Losing a Father
This week I would like to share with you the story of Amanda and Jeff:
Amanda was a single mother who lost her partner in a tragic accident. Amanda’s son Jeff, was 4 at the time that he lost his father and it was a difficult experience for him. His ability to understand what has happened to his father was limited due to his age and he struggled to understand concepts such as death and grief. Jeff missed his daddy very much. He showed signs of child depression which can be very different from what one might think of classic symptoms depression. In preschool, he would often hit one of the other kids out of the blue. He would be defiant and irritable, drawing paintings full of monsters and dead people. He would be defiant with his mother, breaking things on purpose around the house, and hardly smiling.
We began therapy. I would see Jeff once a week and also provided Amanda with parental guidance and a safe space to share her feelings, guilt, and anger. Often parents will put their problems and hardship asides for the sake of their children. However, it is so important to understand that children feel everything. Even if they do not fully understand the concepts and the complex realities of the world in which they live, they can feel their parents’ sorrow, anger, and confusion. Therefore, it is as important if not more important for the parent to get help while having their child treated. In the safe space of our meetings, Amanda was able to speak about losing her partner, about what it is like to live alone and raise a child on her own. She was listened to while she spoke about feeling helpless with a son who missed his dad and she could not offer respite. She learned tools to deal with grief and an angry young boy. She soon became stronger, more complete, able to experience her feelings, and show her son that they will survive, that life goes on and they can find happiness again.
In therapy, Jeff found a way to talk about his dad and his sadness. He was able to paint, draw, and play with the concepts of death and loss. He could express being sad and did not have to hide behind his anger. He could find a way to be a child again, a happy child, and most of all a person who can be both sad and happy at times when needed. He was not afraid anymore of feelings. Jeff also learned skills and games that enabled him to cope with strong feelings, with anger, with impulses that he had. By the end of our time together, Jeff was sad to leave but he learned to say goodbye and at the end, it was I who had the difficult time of letting him go.
Printed with permission of Amanda
Names and details have change to ensure privacy