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Featured this Month:

For Fathers of Surviving Children
Monday, February 03, 2014 by Cynthia Waderlow, LCSW, MSE
Does the message to surviving mothers and fathers vary when suicide bereaved children must be cared for? We know that, statistically, more males, than females, die from suicide. We see the evidence in the children who receive services in the children’s program, who are most often coping with the loss of their fathers. But maternally bereaved children are also in services, and we listen for the nuances of the needs expressed by these children.
As therapists explore the issues that arise for children facing life with one surviving parent, we learn about the particular traits and skills that are lost with the deceased parent. Difficulties can arise when we assign these to gender, yet it might be safer to say that, for younger children, at least, the mother is the central figure in the child’s life. And for a very young child, the maternal bond is unparalleled. In the presence of the mother-child bond, father’s roles may overlap with that of the mother, but the uniqueness of her bond with the children is not replicated. Father creates his own relationship with his children. As a surviving parent, you, as a father, may be asking, “How am I going to do this?” You will answer the question in process, as a father whose role and relationship with your children will necessarily expand.

Most surviving fathers begin to think very soon about the implications of their children’s loss of their mother, and are frequently at a loss regarding how to respond. In grief, the maternal role can become idealized and a father’s thoughts about integrating the attributes of mothering may feel overwhelming. We hope you can begin to understand that broadening your role as a parent will be gradual, and your willingness to practice being present to each child will allow for missteps and awkward moments. Transition as a single parent will be enhanced and shaped by your intention, the knowledge you acquire, your support system and patience with your very challenging situation. Willingness to give yourself to the grief and healing process is a central piece of the family’s recovery, and since family life demands time, grief counseling can allow you the structure and place to safely move through pain, and create adaptive meaning around the loss. Here are some guidelines to consider and practice as you parent your reconfigured family.
Create structure and routine around eating, sleeping, homework and life skills. Once you have structure and routine in place, consider when and how much to include flexibility. Read and consult with a counselor from LOSS Program for Children and Youth if you are concerned about your child’s capacity to regulate her moods, sleep, food, electronics, etc.

Assemble a support system. This can consist of hired help such as daycare centers, nanny’s, babysitters, children’s transport vans, but also include parents of your children’s friends and relatives. You will need reliable adults to help with supervising and transporting your children, as well as people you can count on to offer your children sound guidance, nurturance and emotional safety.

Try to spend a few minutes with each individual child each day. Practice noticing your child’s special qualities. Do this while driving your child in the car, walking the dog, playing a board game or looking over homework. Offer your child validation as they experience difficult feelings, and then offer them hope that the feelings will become less painful, and life will feel better with some time. Communicate that you will be there for them as they adjust to life without their mother.

Encourage your children to talk about their mom, display pictures of her, and recognize her as an imperfect person who is irreplaceable. Your grieving children should develop a range of balanced memories, to be expressed in an atmosphere of support and emotional safety.

As soon as your child is old enough to understand the permanence of biological death, we advocate for honesty in talking with your child about the fact of suicide, the act of stopping one’s own life. Keep explanations simple and appropriate for your child’s age. You can limit details to what you believe is helpful for your child.

Help your children to understand their mother’s suicide as a result of mental illness, which can be hard to identify, and cannot always be fixed by a doctor. Assure your children that you will take care of yourself and be around to take care of them. Emphasize that their mother’s death did not mean she did not love them. Use a LOSS counselor from the children’s program to ensure that they are developing a coherent narrative and a compassionate understanding of the death. Even a minimum of three sessions can be helpful.

Be honest with your children if your relationship with their mother had been difficult. They will know, at some level, of the tension and frustration you or their mother may have expressed. Remind yourself that it can be very difficult to live with, and to consistently support a person with depression or another mental illness. Speak with understanding of the pain experienced by their mother, her inability to think clearly about solutions when she took her life. Without going into details that are complex or adult in nature, acknowledge the difficult moments without blaming yourself or their mother.

Read to them, even if they know how to read. Choose books that teach about life, loss and adaptation. Let them read aloud to you.

However the grief manifests between you and the maternal grandparents, try to lessen alienation, blame and strife. Grandparents can be a precious link for your children to their mother. Encourage the grandparents to be present to your children and to keep issues of adult conflict out of their conversation with them.

Gradually increase your expressions of love and physical affection to your children, as you become comfortable with this behavior. Grasp a hand. Be generous with hugs. Kiss the top of a head.

Wait to date. And when you do, assess that your children are successfully adapting to the loss before introducing someone new into their midst. No one can replace their mother, and it would be unhelpful to expect your children to relate to another person in this way. Use a counselor to help integrate family configuration changes.

With this said, each of these points can also apply to surviving mothers in the wake of the loss of a husband and father. As a single father, your core attribute must evolve as nurturance, that skill we most often associate with mothers. However, all human beings can express and develop this capacity without sacrificing qualities that define one’s personality. The most capable caregivers will offer nurturance, structure, emotional safety, as well as other nurturing resources and relationships. We want to teach our children that life has irreplaceable losses, but there are others who can be counted on to uplift, protect and care. As you practice more comprehensive care of your children, you may notice healing changes within yourself over time.


Archives:

For Fathers of Surviving Children
Monday, February 03, 2014 by Cynthia Waderlow, LCSW, MSE
Does the message to surviving mothers and fathers vary when suicide bereaved children must be cared for? We know that, statistically, more males, than females, die from suicide. We see the evidence in the children who receive services in the children’s program, who are most often coping with the loss of their fathers. But maternally bereaved children are also in services, and we listen for the nuances of the needs expressed by these children.
As therapists explore the issues that arise for children facing life with one surviving parent, we learn about the particular traits and skills that are lost with the deceased parent. Difficulties can arise when we assign these to gender, yet it might be safer to say that, for younger children, at least, the mother is the central figure in the child’s life. And for a very young child, the maternal bond is unparalleled. In the presence of the mother-child bond, father’s roles may overlap with that of the mother, but the uniqueness of her bond with the children is not replicated. Father creates his own relationship with his children. As a surviving parent, you, as a father, may be asking, “How am I going to do this?” You will answer the question in process, as a father whose role and relationship with your children will necessarily expand.

Most surviving fathers begin to think very soon about the implications of their children’s loss of their mother, and are frequently at a loss regarding how to respond. In grief, the maternal role can become idealized and a father’s thoughts about integrating the attributes of mothering may feel overwhelming. We hope you can begin to understand that broadening your role as a parent will be gradual, and your willingness to practice being present to each child will allow for missteps and awkward moments. Transition as a single parent will be enhanced and shaped by your intention, the knowledge you acquire, your support system and patience with your very challenging situation. Willingness to give yourself to the grief and healing process is a central piece of the family’s recovery, and since family life demands time, grief counseling can allow you the structure and place to safely move through pain, and create adaptive meaning around the loss. Here are some guidelines to consider and practice as you parent your reconfigured family.
Create structure and routine around eating, sleeping, homework and life skills. Once you have structure and routine in place, consider when and how much to include flexibility. Read and consult with a counselor from LOSS Program for Children and Youth if you are concerned about your child’s capacity to regulate her moods, sleep, food, electronics, etc.

Assemble a support system. This can consist of hired help such as daycare centers, nanny’s, babysitters, children’s transport vans, but also include parents of your children’s friends and relatives. You will need reliable adults to help with supervising and transporting your children, as well as people you can count on to offer your children sound guidance, nurturance and emotional safety.

Try to spend a few minutes with each individual child each day. Practice noticing your child’s special qualities. Do this while driving your child in the car, walking the dog, playing a board game or looking over homework. Offer your child validation as they experience difficult feelings, and then offer them hope that the feelings will become less painful, and life will feel better with some time. Communicate that you will be there for them as they adjust to life without their mother.

Encourage your children to talk about their mom, display pictures of her, and recognize her as an imperfect person who is irreplaceable. Your grieving children should develop a range of balanced memories, to be expressed in an atmosphere of support and emotional safety.

As soon as your child is old enough to understand the permanence of biological death, we advocate for honesty in talking with your child about the fact of suicide, the act of stopping one’s own life. Keep explanations simple and appropriate for your child’s age. You can limit details to what you believe is helpful for your child.

Help your children to understand their mother’s suicide as a result of mental illness, which can be hard to identify, and cannot always be fixed by a doctor. Assure your children that you will take care of yourself and be around to take care of them. Emphasize that their mother’s death did not mean she did not love them. Use a LOSS counselor from the children’s program to ensure that they are developing a coherent narrative and a compassionate understanding of the death. Even a minimum of three sessions can be helpful.

Be honest with your children if your relationship with their mother had been difficult. They will know, at some level, of the tension and frustration you or their mother may have expressed. Remind yourself that it can be very difficult to live with, and to consistently support a person with depression or another mental illness. Speak with understanding of the pain experienced by their mother, her inability to think clearly about solutions when she took her life. Without going into details that are complex or adult in nature, acknowledge the difficult moments without blaming yourself or their mother.

Read to them, even if they know how to read. Choose books that teach about life, loss and adaptation. Let them read aloud to you.

However the grief manifests between you and the maternal grandparents, try to lessen alienation, blame and strife. Grandparents can be a precious link for your children to their mother. Encourage the grandparents to be present to your children and to keep issues of adult conflict out of their conversation with them.

Gradually increase your expressions of love and physical affection to your children, as you become comfortable with this behavior. Grasp a hand. Be generous with hugs. Kiss the top of a head.

Wait to date. And when you do, assess that your children are successfully adapting to the loss before introducing someone new into their midst. No one can replace their mother, and it would be unhelpful to expect your children to relate to another person in this way. Use a counselor to help integrate family configuration changes.

With this said, each of these points can also apply to surviving mothers in the wake of the loss of a husband and father. As a single father, your core attribute must evolve as nurturance, that skill we most often associate with mothers. However, all human beings can express and develop this capacity without sacrificing qualities that define one’s personality. The most capable caregivers will offer nurturance, structure, emotional safety, as well as other nurturing resources and relationships. We want to teach our children that life has irreplaceable losses, but there are others who can be counted on to uplift, protect and care. As you practice more comprehensive care of your children, you may notice healing changes within yourself over time.