My son was 7 years old when his biological father passed away from suicide. About a month after his dad’s death, I found Kaden very distressed, crying alone in his bedroom. I instantly bent down to his level, trying to get him to talk about what had him so upset. I was determined to fix whatever it was that had him so heartbroken.
“Mom, first we had your birthday party (Dec 11), then Daddy disappeared (Dec 13), then Daddy died (Dec 16), then we had his funeral (Dec 20), then we had Christmas (Dec 25), then my birthday (Dec 28), then that thing you call New Year’s (Jan 1), and now the Super Bowl (Jan 26)!”
I will never forget this conversation with my child. Every day after Tommy’s death seemed to bring about another painful memory of our loss. Tommy and Kaden were football buddies, and Super Bowl parties were a big deal in our home. Kaden was so distraught over facing another day without his dad that he refused to come out of his room. For the first time since his father’s death, my child was absolutely inconsolable with grief.
Confront me with a problem and I will instantly go to work finding a solution. It’s in my nature to try and fix everything and everyone around me. This day I learned a very difficult lesson; I can’t solve other people’s problems. I had no choice but to acknowledge the fact that the best help I could offer my son was to teach him how to help himself.
In order for Kaden to get through this adversity, he was going to have to confront his grief and find a way to make the best out of each day. My job was not to fix him, but to teach him how to deal with tragedy head on. Hiding in his room was not a solution. Instead, I told him to think about it, find a better solution, and come to me to help him make it happen.
I will never forget looking at those puffy, red, 7-year-old eyes as he walked into my kitchen, “All I want is to be with Daddy. Since I can’t, can I be with his friends back in Fort Worth? That’s where Daddy would be if he were here.”
We put on our football gear, we drove 300 miles to join the party, we sat front and center, we ate tons of food, and everyone there had a miserable time. We didn’t stay at home, we didn’t hide under the covers, we didn’t complain about not getting to be with Tommy. Instead, we were grateful to spend the day with those people who were still in our lives. My son taught himself a very valuable lesson that day. Although things weren’t ideal, he chose to find the best action to ease his suffering.
To this day, nothing gets in this kid’s way. Not my moving and forcing him to leave his friends and family, not my remarrying and turning his life upside down once again, not my having another child and forcing him to change bedrooms, nothing. He is amazing at solving his own problems and making the best out of bad situations. He is the most independent and successful child I know. He sees his goals and he knows his actions alone are what will ultimately get him to where he wants to go.
I know how hard it is to be the “bad guy” and let people solve their own problems. Let me encourage you to try to keep in mind that pain is the door that carries each of us to a new life. We can’t be carried through the door if we are going to learn to stand on our own. Strong people are the ones who have been forced to walk.
Kerie Boshka 2012