The days are long and the years are short. That’s what they say about children and parenting, right? The two little boys that I gave birth to years ago are now on the edge of becoming pre-teens. In fact, one is ten and completely in his pre-teenage days. Source: his attitude and rolling eyes.
They’re amazing little boys, full of laughter and wrestling moves. They fight with each other and pick on each other. They drive me crazy and then make me feel like wrapping them up in snuggles at the end of the day. They still ask for bedtime stories and they still ask for hugs. I still call them my babies and I still hold their hands when crossing the street at times. They’re both grown and little all at the same time.
They were four and two-years-old when their father died by suicide. They slept in late that day (thank goodness) and would eventually be escorted out of the house, blankets covering their heads so that they wouldn’t bear witness to the gruesome scene sitting in the car outside: their father.
I had found my husband early that dreadful day and while I called 9-1-1, I didn’t think to close the door to the house nor listen out for curious children. It’s amazing that they slept as late as they did and even more miraculous that they didn’t wander downstairs until after people had arrived and they could be tended to by friends while the police did what they needed to do.
Either way, time has passed since that day. It has left the boys aching for a father and their father. My eight-year-old was more concerned about having a dad, period. He doesn’t actually remember his father, but did yearn for a father-figure. He was jealous of the children at school who could speak highly of their own dads. My ten-year-old has a few concrete memories of his father. He both missed having a father-figure and misses having his own dad next to him. He has the more complicated issues regarding grief out of the two of them.
Enter my current fiancee. He’s the one in the photo between the boys. He’s teaching them about his love of hiking and biking. He takes my oldest to mile long bike rides with him. He encourages both of them to push past their fears at the amusement park.
The boys love him.
Even so, they miss their father and I know that one day the words, “You’re not my dad!” will be spat out venomously when my fiancee tries to discipline them.
What complicates this further is the birth of their half-sister. She came in a whirlwind of a labor and delivery. She was caught in the hands of her father in the comfort of our bed. A midwife sat next to us, watching carefully. It was lovely.
The boys were ecstatic. They were smitten. Our family had grown again, this time in a way that joined us by blood. She is the ruling princess in this house.
Her laugh and smiles are coveted. Both boys proclaim to be the better brother.
Still, there’s a bit of jealousy that I knew would exist. My oldest was the first to put it into words.
“She’s always going to know her dad. He’s never going to leave her.”
And that is where the problem lies. Suicide seems to be an act of abandonment. I have explained that suicide is an irrational choice made by a broken mind most of the time. Their father was depressed and did not take his own life because of us. Trying to attach a rational explanation to an irrational action is what leads so many down frustrating roads.
I try to explain mental health, mental illness, suicide, and everything that is related to my children, but these are tough topics and my boys are young. They can only understand so much and they wrestle with the topics.
I did explain, however, that their sister most likely will love hearing about their own father. They are looking forward to the day that they can share what their father meant to them.
“I can’t wait to show her pictures and tell her all our stories!”
And I’m very curious to see if this addition to our family, while causing new growth, new reflection, and new issues, will also be another step towards healing. After a loss, especially one by suicide, it’s hard to think that love will ever enter the picture again. It’s hard to picture a new normal. It’s hard to imagine moving past the grief. But it happens. Love seeps in; love grows. And suddenly your heart, while scarred, is fuller.