I have experienced child loss in a marriage and also as a single parent. Both are vastly different experiences with different support.
I received the news that Connor took his life while I was sitting in my car parked along the highway. I was stunned that this was even happening. I was confused and in shock. I did not know who to call. I was single. I knew I had to get to where my son took his last breath. I knew I had to see him. It was the only way I was going to make it real. In my frantic state, the first person I called was a friend.
I know I was not very delicate in how I broke the news. I blurted out “Connor killed himself”. She offered to go with me. I picked her up from her office. She drove to the scene and I continued to make phone calls. One of those calls was to Jesse, Connor’s father. We rarely talked and I was surprised he took my call. I blurted out the same message, “Connor killed himself”. That statement rang through my family and circle of friends. It was not politically correct, soft nor did it beat around the bush. I was direct. I was in shock.
Once I arrived at the scene where Connor took his life, I ran to my family. They were waiting for me. I hugged them; my two daughters, their boyfriends, my niece, and nephew. Connor’s dad was there with his friend. I saw him from across the room. We did not say a word to each other. We acknowledged each other with a head nod. That was it. I knew from past experience of the death of our first child, dealing with loss was not one of his strong qualities. I decided not to expect support or help from him. Things had not changed.
The girls and I sat huddled on one side of the room and Jesse and his friend on the other. We sat in silence that was broken with tears and sobs. The investigating police officer offered us to see Connor. I did break the ice and ask Jesse if he wanted to see him. He said no and that was perfectly fine. I knew I needed to do it.
After Connor was taken to the morgue, we went separate directions. At a time like this, one would have thought we would want to be together with what was left of our family. This was not true. Jesse and his friend went one way. The girls and I another. Welcome to the world of grief as a single parent.
The next week was painful, excruciating, and horrible. Decisions had to be made. Arrangements finalized. All with an ex-husband who was on a separate path. I decided to make the appointments with the crematorium, pastor and funeral director based on my availability. Jesse was included. I had this feeling of self-righteousness. If Jesse did not support Connor in life, how could I expect him to support Connor in death? Our relationship was complicated and messy.
Our meetings in planning his funeral did not go without conflict. We both had our ideas on where to hold Connor’s service. We questioned cremation or burial. All decisions we never thought we would have to make a second time. Not only were we dealing with loss but this time we needed to do it as a mother and father. We did not come together as his parents.
Once I made it through the first week, I realized that my nights would be lonely. I often went to bed crying in my pillow. I craved having someone in the bed next to me so that I could be wrapped in their loving arms when I felt really sad.
I had to acknowledge my strength as a single parent. It became my greatest asset – a strength that I may not have tapped into if I had not been single. I am strong enough to handle my job as a parent. I have the courage and will to survive the grieving without a partner.
The grief of a parent is distinct than the grief of a sibling. It is a relationship that is special and unique which makes the grief so painful. I leaned into my girls some realizing they were dealing with their own loss. I was the single parent and wanted to make sure I was healing and being a role model for my girls.
If you are ready to understand your grief, schedule an appointment with me today.