September 21st used to be the most horrible day of the year for me. Ex died 10 years ago. I have always said every year it gets easier. It’s still true. This year just wasn’t a big deal.
Little Guy and I went through a family grief support group this summer. He has been to a several weekend camps for kids who have lost an immediate family member. I had never experienced a group therapy setting. I went to counseling during the year after Ex died. It was by myself and infrequent.
With the help of a trained professional, I was able to tell Little Guy his dad died by suicide. Finally! We were both relieved. I had evaded the question and left things vague until the end of May this year. When Ex died, the counselor I saw said that I didn’t need to tell him then. He was only 4. She advised that I give him little bits of information over the years. Since he was so young, he ran the chance of forgetting all about his dad, too. That didn’t happen.
I had always intended to tell him with a counselor present who could help us both through it. She prompted Little Guy about the feelings that came up for him with every new detail and encouraged his questions. We had a really good talk, and it’s still hard for me to talk about the day it happened and what I believe led to it.
Little Guy’s first question was “Why?” Sorry buddy, the note Ex left was not helpful. I shared my theories. The second question was, “Did he do it with the chainsaw?” I thought this was hilarious! He asked it seriously. But no, he didn’t. He didn’t ask that day how his dad killed himself. That came up later in the summer during therapy.
Little Guy and I had some great discussions, often late at night, in the dark on the couch or in his room. And some heartbreak for him too. At first he didn’t want to believe that his dad died by suicide and that it was an accident. I had to reassure him that no, it wasn’t an accident. That sounds weird to reassure Little Guy of the truth in this case. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
The first few weeks after I told Little Guy brought up the most questions and feelings It got better after that. We were a couple weeks into the group counseling, so I had some tools to help him through it this time! Yes! And myself! Double yes!
Little Guy also told me that he had blamed me for the divorce. I still need to talk more with him about this. I’ve gone the route of it was a mutual break, and it was. Of course, there’s more to it, and I want to explain little bits at a time. Be honest, gently honest.
Anyway, Little Guy had a pretty easy time through his counseling sessions. The kids were separated into small groups by age, and all the adults (all moms this session) went together in a room for counseling weekly for ten weeks. He related to a lot of the other kids, who had gone through much more recent losses by suicide. Since it wasn’t as fresh, he didn’t remember a whole lot from when his dad died. I still remembered a lot and cried at some point during every week’s meeting. Sessions stirred up memories in a healthy way and let me release some of the burden by sharing parts of my story with the group.
I dreaded this year’s anniversary. I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be harder after going through group counseling? Easier? I also knew that I had a high chance of having to work that day, a Saturday this year. I was right. Since I was still dealing with extreme back pain, I was tracking my medication and remembered the anniversary when I wrote down the date that morning. If I hadn’t done that, I don’t know how long it would have taken me to notice and remember. Probably would have been at work filling out a form. Woof! I’m glad I remembered at home before I had to face the public. I had my whole drive to face grief and put it to the side when I got to work. I kind of forgot about it the rest of the day. Snippets here and there. It was pretty easy.
I hope that I gave hope to the other moms in my group that it does get better and being a full-time single mom becomes normal and less hard as time goes by. I struggle more with physical pain now than emotional. That’s also getting better.