Somedays I can feel your presence all around me. When I can feel you it makes the world just a bit less scary. Then you get days when your not there. As hard as I look you are simply just not there. That beautiful sunset just could not warm my heart today. Too much emptiness. When I can’t feel you maybe it’s a message that I need to take more ownership of my life. Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough. Probably too busy trying to get my head round parenting.

Over the last 3 years (is it really 3 years) I have frequently revisited one of the first single parent decisions I had to make. One with no right answer but equally one I probably got badly wrong.

How long to keep our son off school immediately after his mum left us.

In 2015 our caring Education Minister said

The rules say you can’t take leave from school during term time except in exceptional circumstances. If it’s something like a funeral or something, then the head teacher would be able to give permission to attend the funeral, but not to have an extended holiday on the back of that funeral or other compassionate circumstances.

AN EXTENDED HOLIDAY….. what planet is this heartless Pillock from. Guess what – he is still in his job. Sums up why our country has fallen apart. The best approach is to ignore the Government as it’s filled with self centred over promoted numpties like him.

To be fair to the school they completely ignored Government recommendations and just said ” let us know when you want him to return – Completely up to you. “

My partner died on a Saturday night so on Sunday I’m faced with a call – what to do with school. I was barely functioning. I agreed with son to play it on a daily basis. My mind was thinking at least a couple of weeks off. But we came to Tuesday night and for some reason my mind shifted.

Maybe it’s better to get him back into the swing of life earlier than I had initially imagined. Maybe it will distract him. It will certainly get him out of a house which feels like a morgue. Might be easier this way in the long run.

My heart was saying one thing my head something different. My head won. The decision was made to give school a go on Thursday. That’s just over 4 days since he lost his mum. AND he’s only 9. Looking back I am not sure what I was thinking. I phoned a couple of his classmates mums up and we agreed to meet up at the local playground after school on Wednesday. Maybe just meeting a few of his friends initially would help. Great plan unfortunately within a few minutes most of the other school kids turned up as it was a nice day. Not really the quiet reintroduction I was hoping for. Too many faces so it didn’t go well.

He still returned to school the next day. That walk from the school car park was a nightmare. It seemed like every eye was on him. But he survived and then the only other day he had off was for the funeral. He was just about ok at school. I’m now think more time off would have allowed him to better process the new world. But we will never know. The kids his age were great with him. Some of the younger kids understandably not so tactful. Understandably some tears were shed. The common young questions being

What’s it like to not have a mum

How did she die

Will you have to move

I keep going back to that decision. I had him facing those questions far too soon. I am sure I got it so wrong but I can’t decide on what the decision should have been. More days off yes but not sure how many. My fear is that I was just as heartless as that Government Minister. In my defence if it was wrong then at least it was unintentional. But I did learn two important lessons. Firstly there is no rule book for parenting with nice clean set answers. It’s really just about a series of best guesses. The second is that on big split decisions – go with the heart. Even if it goes wrong at least you will feel better about yourself in the long run.

69 thoughts on “Presence

  1. Hello Gary. A horrible tragedy and one for which there really are no rule books. Especially where children are different from the norm like your son. It has to be a case by case issue decided on what is best for the child. That is because children are all different, difference in how they handle grief and loss. Maybe you did the right thing because getting him back to the routine he was use to was less upsetting to him? Don’t forget you were seeing his anguish through your own loss which was undeniable huge and world shaking. Best wishes. Hugs

    Liked by 4 people

  2. My partner died at the beginning of summer kids were traumatized when school started back up in the fall. I don’t think I prepped my youngest enough..he changed over night…we can only do the best we can with the information we have. The rest, is up to God.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I am glad to hear that the school ignored the Government recommendation. Not surprising though anymore to me that people who shouldn’t be in charged, are in charged of positions they shouldn’t be in charge of. If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think there is a “right” time with things like this. Keeping a routine though would probably help your son. I think anytime he went back the kids would have asked the same questions anyway. They don’t do it to be mean, but I’m sure kids your sons age wouldn’t understand death.
    I know someone who went back to work the day after their father’s funeral.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Be kind to yourself. For three years, you’ve made decisions with your son’s best interests in mind while still dealing with your own grief. It’s only been three months for me and some days I can barely take care of myself. It’s normal to have doubts and second-guess ourselves, but everything you’ve done has been out of love and concern, and that’s never wrong.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. There is never a “one answer solution” when it comes to the loss of a loved one. For us (the wife and I), it was the loss of our 25-year-old daughter who left us with her one year old daughter.
    ***never one answer. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  6. From what i can see from way down here it seems like you already have total ownership of your life, you’re taking it all up on yourself when it used to be something the two of you needed to handle. Maybe the problem really is giving up some of that ownership over to another person who can see things from a different viewpoint?

    I am no expert, but i don’t see how having those thoughts, those doubts, going round inside your mind over and over is helping either of you right now?

    If somehow you lost your right arm – had it ripped away from your body, would you deal with it on your own? Or would you seek out help from a decent doctor? Would you expect to have someone help you rehabilitate; to learn how to best live with the new circumstances you must face to perform as best as you can, with changed circumstances from what you once lived with? At least until you could satisfactorily manage the things that had become so very hard to do with only one arm and a massive sense of loss?

    Feel free to tell me to back off if you like?

    I’m not sure humour is going to give you much relief or any long lasting benefit at this time. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You did the best you could in this situation. It was always going to be a difficult time what ever you did. You truly tried to do your best so accept that and move on. There are so many more issues to work through, needing your energy and attention. And no right and wrong answers.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think you did right and best by your son, Gary. A longer break would have smoothened some things while making others rougher.

    The thing about grief that mourners with dependents often dismiss is that our need to grieve and mourn is as important as caring for our dependents. If we truly wish to give our best care to those who depend on us, we cannot always be looking out a 100% for our dependents while stuffing our grief down some dark rabbithole. And to care best for them, often we need to sort ourselves out first.

    On some days, they have to come first, no matter how great our pain. On other days, we have to prioritise us .

    Gary, if you want to give your son what’s best for him, you cannot always put him first. It’s not cruel, not harsh, it’s the only way you can get through this and raise your boy beautifully – with your sanity intact.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. To quote the Bible “don’t harm the oil and the wine”! In other words, as long as the rich still have their luxuries, they won’t care about Brex*t or otherwise, or an increasingly totalitarian society. Look at China. An increase in prosperity has dampened calls for freedoms (apart from in Hong Kong where they’ve had a sample of them).

        Liked by 1 person

  9. No, there’s no rule books, you make it up as you go along, largely by the child, no two are the same, just as no two adults are, And you don’t beat yourself up n a world that tries to have rules books either. You just furrow your field , end of. Keeping a show on a road is what counts in life,not how maybe this wheel sank, or that cart could have taken a different turning. Hindsight is always a wonderful luxury unafforded at the time. x

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I have no wise words, but you did what seemed right at the time. If it seemed right it orobably was right. Whatever, you need a hug right now so I am sending one. And much love. I have been thinking about you a lot this weekend, and yoyr son. Just sending so much love xx

    Liked by 3 people

  11. A caregiver takes a baby on a plane. The first thing he or she is told, if cabin pressure falls, and oxygen masks drop, put your mask on first. YOU need to be there to take care of the baby. If you put the baby’s mask on first, you could faint before you put yours on. Then where will the baby be? You must come first.

    This decision was in the past. You cannot undo it, nor can you ever know if it was right or wrong–THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG! Accept the choice you made. Your son is still with you. And he is definitely thriving. That is the proof you need to concentrate on.
    You on the other hand, are not.. thriving. But self-pity will get you nowhere, and might even affect your son if he sees you doing this. It is not beyond reality he may think it his his fault his daddy is sad. He will never be further from the truth, but that never stopped a child from blaming himself.
    We have a saying in western North America, COWBOY UP! It is not a nice saying in a lot of ways. What it means is to get back up as soon as you fall. Others are depending on you. And that is the cold hard truth.

    What I think you need Gary, is some time to yourself. You have been “UP” since your wife died, and you need to allow the pressure to ease. Get help from a social worker, or social work agency. Let someone take your pressure away by taking the pressure on themselves. Hire a professional to live with your son for three days or a week, whatever you can stand being away from him. Tell him you love him and you have to go away for awhile, or to send him away for awhile. (I think the latter is preferable. He will be happiest at home.) Then grieve your wife, and deal with the responsibility her death put on you. You feel very alone, but you are not. There are people who can help you, including with the cost of the cost of the hired professional.
    Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There is help available. Seek it. Find it. Get it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Check the by-line of your blog, Gary, “a single dad trying to cope.” You are not trying, you are coping. Take PRIDE in that. But stop being single, as in learn to share the responsibility. You cannot be Superdad all the time. Be wise. There are times you have to show your weakness, and ask for help.

      Liked by 4 people

  12. I have absolutely zero experience with this but all I will say is that I don’t think you can second guess your decisions because you know there’s no ‘right’ way to handle it. Your insights, retrospectively, will be a learning curve and great support for anyone else out there handling such painful loss and how to navigate this with their child  ♥
    Caz x

    Liked by 3 people

  13. You did the right thing … stop kicking yourself. It was the right thing, for your heart told you it was. Parenting is not a science nor a sport … there are no manuals nor playbooks. We wing it, and we all make mistakes. However, this decision was not a mistake … it was the right thing to do, for there was no benefit for him in sitting at home feeling sad and seeing you sad, not fully understanding. The longer he had stayed out of school, the harder it would have become to go back. You did good, dad!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I think this was one of those decisions that is impossible to get right. If you’d left it longer you might now be feeling it was too longer. It was never going to be easy whatever you did, losing a parent never is whatever your age. You did your best which is all we can ever do.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Well it is one of those situations where there is no right answers, it is going to be hard for everyone whatever you do. Don’t be so hard on yourself, I am sure you son isn’t blaming you.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Decisions like this are impossible to get right. You made the best choice you could at the time and, even if hindsight tells you that you could have done something different, the best thing you can do is accept the decision you made and stop beating yourself up about it.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. When my mother died when I was 13 I went back to school the day after the funeral. I went to a Catholic school and the whole of my form class came to the funeral. I think this was a good idea because it gets the awkwardness over with to some extent, and by this I mean the awkwardness for your friends and teachers who feel that they need to say something but they don’t know what to say. My brothers took a few days more to go back. They were all younger than me. We were all moping about the house anyway. The routines that you had all get turned on your head and you have to develop new ones. There were many seriously negative things that happened due to my mother’s death, and I didn’t realise how bad things would get at the time, but my friends, and my friend’s mothers were a great help to me. Your son is at an age when playing with friends will be increasingly important too.

    Liked by 1 person

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