Death of Son's Father

Updated on December 15, 2008
C.G. asks from South Bend, IN
32 answers

First of all this is very hard for me to talk about. But I was recently divorced from my husband of four years in October. I have been with him since 1995. On Thanksgiving he passed away leaving myself, our 8 yr son and 6 other children. I know that it is bothering my son more than what he tells me. He won't really talk about it just says he misses him. I sent him to school yesterday and he had kind of a hard day. Some kids teased him but the teachers took care of it and let him call me. Today he is back at school and I am at work (because they won't give grivence time to me). Before anyone says anythng negative about him going to school so early let me please explain why. He is 8 and understands what is going on as well as an 8 year old can. His daddy as always wanted him to do good in school and always talked to him about school. He wouldn't want him to miss school. The other reason I sent him to school is so he has something to keep him busy instead of sitting and thinking about what happened. He did good yesterday just has a hard time at the beginning. My question is how to I make sure that he doesn't keep his emotions inside and talks about how he feels so that he doesn't turn to aggrestion, fighting or bad behavior to deal with his daddy's death? I am so worried about him and so sad that my baby has to grow up now without his daddy. Please if anyone has any advise please pass it on.

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M.W.

answers from Cleveland on

I would make an appointment for him to talk to a counselor. I think we've reached a point where the stigma of seeing mental health professionals is fading, and people understand that in difficult situations like these, a professional can really help.

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M.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

Kids adjust very well. It could be that when you got divorced he got used to the idea of his Dad not being around. Now that his is gone, it may take a while for your son to really miss him. Your son is young enough that he will tell you when he is sad.
Do you have to care for the other 6 children? If so, that could be a factor. It could also keep his mind off of thinking about his Dad.
I think you did the right thing by sending him to school and going back to work.
God bless you.

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S.B.

answers from Elkhart on

From someone who has never been through the death of a parent, I don't know how valuable my advice might be.
My brother passed away in March and he was also my 10 yr olds favorite uncle. My son was very angry over his death!
I got a picture frame and had a photo of my brother printed and set it on my son's desk. I also got him a blank journal and told him that was for him to write how he is feeling in. That it's his own personal stuff and that I would never read it what he writes in it is his business.
The picutre is his prized possession now...the journal has faded..The only think I can say is..you never get over it, you just get use to it..time does go by so quickly. Before you know it you will no longer be counting the days and weeks that dad has been gone.you just adjust to life as you know it without even realizing it.
Just keep and eye on your son an keep talking to him so he knows it's ok to be sad, scared and mad. And maybe he school councler could even talk to him.
My heart goes out to you.
S.

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V.G.

answers from Toledo on

C., I first of all want to say I am sorry for your lost. I think it would be wise to get your son in some counseling. Either at school or someone out of school. I just want to let you know that I lost my mother this past April and my daughter was super very close to her and she is 11yrs old and is having a hard time dealing with her passing just as I am. And I spoke with the guidance counselor and explain to her what my daughter has been going thru and they are working with my daughter once a week. And maybe you should seek talking to someone too so you can help your own self plus be there for your son at the same time. I am also talking to a therapist myself. So that way my daughter doesn't feel like she is the only one getting help. Good Luck to you and your family. V.

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M.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your ex-husband...I know it must be hard for you & your son. My suggestion will be to get him to talk & express what he is feeling. Try to tell him the consequences of holding pain in vs letting it out. I know it tough for him right now. But lt him know that when he is ready to talk you are there to listen. It may happen overtime. If this does not work you may want to seek professional counseling. I will definitely keep you & your family in prayers & happy holidays.

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D.K.

answers from Indianapolis on

TALK ABOUT IT!!! TALK ABOUT IT!!! TALK ABOUT IT! Tell him it's OKAY to be angry, it's OKAY to be sad, it's OKAY to feel abandoned, hurt and all the other stuff that goes with it.

I lost a fiance' when I was 25. He was from New York and I was from Indiana. They did not go to the funeral and told me when I returned that I just needed to move on and that no one wanted to hear about it. WORST ADVISE I EVER GOT!!! It took me 13 years to BEGIN to deal with it. I had some health issues as a result of not talking about it, too!

EVERYTHING I did was an effort to stay busy or make the hurt go away. It NEVER did until I FINALLY admitted myself to a mental health care facility! I had never been allowed to grieve. BEST thing I ever did for myself but also one of the scariest.

YOU HAVE To talk about it. Best thing to do.....talk about all the GOOD STUFF. Make a scrapbook together and/or photo album but do something together and constructive to make him REMEMBER ALL THE GOOD STUFF. Ask him about his favorite memories of his dad, etc. Rememeber the time..........etc. Those are healing words to a broken heart! Trust me! I know!

I only wish I'd had someone wise enough to see that back then!

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K.H.

answers from Cleveland on

ok, this is the first time I've ever felt the need to respond to anyone. First of all, I'd like to tell you how sorry I am for your recent loss. Now matter what, that has to be so hard for you both.
I wanted to address your worry about sending your son to school to soon by telling you about my experience at the age of 13 --- which is a bit older, but I think in principle it is close.....
On December 21st, 1970, my family lost my two oldest sisters, and their future grandson in a car accident. Once the Christmas break was over, my parents sent us to school. I can still remember walking in to my classroom on that day, all the kids just stared at me - they had no idea what I was going thru, they just knew from hearing their parents talk about it that it was something awful. I grew up in a very small town, so everyone knew everyone. Needless to say, my stomach "bothered" me and I came home early that day. My Mom sent me the next day and I made it thru the day. I think my parents were in so much pain I am not sure how they got up everyday, but they did, and they didn't let us lay down and not live. They never let us use our loss as an excuse to be less then we were. They started treating us the same from day one. I think it was the best thing they could have done.
On the talking about it subject...my older sister (there were 5 of us) never spoke about our sisters, neither did my father, but I did, and my Mom did. For me it was the best way to get thru it, but for my older sister it wasn't. I guess what I am trying to say, is that everyone handles it differently. My older sister grew up to be a very successful person, on the way she played basketball --- getting one of the first women's scholorships to Akron U....she took her upset and used it to drive herself, and it worked. She used her grief(sp?)and turned it into aggression on the court -- for a small woman she packed a heck of a punch! So maybe try to get your son involved in a sport so that he can use his aggression the right way, or in anything that he likes so that he has an outlet and something to keep his mind off of things.
There is no perfect way to handle this awful situation, but I am sure you are a great mother, just go with your feelings, love your son the best you can, but don't let him - or yourself-use this as an excuse to not be something great.

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A.H.

answers from Indianapolis on

I'm so sorry for your loss. I had a friend a few years back who had to go thru the same thing. Her son was just a couple of years younger than yours. She ended up having him go to an actual counseling group for children who lose their parents to death. I'm almost positive it was called "Caterpillars" or something along that line. You may call a local area hospital and see if perhaps a social worker would have information on such a group in your area. I think that the counseling helped him. He even went away to a little summer camp for the group, if I remember correctly. It just got him in with people that truly understood what he was going thru. I wish you luck in helping your son and strength to get thru the holidays ahead.

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J.L.

answers from Columbus on

Hello C.,

I'm sorry for your loss and your son's loss. My exhusband/son's father passed away last winter. It's very hard.

There are some groups around columbus that help kids deal with the loss, so I bet there are some in your area too. You might want to call local hospitals and hospices to see if they have any suggestions.

The hardest part that I found was to deal with the transition of how I had to view the ex. Even if you and the ex didn't get along, there still was something that made you get with him in the first place. After my ex died, it was hard to put away all of the negativity and start saying good things about him, but for your son make sure he knows the little things that made his dad special. After almost a year, I'm now saying, "Oh, your dad used to do that" and telling stories about our misadventures so that my son will always know his dad in some sense.

Of course, there's the fact that some kids deal with it in different ways. My son didn't express much emotion about it, but that doesn't mean that he kept things bottled up-- it's just how he dealt with the shock. For about 6 months afterward, he was very touchy when playing with his friends and wanted to be alone sometimes. I gave him the space to do so, and gave him hugs and listened, without being pushy about him sharing his feelings.

Be sure to get a hold of social security. Your son is entitled to your ex husband's social security money, and it's a real help.

Good luck and be sure to take care of your emotions as well as those of your son.

J.

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M.H.

answers from Lafayette on

I'm so very sorry for your loss. You are doing a wonderful job. Let him talk about this at his own pace though. Don't be afraid to mention what you miss or what you remember but don't force him to talk if he isn't ready. My granddaughter passed away Christmas day 4 years ago. It took a year for my daughter to be able to talk about it and 3 years for my son in law. Just let him know that ALL of his feelings are normal and you will be there to listen whenever he needs you. The holidays will be especially hard but it does get easier. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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A.P.

answers from Cleveland on

I am not exactly in your shoes, but 3 years ago our daughter passed away at 75 days of age, our son was 3. nearly 2 years ago my husband had 2 open-heart surgeries, our son not only faced losing his sister, he was facing losing his daddy. Please get your son into counceling, there are programs that wont charge you, your Church, Catholic Charities, I was blessed to have insurance at the time, took hin to a child phycologist, your son is going ( probably) to have seperation anxieties, worry about you continually, you did the right thing by sending him back to school, your son is much older than mine when this happened, but I spent months sitting in his classroom, he was afraid to be away from me. Please give your son more hugs than usual, get him into counceling, the school councelor is fine, a great place to start. Tlak abour Dad as much as he feels comfortable. What we did when our daughter passed, remember, our son was only 3, we kept going through pictures, would you like to put this pic up? ect. You son is older, but it helps to give him a choice. Please email anytime at [email protected]____.com if you would like to talk.My prayers are with you. A.

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D.G.

answers from Columbus on

You are very right getting him back to his normal schedule , how ever you may want to have him see a grief councelor for a few times.The boy is probably angry that his father passed away. You might buy him a journal to write down what he is feeling and why he feels this way. A death in any family is a disaster to any child that understands anything about death. I lost my Grandfather just 5 years ago he was 98 years old and still on Sundays I start to pick up the phone and call him, then I realise he is not there.Tell him it is okay to cry and let him show his feelings. Good luck with your son .
Please except my condolances all of our lifes are so short and we don't realise it until it is too late.
Debbie

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L.W.

answers from Bloomington on

First of all, I'm sorry for you loss. Second, you might consider trying to get someone inside the school or church that your son will feel comfortable talking to about things. Ask his teachers for help, and let him know that you are there when he is ready to talk.

Good luck!

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G.H.

answers from Columbus on

Hi C.,
My heart aches for you & your son. I lost my father at a young age suddenly too. What I remember is not really feeling anything for a while. I missed him, but I was kind of numb & so when people would ask me how I was, I'd say I was fine because I didn't know what else to say. I couldn't explain how I felt. However, I still wanted to talk about him because it helped but I didn't think anyone understood or wanted to talk about him. I knew my mom was having a hard time with it too and I didn't want to upset her so I kept a lot of it to myself. I wrote in a journal a lot and I wrote letters to my dad & would take them to the cemetery. All I can say is just be there for your son as much as possible. My brother was even younger than me when we lost my dad. He too went to school shortly after which was his way of getting it off his mind. We all deal with it in our own way. Be prepared for it to "hit" him out of the blue. Something will trigger a rush of emotions & he may get angry, or cry quite a bit. Reassure him that it's all ok and it DOES get easier. He will always love his dad but the pain does subside. I can't imagine how your heart hurts knowing your son will grow up without his dad. You may want to consider a counselor as well. That's a lot to deal with at such a young age. Take care of each other. I wish you both the best.

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D.D.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi there C., hate to hear the horrible news of the passing of your ex and more importantly your son's father. I have a neighbor who recently lost her husband and has three children which whom one of them is an eight or nine year old boy. She decided to go to a six week "class" at Akron Children's Hospital that they offer for greiving families who have lost an immediate family member. She was really starting to wonder if it was really benefiting her family on the third night of it, her son told her "mom thank you so much for taking us to these meetings, it has really helped me". They do these activities with the children to help them express their feelings and when they are involved in these group settings with other children it shows them first hand that they are not alone. I believe this is something you should look into. Good luck and God Bless you and your son. Take care!

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E.W.

answers from Cleveland on

Regardless of how you think he is handling things, you both need to be in counseling. In the Cleveland area there is Cornerstone of Hope. They offer free counseling. Maybe there is something in your area. The funeral director should have this information available. They also have support groups with other kids like him. You should also go through it to help support him and also for any feelings you are coping with. Please do this. I have several friends who lost their husbands and sometimes problems materialize later on when they are older. Check the internet and your local church too.

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J.C.

answers from Fort Wayne on

Is he close with any of the other children, his half brothers/sisters? I bet it would be great for all of them to be brought together, order pizzas for everyone, and have the parents sit down with them and ask if any of them has any questions. If they are quiet about it, then I'd say have the parents leave the kids to themselves and allow them to lean on each other. Even if they don't actually discuss anything about his death, they will know that they all understand exactly how each other feels, and they'd be able to find peace in that. As long as you're keeping the communication line open between you and your son, as in maybe telling him a story here and there about him and his father, I think you'll find that he'll adjust okay. It's going to be good for him to talk about his dad and remember things about him.

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L.J.

answers from Cincinnati on

Dear C.,
I would talk about the good times. Don't avoid convresations about him. If there are reminders of him, mention them to your son. Maybe you can even make a scapbook
of the memories of him so he always has something to look at when he misses him. You could do it together if he is ready or make one yourself for him. I hope this helps. L. J

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B.R.

answers from Indianapolis on

WEll, I feel bad for even responding because I don't have much advise. I just wanted to let you know not to let anyone make you feel bad for sending him back to school so quickly. You are right. If he sits around at home he'll do nothing but think about it. At school he has his friends and the ability to keep busy. Plus, I would think it would do more bad than good to put his life on hold. And you need to keep your job, especially in this economy. I am so sorry for your loss! My only advice is to talk about his daddy a lot. The more you ignore it the more he'll be afraid to talk. If you talk about it a lot he'll be more apt to want to talk too. Good luck to you!!

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M.Y.

answers from Dayton on

Good Morning C.,

I am so very sorry to hear about the loss or your ex-husband and your son's father. It is always hard to suffer a loss of a loved one. My mother passed away Feb. 07 and my daughter was 8 and it was really hard on her. We had really good luck with Pathways of Hope at Hospice, they have really great counselors for children there,you might try them. It was helpful for us as I went too. It is so helpful just to talk about the loss with those who loved the person and certainly acknowledge that you feel it too. I pray that you both heal, it just takes time.

M. Yeazel

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B.B.

answers from Indianapolis on

I'm so sorry to hear of the situation you and your family are in grieving over the loss.

A couple thoughts I had:
* Create a picture book of pictures of your son with his father - any pictures of all of you together, whatever. Just so he can browse through it and be able to remember his father and the good times you guys had.

* Let him have a journal that he can write in or some way to express his feelings. He can keep it to himself or share if/when he wants to.

* Create a "video memoir" of things you remember about your time together. He can do it with you or do his own. That way you can watch them whenever you want - and not worry about "forgetting everything".

Many prayers to you guys!

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K.S.

answers from Columbus on

Hi C.,
I'm very sorry for your loss. It sounds like it was very unexpected.
My oldest son, now 10, has had to deal with loss more than most kids his age. In the past four years, he has lost a baby brother, 2 great-grandparents, and his grandfather, all of whom he was very close to. It's been very hard on him. He was 6 when we lost his brother, and at the time I searched the library and found several good books geared towards children dealing with death and loss. I also spoke with the guidance counselor at his school, and she was able to spend some time with him, which helped alot. We also had him go to a child psychologist for a short time - turns out his biggest emotion was worry about me. I spoke to him often about how it was ok to be sad, and ok to cry, and also that it was ok to keep living, and laughing and enjoying life. Let him know that his feelings of sadness, anger (which he is most likely feeling) are normal, and that you are there if he ever wants to talk. Just knowing that you are willing to listen can make a huge difference.
Best wishes...

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L.C.

answers from Cincinnati on

I'm sorry to hear about your family's loss - we buried my grandfather the day after Thanksgiving.

Have you considered having him draw and then discuss what he's feeling? The passing of his father is a big thing to take in, a lot of emotions he may not know how to verbally express, so he's not saying a lot. However, the drawings might help him release his emotions and the discussions might teach him the language he needs to express those emotions.

*Hugs*

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J.F.

answers from Toledo on

I am so sorry for your son's loss (and yours too). I really wish I had some sound advice here, but I'm in a similar situation today. My daughter turned 8 on Sunday and on Monday, her great-grandma died. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone.

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R.D.

answers from Indianapolis on

C.,
I am sorry to hear about your loss. Too bad you don't live in the Indianpolis area. There is a wonderful grief support place for kids that helps them deal with their grief.
In your situation, find out of the school has any counseling programs. It is not unusual for children to take longer to express their grief. He may do it now, it may be a year from now. One of the moms in the group recently shared what she had learned. If he is acting out in anger, but not saying anything, he may need for you to put words to his emotions. So when he calms down, you can tell him you know he is angry about his dad, and it is ok to be angry, but not to act like he did. By putting the words there for him, he will later be able to express them himself. Do make sure you keep him accountable to his behavior. Yeah, it sucks what has happened, but don't allow him to slack off on everything. Soome kids will use it as an excuse to become lazy. You will know if he is truly sad, or just using the excuse. And don't be surprise if he has trouble with concentration and schoolwork. I have a 6 yr old son, and his father died 2 years ago. We were still married, but I know it doesn't make it any easier being divorced.
Write me if you need to.
R.

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C.S.

answers from Canton on

Allow your son to go view his dad's body between visiting hours so that he can have "his" time. Allow him the option of "touching" dad's hand or arm or where ever. No matter what you say to your son - nothing can prepare him for the initial shock of seeing dad dead but it will give him closure.
Trust your son.
Recently my father passed away and my 20 yr old took it harder than my 5 yr old who wanted to "warm" grandpa up. Not even a month later my 23 yr old son passed away. We've "talked" many times but nothing prepared me for my 5 yr old stating that he couldn't eat turkey for Thanksgiving. The turkey was big and some how in my 5 yr old son's mind - he related that to his brother's death. The other day, he let out a big sigh and said, "well mom, when we get home I guess it's MY turn to climb on the stove and die like that bird. We had a real serious talk. He now understands. It comes and goes in splirts.
We have put him in grief counseling with Hospice - we've had them in for 3 yrs before my son died. That helps. Sometimes these children act out in drawings and/or aggressiveness because they don't understand what they are feeling or how to deal with it. Talk about "dad". Put a specail photo of son and dad together if you have one. And if you have moved on with your life - put the photo in son's room. It's also ok to cry with your son.
Most important is go out to eat or to the park together - spend some one on one time. You might be surprised to learn your son better. And most important - no matter what YOU feel about his dad - NEVER say anything bad about dad around this boy. It will cause him to hate you so much. Good luck.

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M.S.

answers from Lafayette on

Sorry about you and your son's loss. I would look into some sort of counceling and after a little time has passed check into a big brother male mentor type of program. Hang in there! Happy Holidays!

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S.C.

answers from Fort Wayne on

Does the school have a guidance counselor? Perhaps you could talk to him/her and see what they recommend. Maybe some grief counseling would be good for your son. I don't know. I think sending him to school is ok. Like you said, it keeps his mind off things. I am so sorry for your family's loss.

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D.C.

answers from Cleveland on

I'm very sorry to hear of your family's loss.
You don't have to give too many details...but, was it sudden? Just wondering if your son was aware if his dad was sick, or something unfortunate happened. The other 2 answers are great. You know your son best...just keep an eye on him, and keep open communication with the teachers. I'm sure the school counselor is aware and maybe he/she can keep an eye on him. Not necessarily counseling right now, but just checking in on him and following his school behavior, and letting you know how he is. Maybe there are some good books on how to deal with a father's death for boys (for you and for him), or a good online support group that can give you ideas. It sounds like you are doing the right thing already by asking questions and seeking advice.
Good luck with the situation. Keep us updated on how you and your son are.
Take Care,
D.

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C.G.

answers from Cleveland on

Having lost my husband a few years ago, I feel your pain and extend my sympathy. There are many places you can get free grievance counseling, which you should highly consider for you and your son. Check with your local hospital or hospice agency. You can also call a local church and talk to the minister, as they would know of counseling available in your area. I could not have gotten through it without good counselors. My son was 26 when his dad died suddenly, and he refused to go to counseling and still shows the need for it, but he's an adult, and I can't make him go. Death is a big thing to deal with, and reaching out to others for support and help will get you and your son through it. Take care.

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K.C.

answers from Toledo on

Go to these sights and try these things with your son. It is the emotional part that you need to protect with him.
www.tapping.com (practice the free ones)
Then read up on www.emofree.com. ( I didn't buy the DVD's)I tell you this stuff works. I use it on my 6 and 8 year old about everyday stuff.
You can use it too for your emotional part of the whole situation.
Good Luck!

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L.P.

answers from Indianapolis on

C.,
As all the others have said, I too am so sorry for the loss you & your son have suffered. I agree with others stating that he'll talk about it when he's ready, but I also think some prompting from you & listening to how you express your feelings about losing his father will be good for him. It will provide him with opportunities to talk about his dad & show him a way to grieve at the same time. I lost my dad when I was 12- car accident- & until I was 28, I didn't know how to grieve. Each Christmas through February (anniversary of his death), I would grieve like a child- b/c that's all I knew & I was dealing with a child's emotions since he died when I was so young. I HIGHLY recommend that you get him in a group of others who have lost a parent or some counseling. Just remember that all counselors are not meant for everyone...you have to find the right fit for your son. (It may take several tries- kind of like a pair of shoes- just b/c the size is right doesn't mean they'll work for you!)

Anyway, my thoughts & prayers go out to you & your son. Please remember that you also need to grieve & may feel a sense of loss. Although you divorced him, you may find that you also are reminded of all the wonderful qualities you originally fell in love with. These are great things to share with your son. (My parents had been divorced for 10 yrs when he died, & my mom just recently told me how hard it was for her to grieve b/c she felt like she shouldn't be having those feelings again.) Whatever you do, keep putting your son first like you have been & give him lots of love. The two of you need each other now more than ever.

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