My Ex-wife died today need help to explain to children.(61 Posts)
Long story short and not trying to drip feed.
Got married and had 2 children DS 15 and DD11.
Due to ex's mental health problems which became apparant after DD was born she had to be sectioned for long periods of time. After spending a couple years in hospitals, she started to get better but had met someone else and decided she wanted a divorce.
So for the last 10 years the kids have lived with me. Even through the divorce we got on well, after the divorce there wasn't any major problems we always managed to work around each other so the kids could see her, we did have a few moments but they didn't last more than a week.
Fast forward to this week. Massive heart attack mid-week, never regained consiousness, died today she was only 41.
Kids don't know yet will be telling them tomorrow, not trying to sound like its all about me, it's my birthday tomorrow so it will be forever linked to their mum's death.
Still feel numb.
How's it going, zombies? Keep in touch when you can.
Gosh, zombies. Very hard yards for you and yours. I wish you more and more of the strength you've shown.
All very best.
Thanks to everyone.
Update had the funeral, I lost my job 4 days later ( to be honest it was a relief) Kids have their moments obviously. Just found out it was not natural circumstances she took her own life. So far 2013 has been pretty rubbish.
That doesn't change either it's just so sad.
I make a conscious effort to mention dd's dad as often as possible.
I sometimes say to dd, "gosh you just looked like your dad then" or I will talk to her about when she was a baby and little anecdotes about her dad. She seems to love it.
thornrose-- totally agree being a lone parent is one thing, being the ONLY parent is something else.
It is bizarre because you think ' oh I must tell them about this/that etc' then you realize that they are not there.
I know that feeling. My x died 3years ago last March, I really struggle with the fact that he has gone for ever. I always say, being a lone parent is one thing, being the ONLY parent is something else!
I still worry about dd, It's very hard to work out if her grieving is "normal"!
She was 10 when her dad died, what's normal about that?
Kids ok, they have their moments as expected.
Funeral soon, taken time due to inquest etc.
Personally still find it strange I won't speak to her again. I know we have been divorced for years but we still spoke to each other at least once a week.
Thanks to everyone for their thoughts, opinions and condolences.
Just to let you know that you remain in my thoughts despite my own predicament (see other threads) and trust that you find the strength to deal with the loss of your ex for whom you clearly continued to have strong feelings despite her difficulties.
I hope everything has gone as well as it could have. You're in our thoughts
Zombie, I hope you are all ok. You have had some great advice, I have nothing else to add but best wishes.
ThornRose That is just devastating. Am so so sorry for your and your DD's loss
Zombie - again in haste so apols any typos or anything that doesn't make sense but just trying whack it all down quickly so you have if any of it useful (& suspect it may be - ESP. the stuff re allowing DC's decide on funeral stuff).
This is site I - thank God - stumbled across and referenced above.
This is the short film - Beyond Goodbye - that then saw on there and which helped me suddenly realise that doing my Mumma's funeral in a more personal way, and with us - and critically, DC's - involved, would help them as we tried to get through all
Youngest DS (11) read 'Do not stand at my grave and weep'; middle DS(17) picked THE most beautiful poem himself - which was also along lines of looking forward/that that person is never truly gone to anyone who loved them - and read that. Youngest also stuck the butterflies on to his Nanny's Order of Service on morning of funeral with my niece. All had helium balloons with Nanny on (Mumma for me and my sister) which we released after service before crossed road to venue for after service which was LADEN with stuff Mumma/Nanny would have wanted, and where all DS's genuinely had a good time (mad though that sounds).
Eldest DS(21) played and sang this UTTERLY beautiful 'gift' to her at her funeral - I had service very discretely filmed by one of my cameraman in order that the boys, THEIR children, who they of course realised would never meet Nanny, could look back at Nanny's day - including the 'do' after which was much more upbeat - and also as day goes in a haze and I SO did not want them to 'regret' anything they couldn't remember, (ESP. as service was so bespoke via them & me/sis). Hence HAVE above - just BEAUTIFUL - recording of eldest playing which has proved invaluable in SO many ways. Was fortunate in that COULD have/did know professional cameraman with proper camera so he could be tucked right out of view at back of church but could zoom properly to ensure 'caught' all. Know others may not like idea of filming a funeral, but to us it made sense and am BEYOND glad we did it so PM if want details.
ALL of them had input into the fundraising page set up as HER final and VERY positive legacy to others we set up to to help others (as wouldn't/hasn't 'just' helped others, but has helped them ENORMOUSLY as every day they look at it, see how far it has got towards total, and read the lovely comments. They have been ESP helped/touched by the smaller and anonymous contributions (many of which I know are from awesome MN'ers, so suspect same will happen for them if you decide to do it) as it helps them see:
i) some good for others can come out of something so very shit for them;
ii) reminds them that 'good' exists - something very easily just 'lost' to DCs in that position.
Cannot over-emphasise enough how them being involved in funeral plans; having a 'voice' in all that; and the page above has helped them.
WISH could undo what has happened to your DCs - guessing esp. since all mine/my DS's still so fresh - but given no-one can do that; all can offer is the above and what I had to (so bloody quickly and when least equipped, as you prob are right now) to try and help them as much as possible. Hope even some of the above is of use x
My dd's dad died 3 years ago, on Mothers Day, he was my x. I will never forget telling my dd her dad had died. It was a total shock, he died of an aneurysm
She screamed, I cried and we hugged and cried for hours. It was my loss and hers, she'd lost her dad I'd lost the father of my child. It was heartbreaking.
I chose for dd not to see her dad at the funeral and to attend the church service but not the graveside, but that's just my opinion.
My dd has been terrified something will happen to me ever since. She now knows categorically that parents can die. It's rocked her whole world, she no longer feels safe.
Thinking of you today but only just managed to get to PC. I hope you have managed to have the conversation with your children. It's OK for you to cry too. Children understand tears. They won't be surprised if you can't be as strong as you may have wanted to be. Be easy on yourself. Accept all offers of help at this time.
I have told my children twice about grandparents deaths when they were younger, not to be compared with your situation in any way, but I have dealt with breaking news. I have DD 11yrs old & 13yrs old who I am bringing up on my own following divorce, so I can well empathise.
Sorry, was typing at speed.
Re: 'Best options NOW are to allow them to have as much a part as possible in both 'choosing' her funeral and taking part in it if they want to (& do NOT let anyone of 'older' generation 'persuade you differently); and equally, let them not it they don't want to.' Last bit was 'IF' they don't want to, not 'is'.
Zombie WISH had seen this yesterday as may have been of more use, but will post now anyway as - assuming you have told them today - there is still lots yet to do and which may help them. Will try to be succinct, but can't not start by offering the hugest of condolences and sympathy, not just for your DC's but also for you as you are unquestionably in for a very rocky road.
My Mother died 4 weeks ago tomorrow; aside from my own feelings as losing her, also had (still have, obv) DC's who lost their really beloved Nanny to try and take care of (mean in psychological sense; bereavement sense; as well as all other obvious ways). So here is my best advice:
1: With a DS of 15 and DD of 11, they will both likely react very differently - not just as point told, but also subsequently. Agree with ALL who have pointed you to Winston's Wishes and if you haven't been able to go to their site today, PLEASE do asap tomm or get a trusted family member or friend to do it for you so that you DO have benefit of WW guidance.
2: Here are the relevant CRUSE pages (have literally just cut/pasted them from mail to school, so apols if not in 'right' order).
www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk/CYPPerspective.html - General advice for schools when a pupil is bereaved.
www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk/SchoolsRefusal.html - School refusal
www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk/CYPAdolescent.html - for your 15 year old.
3: Won't waste your time/space here by recounting all my experiences/learnings from past cpl months (my Mumma was terminally ill so knew she was going before she did then die), will just try and bullet most useful:
- Vis initial reactions, 15 year son will almost certainly be profoundly angry (see CRUSE thing above); 11 year old daughter will almost certainly just be be bereft (how big a part in their lives was their Mother, as that too will have an effect on impact on all?).
- Strongly advise you do NOT lie to them (other than the - even if not true - that she died pain-free, as THAT is something they will go over and over in their heads and be beyond upset by). Re ALL else, there is no other safe/healthy option in L/Term but to just be very honest with them. Ergo, if you have 'fudged' stuff today, would really suggest correct it tomorrow and in context of you were simply trying to do the 'right' thing in innately wanting to protect them, but realise that they do need to know the truth.
- Re not seeing her before died - even if wired up to machines and distressing - you can't undo this now (& I KNOW how hard it is to have to make quick decisions when in such utter shock - if search my posts, will become clearer but without taking up space here); but they should have had the choice and been told (am so NOT criticising you here, just passing on all I do now - sadly - know).
- Honesty - however painful - is the ONLY 'right' thing you can do. So if you think you fucked up by NOT telling them, then simply explain that fact, along with the shock you were in and the 'advice' from the hospital you got at time.
- Best options NOW are to allow them to have as much a part as possible in both 'choosing' her funeral and taking part in it if they want to (& do NOT let anyone of 'older' generation 'persuade you differently); and equally, let them not it they don't want to. [look at my profile as only pics on there are those pertaining to my Mumma's funeral - to & for the AWESOME MN'ers who helped me so much - and the really personal/'her' things we did for her funeral that helped my DS's HUGELY.
- I wouldn't suggest a 'delayed' 'celebrating' birthday from today to tomorrow, as they will not be in place to celebrate anything (& may, esp DS, be in a very angry place anyway). Would suggest that you 'frame' it differently at some subsequent point, IE "don't think of my birthday next year as sad; it's still my birthday but will also be the day we look back at Mum and remember her as she would want you to". Can combine that thought/framing with help from Winstons Wishes who should be able to help them not just now, but with summer camp weeks solely for people (think sometimes people 'forget' DCs are people too IYKWIM?) in their position - and those WILL be the ONLY other people they can relate to. Is combo of fun stuff; talking about lost parent stuff; remembering that parent (by Memory Box, communal balloon's up to sky; letter written 'to' that lost parent).
Also be aware that they may not want to talk to you about how feeling (for variety of reasons) so PLEASE don't take that personally but DO have a standby list of people you know and trust, and who they know and care for and trust. VITALLY, they will (ESP 11year old) - even if not expressing it - be scared may lose you now that mortality has walloped them in face. Without being uber overt about it, try to weave into conversations that they don't need to be - IE in explaining how desperately sad and unusual it is that their Mummy has died so young; by booking a holiday for ages away (IE stuff that simply per se tells them YOU WILL be around, but without shoving blunt conversations about that in when they may not be up to dealing with it, but simultaneously WILL need to be reassured that you are not 'going to go too".
Just realised how long this is. Apols, but having both just lost MY Mum (though obviously older than them so very different) AND having to deal with DC's grief (albeit for a grandmother rather than their Mother), am very acutely aware of all/both sets of feelings and issues.
Wish you all so much love and strength and would be doing you a massive disservice if said you won't need both. Un-MN'y hugs Zombie xxx
zombie, I am thinking of you all today and I am hoping that you have been able to have that difficult conversation with your children.
All we can ever do as parents is the best we can, so look forward and to what you can do to make living without their mum more bearable for them.
And yes, do not NOT mention her - your children are old enough to remember her for the rest of their lives, she was a real presence in their lives - troubled or not.
Much strength for today, the coming weeks and the future x.
Very to hear of your loss, and your children's loss, zombies.
I think that it was probably right that they didn't see their mum in ICU; it's not a pleasant thing to see your mum with tubes and ventilators coming out of her, and if she was unresponsive and "not her", then it might have traumatised them more. It's a hard call; but do let them see her in the funeral parlour if they want to, they can say good bye there. It's unlikely she would have heard them while she was in ICU anyway from what you've said.
I assume you've told them by now? How are they taking it? I second Winston's Wish - there is a section of that site where children/teens can talk to each other, without adult interference - that might be helpful for them.
Also see if their school(s) have a school counsellor - they might benefit from having a chat, and the school(s) will need to be informed anyway.
Another vote for Winstons Wish. They are amazing. My husband died when my son was two days before his fifth birthday and I always find that time of year difficult. Sending you hugs (((()))) x
Very sorry for your loss, OP, and for your children's loss in particular. You and your ex worked well together to provide the best environment for your dc and that will stand you in good stead now.
This will be a terrible day. You just have to get through it.
I'm not sure anyone upthread has mentioned Winston's Wish - it's worth a look.
I wanted you to know I am thinking of you all this morning. Please be kind to yourself, you are doing and have done the best you can in really extraordinary circumstances. God Bless you all x
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