, that some people actually die before old age. (It's awful, yes, but it happens quite a bit, and making bereaved kids feel like freaks of nature doesn't do anyone a whole lot of good.)
My friend and I joked that we should just burst into tears the next time someone pulled the awkward silence stunt. Or maybe we could circulate together at a social event. When someone was beating themselves up for reminding one of us that he or she had lost a parent, the other one could pipe up with, "My father's dead too!" (Cue the uncontrollable sobs, in stereo.)
OK, we were 19 and stupid, but our basic logic, I think, was sound. "You want awkward? We'll give you awkward!"
A lot has changed for the better since the 1970s and '80s, when I was dealing with these issues, including the rise of bereavement centers and age-appropriate support groups, a great step forward for grieving kids. But a new New York Life Foundation/National Alliance for Grieving Children survey of kids at bereavement programs across the U.S., billed as the first study of its kind, suggests that young people are still struggling with less-than-helpful reactions.
Among the study's findings: While kids identified strongly with key statements such as "The death of my loved one is the worst thing that ever happened to me" and "You never stop missing your loved one," when they were asked to choose just one statement that applied to them the most, the largest group of kids (32 percent), chose "People don't have to give me special treatment; I just want to be treated like everyone else."
That's the way I felt, and while the survey doesn't address the awkward silence issue directly, experts say it persists.
"I think it's the norm," said Joe Primo, associate executive director of Good Grief, a children's bereavement center in Morristown, N.J.
"As a society, we really struggle with talking about death. For most Americans, it's hard enough to have that conversation with an adult, and all of a sudden, you throw a kid into the mix, and I don't think adults have a clue where to begin."
Jill Hamilton, 49, of Palm Springs, Calif., noticed the awkward silence problem after her husband, Kelly, died last year. She's raising their children, Lauren, 11, and Brad, 14.
"It would be nice for the person to say, 'What kind of person was he?' or ask something about him, not just (lapse into) dead silence," Jill Hamilton says.
"Awkward silence!" Lauren interjects.
Experts have plenty of advice for what friends and family can do to help a bereaved child (listen, ask what he or she needs, don't tell the child to stop crying), but when it comes to the specific question of the awkward silence, they say there are no easy answers.
Each grieving person is different, says Andy McNiel, executive director of the National Alliance for Grieving Children, and some people complain about silences while others complain about intrusive questions.
"It's almost damned if you do, damned if you don't," McNiel says. "What do you say? I've been working with families for 20 years now and I still will go to funerals and sound like a bumbling idiot. The truth is, there's not always a really good thing to say."
Still, I do think it would help if people educated themselves a little about the topic, starting with the basics: You have every right to be unnerved when you learn a child has lost a parent, but you don't have the right to be shocked. According to a 2009 survey by New York Life with Comfort Zone Camp, 1 in 9 Americans have lost a parent before age 20; 1 in 7 have lost a parent or sibling.
If you can simply go into an introductory conversation with a child knowing that the death of a parent is a real possibility, you can probably spare yourself and others significant discomfort. You can avoid the question of parental occupation entirely, or if you choose to broach it and find out the parent in question is deceased, try a suggestion from Lauren's mother, Jill: Ask a question along the lines of, "What was (the deceased parent) like?"
"As a kid, you're proud of your parent and you love your parent and that gives you a way to talk about them that isn't tied to their death," Jill Hamilton says.
Lauren brightens immediately when she's asked what her dad was like: "He was a jolly man, like Santa Claus. He had a big tummy and a big beard, and he looked like Santa Claus." He even dressed up as Santa Claus one year, she says, and gave out presents to the kids at their church.
I was a cynical teen when I was mourning my dad, and Lauren is a gung-ho fifth-grader. But listening to her, I'm reminded that I, too, could prattle on merrily about my father at times, even with an adult I didn't know well.
I didn't have much to say about death or loss or a specific illness, and awkward silences were pretty much guaranteed when strangers veered off in that direction. But my dad? My funny, thoughtful, crazy-smart dad was my hero, and I could have talked about him all day long.