How do you know when you're doing the right thing?

(12 Posts)
henrysmate Tue 10-May-11 22:17:57

Today one of our boys (not my birth kids, long story, but they're ours) broke down, I mean properly, utterly dissolved over the death of his Mum. I've been with him since the very moment she died and I'd never seen him like this till today. Whatever set him off happened this morning at school, my OH picked him up and brought him home, called me and we met there.

This bit probably sounds totally stupid to you proper parents, but we didn't know what the hell to do. He's such a wonderful kid and we're such total amateurs, it's not fair on him. Neither of us had any experience of parenting until . My OH and I cuddled him and tried to console him but he wasn't just upset, he was angry too and with good cause, it's just shit that he's having to go through this. He started to shout and scream at us and say things I know he didn't mean. My OH's idea was to go out, to go surfing because he said the little guy needed to connect with something bigger than himself. So we let him calm down and persuaded him to come out with us.

After a couple hours of being out, we could finally talk. We're not religious people, so we can't talk to him about God, but we tried to explain to him that people are kind of like the waves, they come and they go but we're all part of the ocean. We're trying to teach him that death is part of life, I guess. It's completely crap that we have to do this with such a little one I know, but it's part of his little life now.

Now I'm wondering, did we do the right thing? What would you have done?

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shabbapinkfrog Tue 10-May-11 22:25:42

Cuddles, stability, routine, a place to shout, talk, cry and most important, in my and utter honesty. Kids pick up on fibs straight away no matter how small or insignificant we think they are. Maybe a book he can write in when he wants to put down his feelings. It sounds like you are doing all the right things to me.

How old is he? My DS1 went to see a psychiatrist when he was about 10 following the death of his twin brother (at the age of 7 months) and the death of his 7 year old brother. She encouraged him to draw how he was feeling. It was the very best thing we ever did for our son.

I think the main rule is total and utter honesty xxx

Keep up the good work xx

shabbapinkfrog Tue 10-May-11 22:27:12

Meant to also say you are his parents - you obviously love him, you are caring for him - that to me equals parents x

henrysmate Tue 10-May-11 22:36:18

Thanks shabbapf, we're trying really hard to do the routine and stable thing, so much so that we' were beating ourselves up ror taking him out of school at one point tonight. Sorry, should have said, he's 8. I'm his aunt, so I suppose that explains my reluctance to call myself a parent, my sister is his proper Mum. I really like the book idea though, we have a chart in the kitchen with faces on for each of us that show our mood, is that similar that do you think? How often does your son draw in his book?

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Carrotsandcelery Tue 10-May-11 22:46:33

henry I am so sorry for your loss. This must be very difficult for you as you will be grieving as well as your boy.

You are his aunt but also his parent now by the sound of things. Acknowledging that with him will make you both feel more secure in your new circumstances.

It sounds like you are doing a great job and handled his distress today in a really positive and supportive way.

shabba gives good advice about allowing him to express himself. This can be in pictures, writing, physical activity, meditation...all sorts of ways. He may like a few or find one that really helps.

Many young boys find emotional relief when they can be very physical so your dh's suggestion of surfing was an excellent one. Is he a very sporty wee boy? Lots of exercise may help him a great deal.

Can I, again, express my sorrow for you all and wish you lots of happiness in your new family unit.

shabbapinkfrog Tue 10-May-11 22:56:36

My son is all grown up now - he will be 30 at the end of this year. He would draw or write in his book whenever he felt the need to. Today it is 19 years since his little brother was killed in a road accident and we have just had a conversation on Facebook about it smile He is now a Daddy himself and he says it has hit him very hard on this anniversary - he looks at his almost 3 year old son and realises how fragile life can be. I think the chart you have sounds a very similar idea. We would sometimes write in his book how we were feeling and then he would answer us...we had long conversations in the book. Sometimes it is too sad or hard to actually sit down and have a conversation. We also made a 'treasure box' full of reminders of his brothers. I still look into the treasure box even after all these years. xxx

henrysmate Tue 10-May-11 23:19:20

[carrots] Thanks, we do say to them we're thier parents now, but I still stumble on the words for our relationship outside of us if that makes sense. He is a very sporty little thing yes and he's been out surfing with the OH before, they all have. I'm taking my OH's lead here on so many things now, I'm so out of my depth and his instincts are good. We went out into deep water today for the first time, the wee one on a long board with the OH and me alongside. We saw some seals and the little guy stood up for the first time on a big wave, it was a good day in the end. He ate well and has been fast asleep for hours. I know it's not the end of it, but I hope we were honest with him about what our thoughts on death are and I'm hoping he understood what we mean and it helps somehow.
Do you ever stop questioning if you've done the right thing?
[shabba] Oh my heart goes out to you, I'm so sorry for your losses, they're terrible in themselves but anniversaries are hard too aren't they? Thanks so much for your insights xx

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henrysmate Tue 10-May-11 23:20:20

oh dear. looks like someone needs a lesson in tags... sorry.

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exexpat Tue 10-May-11 23:26:42

I think you did just the right thing - if it's any comfort, 'real' parents in that situation usually don't have a clue what the best thing to do is either.

I have two DCs, and DH died more than four years ago. We don't often get complete grief-meltdowns any more, but when we have in the past, there is nothing I can do except cuddle them and talk to them about their dad. I'm also not religious, so can't offer that as a source of comfort. I think anyone would be out of their depth in this kind of situation, so it sounds to me like you are doing brilliantly.

EggyAllenPoe Tue 10-May-11 23:38:10

agree exexpT- i don't really know what to do for my daughter, apart from keep it normal and truthful, and not ignore her questions.

my Mum saw a child die as a tiny kid and just wished she'd had an explanation of what happened as it was very frightening without. So explanations will be given...

I don't have a feeling of being in the right direction yet, but it isn't the wrong one. Can you relate to that?

henrysmate Wed 11-May-11 17:43:05

Thanks exex, that does help, I'm so out of my depth so much of the time it's kind of encouraging to know that other people are too sometimes.

Eggy, yes, I can relate to that, it's how I feel but my big over-riding worry now is that I'm doing something now that will damage them in years to come. I wish kids came with instruction manuals on how not to screw them up confused.

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Vev Wed 11-May-11 19:02:59

You sound like you're doing a brilliant job with the boys. It must be so hard for you emotionally, losing your sister and seeing her boys miss her so much.

You and your OH sound so together - at least you let him grieve for his mum which is a natural process, and in the long run will help him get through the grieving process. He'll never, ever forget his mum as long as he's got an aunty like you. Awww, he's still only a little boy. smile

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