I’ve always wondered about this and now I get the fabulous opportunity to try it out. Watching all of your children sob uncontrollably and you cannot do a single thing- not a single thing, you just have to wait. It’s pretty much like someone came up to my kids, stabbed them in the stomach, and there is no hospital to take them to. I watch them bleed out, helpless. A hug does not fix a wounded stomach. You always think there is a way to fix things, at least I always thought that. Now I know somethings just cannot be fixed, no matter how much work you put in.
What’s it like to raise a child from a broken home? Not in terms of divorce- but death. Far worse, because there is no hope. Hope keeps people going. Even if the father or mother to the child is absolute garbage and just goes MIA, there is always a small chance of redemption, or maybe even a minute of happiness, maybe even an explanation: “Why were you not there for me?” With death, it is literally demolished. There is no redemption. It is permanent and unwavering. Answers to questions do not exist- only speculations.
Chloe is 11. She cried this morning because “I just want to hug Dad and I can’t.” Think about the person you love and adore the most, the person that when you feel down, they can pick up your spirits even if it’s just a little. Now picture they disappear, completely. Also imagine you are 11, a time where you are changing anyhow. It is difficult to raise children anyhow. It is difficult to be 11 anyhow. What Chloe is trying to deal with, is something adults struggle with. If your parent is still alive, how well would you fare if you got a call that they died? I can think of nothing crueler that she could go through, unless she lost me too.
She has taken the role of a sub-parent. She cleans the house, she co-manages her siblings. She helps to get them up and moving. She helps them with home work. Shouldn’t she be on Roblox or playing a fun game or gossiping with girlfriends? That would be nice, but her role has now changed. All family members are assigned roles, whether they are aware of it or not. One role can be being the black sheep, or the jokester, or the responsible one, or the problem solver. When someone dies, the family must re-assign the roles or the family crumbles. Our roles have been reluctantly re-assigned and this is obvious even in extended family (something as simple as taking out the garbage at a family dinner, this was “Jesses” job, now we all take turns doing it, and by “all” I mean absolutely not me. I just sit and stare). Anyways, Chloe went from older mature -sibling to sub-parent. Currently, I cannot reform this role for her, she is stuck here for a bit but I hope not for long. I do remind her it’s not her responsibility to do so much- but it is almost a coping mechanism for her to take control. Control in small things, like wiping a counter, means that the world isn’t chaos. Except it is. It’s false control. I do not tell her that though and it’s likely she already knows.
Chloe doesn’t cry a lot because there isn’t time for it. She cries kind of like how I do, at moments of sheer exhaustion or when we are finally alone at night. Otherwise, our bodies are on autopilot where it’s a false numb. When she does break down, it is so painful to see. She is avoidant of certain things because she knows they will make her upset. She didn’t want to go to school the other day because she was afraid they would say “parents.” Plural. She was afraid the word Dad would come up. Unfortunately, it does. Almost every day. One day they even had to read a story about how the Dad frog takes care of baby tadpoles, not the mom. Jesse took care of them in ways I am horrible at. It is literally like a sick joke. We are all cut open and bleeding out- and then someone pours salt in it. Most people are sensitive to her, but there are times there is just blatant ignorance.
Chloe asked me “Is there a way to forget about people?” after begging me to remove all the photos of Jesse in the house. I said no. She said why can I forget about a fake friend then? I told her a fake friend doesn’t love her. Essentially she is becoming the same as I am…how dare you that you loved us. You should not have. She just said she wants to not remember or to see him. She puts blame on herself that she had played some factor in his death because of completely unrelated reasons. This could be something like “it’s my fault he died because I didn’t let him use my marker that one day.” I told her it’s absolutely not true. I told her that any fight or anger she has towards us is void. We love her unconditionally and nothing she does can cause anything- we are never truly upset with her and we know she’s just a kid. I think this helps her, but it’s painful I have to explain to her she didn’t kill her dad.
Oraia is 8. Her role has also changed. She used to be our “wild card,” (see reference from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia- she is our Charlie Day. Specifically the episode where he takes the breaks out of the car). But now she is moving more into a “fixer,” role. She wants to fix everyone’s sadness. Mine, her grandmothers, etc. Anyone who is sad she wants to mend them. I tell her it is not her responsibility to fix me and I must do this myself. She insist that she can fix anything and that if anyone is going to fix me, it will be her. She is the most like Jesse, from how she was prior to this- to how she is now. Jesse was a bit of a wild card also, but would immediately switch to fixer when people were struggling. He would assume so much responsibility to help/fix people, even if it was detrimental to himself. I see Oraia doing this also. She is ignoring her own needs to help others. This was a beautiful quality of Jesse’s, but it’s only beautiful if it doesn’t cause self neglect, which it does. I ask her how she is doing and she will tell me she is fine, but then I catch her staring into space at 12:00am, a time when she is usually sleeping. I find her talking, yelling, crying in her sleep.
She will not take off his shirts and has routines. Her routines consist of things like waking up and smelling his laundry, looking at peaceful photos of the sunsetting, wearing his hat, etc. This is also very much like Jesse. What she wants from me are things I am not too great at giving her. She lost a tooth the other day and I told her to rinse her mouth out with water. She said “Dad would get me warm salt water.” So I went and retrieved that for her. Seems insignificant but it is constant. I am not an incompetent parent- but I do not make things “special.” I am very practical. If my kids ask for water at bed. They get a cup of water at bed or I tell them “hey you need to think about doing this before you lay down.” Jesse, on the other hand, would go get the water and tell them there are special ingredients in it (ice. lol) but this made it special. This is a constant problem now because I am not too creative, I do not go the extra mile. That sounds horrible- but going back to the roles thing, that was not my role. I handle practical things, Jesse handled fun things. Oraia notices this. I try and tell her I am so so sorry.
She is scared now. She used to be fearless. She spent the night at her friends to try and have some distraction. This ended with a brutal text to me at 4:00am. Normally if she was afraid at night, she would text her dad and he would respond instantly. He was a night owl. I am not. It’s hard to just become two people in a snap of a finger- after being yourself for 13 years. I am trying to step-up my parenting game, but I am literally being asked to step it up when I have been at my weakest point. Ever. If she sent Jesse a text that she was scared- he could calm her down in seconds and she would drift back to sleep. I am trying to comfort her, but she was “dad’s twin and best friend,” so you can imagine I am not doing too stellar at it.
Raiden is 6. Today we started out with “Mommy, does the school know your husband’s dead?” after overhearing my professor say the word husband in my Family Law class. I told them yes they know.
Raiden is lashing out in anger. Raiden was a the sweetest little boy I knew prior to this. Some days he could still be a Sour Patch kid- but he would always listen and didn’t give me a ton of grief. He would get so excited over things he loved, like cute tiny animals. Two weeks before Christmas, Jesse and I asked him what he wanted as a gift and he said happily “I don’t need anything. I have every thing I need.” I am not sure what kid says that.
Now, the smallest thing can set him off. After this happened he started to act up and I went to handle it like I usually do (i.e. “Raiden go to time out and think about this”). Wrong. What normally would have been him reluctantly walking to the time out chair, had become a screaming session. This screaming turned into punching. Punching turned into throwing. Yelling at me: “you don’t love me! you are going to leave! you don’t care about me!” He even put a dent in our garage. He’s 6 and it’s not like he’s super strong. He tears apart furniture, rips things off walls, breaks toys.
I feel like I now know what it’s like to have a child with emotional stability problems. It is hard. You cannot control them and when they get like that you can’t spank/ yell/threaten it does NOTHING. It makes it worse. So pretty much I just have to monitor him until the outburst of anger turns into hysterical crying and falling to the floor. Then I can approach him and hug him. Whatever he was angry about wasn’t really what is was. He is really just sad and confused about his Dad. If these outburst do not calm down in the next two months- he will have to have a private therapist. I am hoping he is able to work through it naturally.
All of the children have some similar symptoms too. They are all extremely clingy. Raiden demands we do at least one STEM project a day (if you have ever done one, they aren’t always so simple-especially when your brain is fried). Chloe demands I watch shows with her, cuddle her, scroll Tik Tok. Oraia demands nothing. She has recently started asking to sleep next to me. All the kids fight each night to sleep right next to me. I want to sleep next to them too because I feel sad, but that’s a lot of people in one bed. They even ask me to take showers/baths with them. Raiden wants me to sit in the bathroom if he has to use the potty. These are not normal behaviors for them, at all. If I leave, they panic and confirm I will be coming back. Before I could go out the door and they would say “yeah love ya bye!” Now I see worry in their face. I see worry in how they speak or text me.
It isn’t chaos all day. Raiden seems normal in school sometimes. Chloe laughs at shows sometimes. Oraia is goofy sometimes. It is just different. Silent. It is no longer pure bliss, it is modified with stings of sadness and pain intertwined in a laugh. That pure innocence a child has is altered. I hate that. The counselors say that all of their behavior is normal. From Raiden’s angry outburst to Oraia’s silence. It’s normal for grief to place itself in these weird ways. Adults cannot handle this situation and neither can children. “Luckily” they are resilient. They should bounce back faster than I do and by bounce back I mean put on a face for society so they are seen as normal when none of us are anymore.