A Case for the Widowed Parent.

Solo-parenting. Not single parenting.

Something I loathe but cannot escape no matter how many last names I collect.

Parenting can be difficult in general, add an abnormality to that? It feels impossible some days.

Our “abnormality” as widow/ers is a missing parent. Not because they don’t care about their child, are lazy, or see them 50% of the time, but because they do not exist. Period.

On a surface level it’s probably easy to imagine why it is difficult. But I want you to see why it feels impossible.

1. There is no one to consult with or share responsibility with.

Is a teacher calling to discuss your child’s grades? There is only one person to call. Did your child get in trouble at school? Handle it alone. Are they being bullied? Do your best to figure it out.

Of course there are resources for these things, but you know what there isn’t? Someone who loves your child JUST AS MUCH as you do. That’s right. No one will love them as much as their parent did so the advice any of them proffer lacks weight. It is easy to say what you would do for another child, but when it is your child, you know the answer is different. You care more. You spend more time thinking about it.

Is your child sick or have a new medical diagnosis? Consider all the treatment options alone. Do you think they should make healthier choices? Encourage them alone. Do they have a sport they love? Take them to practice alone.

Figure out the solution to these issues that come along and enforce it. Do both. By yourself. There is no “your dad will be home at 5,” here.

This isolation doesn’t go away just because you have adult children, it just changes. Is your daughter getting married? Did your son graduate college? Did you just become a grandparent? Navigate these important chapters with no one by your side and return home to a dark and isolated house.

Janine Hines, mother of Zach above, described widowed parenting as:
“A never ending battle of being selfless for your children while experiencing the absolute deafening echo of loneliness that few people understand.”

2. You still have to do all the everyday tasks.

Did you just get done working all day, then took the children to practice or a school event? Great. When you get home at 9pm make sure you make dinner alone, clean up alone, make sure they did their homework, and get ready for the next day. Did you remember to get dog food while you were so busy? No? Run back out and take all the kids with you. There is no 50/50 here or 25/75 or 10/90 it is just you. You do 100% of everything all the time.

If your children are grown, welcome that deafening silence that surrounds you constantly. Your home has become a waiting room for death.

3. Make sure you still manage your property and vehicles.

Do you own your house? Congratulations, all the repairs & maintenance that need to be done – are completely on you. Appliances, cleaning, lawn maintenance, insurance claims, taxes, pest control, plumbing are all completely your job. Do you rent? Congratulations, make sure you report everything that needs repair, renew your contract, figure out how to deal with price hikes, all by your self.

Maybe you wont be the one who physically fixes the AC when it breaks, but you will be the one making the phone call, paying for it, discussing options, etc. You are in charge in perpetuity and if something is confusing or new figure it out alone.

Loneliness encompasses what it means to be widowed.
There is an unwritten contract between spouses. One wherein they agreed to listen to each other about trivial matters, and they know they are trivial, but want to speak them into existence anyhow to another human physically present. These are not things you discuss with other people because you know how unimportant they are but they still need a place to be heard.

“Ugh. The printer broke at work today. Oh and remember Pam? Yeah, she used all of the coffee pods. The ones Jim told her not to.”
See? No one cares and you know this isn’t good enough conversation to tell your best friend, parent, regular friend, sister, etc. so where does this kind of sounding board information go? Nowhere. When widowed, it stays in your head. But you already spend so much time there in isolation that this puts you over the edge. And that sounds crazy but it isn’t. You were already alone all day and with every task.
This is just icing on an already desolate cake.

4. You pay all of your bills & manage your finances by yourself.

While some people think being a widow means drowning in money the truth is for most that is not the case. The reality is they were too young to think they needed life insurance. Or maybe they had life insurance but used illegal drugs or committed suicide so the policy was void. Maybe they worked under the table so much there is no social security benefits. Maybe there is social security benefits but it’s not very much or it’s shared because after they died an “illegitimate” child was found. You would think that last scenario is rare but I’ve seen it more times than I can count.

Even if there is a stable source of income and you can afford child care and working as a solo parent – remember to pay all of the bills. Every detail of your finances is yours alone to keep and remember to yourself. No one is there to ask “hey did you make the car payment on the 15th?” and if there is a reminder in place, like on your phone, you put it there.

5. Do everything, everywhere, all at once.

When I was writing this I did so in isolation. As in, I isolated my paragraphs so I could write them clearly. When I was writing them I thought “hmm well that’s not so bad, I’ve always been in charge of that by myself.” So how do I convey the difference?

Because for a widowed parent, these tasks are not isolated. They are in concurrence with each other. If my AC breaks, there is no one to watch the children or quell an argument while I am on the phone trying to figure out how to fix it. They are right there demanding I also do whatever they need done. If I get a call during this it has to go to voicemail, they won’t be able to contact my spouse to see why I didn’t answer. When I am done fixing the AC and attending to the children, there isn’t someone to shift responsibility to. It’s still just me. There is no one that will be home soon and I can vent to them about how the stupid AC broke and the kids were horrible. Or how Pam used all of Jim’s coffee pods. It’s always silence and inner monologue. And that’s why sometimes we have lunchables for dinner, it is too overwhelming to remain a Hallmark mother in such chaos.

When my kids were little my husband and I split tasks. If I cooked, he gave the kids a bath. If I put them to bed he cleaned the kitchen. Now I get to give them a bath, cook, clean the kitchen and put them to bed. Even if I have someone offering to help I still have to tell them what to do because it’s not their child or their house.

Even on the days my husband failed miserably at managing life 50/50 with me, I knew he still had a duty to do it. Unlike now where not a single other person has the level of responsibility I hold, it is just me.

In concurrence with the above tasks, now add this on top:

Your child is lashing out, cussing, screaming, hurting siblings. They are angry at the world. They are in therapy, you try everything and it’s still not working. How do you help them not be angry when you are also angry as an adult? Nothing seems to work. You just keep showing up alone. No one is there to back you up. It’s only your voice. How do you discipline the confused? Do resources even exist for the unique situation you find yourself in with your child? (answer is truly no, I assure you).

Your child’s birthday is coming up but they aren’t excited. “Why didn’t mom get to see me turn 10? What did I do wrong?” They ask distraughtly. So you throw them a party to try your hardest to be normal, but all you see is the other couples with their family intact. And you remember when you had that too.

After you have worked all day, cleaned, cook, managed, paid bills and just want to shut your brain off- you instead get to become a philosopher on life’s major questions. Maybe you don’t want to really visit those ideas right now because they hurt too much. Too bad, someone who needs you is asking.

Or maybe your child is perfectly fine. Great grades, always in a good mood, well behaved, does extra curricular activities… Wait this is good right? Perhaps, or perhaps they are learning quickly that if they immerse themselves with a busy life they can disconnect from their harsh reality. Pay attention to them just as much. Are they suppressing emotions? Are they actually okay? Become a secret investigator.

Deal with the fact that death is real and your children’s bubble of protection has been popped.

Did your spouse die in a car accident? Congratulations. This means your kid may be afraid to get in car, obsess over seatbelts, and may refrain from ever wanting to leave the house again. Good luck dragging them to school before you head to work. Your kids don’t want to go to school not because school isn’t fun but because they seriously think they may die on the way there.

Did your spouse die in your house? Amazing. Now you have an entire area to avoid or leave entirely. Your kids don’t want to be reminded of the spot in the house anymore but they also don’t want to move because that’s their home. More fun choices to make alone about this thing you never thought you would deal with. No matter the decision you make someone will be upset.

Did your spouse die from mental/physical illness or substance abuse? Great. Now you get to monitor your children because they have the same genes. You aren’t an expert but you better figure out how to become one. While you navigate their grief people will ask how they passed, what do you say? How do you respond? What do you tell the kids?

On top of this your kids will still want the normal things that life has to offer, like the coolest new shoes or a trip to a concert. How do you take them when it’s just you? Can you afford it on a solo income? But you don’t want to break their hearts any further, they have already been through so much. I have to swipe the credit card. They need this.

Tara Williams, pictured above with her sons, says widowed parenting is:
“The constant feeling of never being good enough for your children because you know you can never fill the place once held by their father.”

But make sure to take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Except there is no cup. It’s gone. Remember?

The cup here is the spouse, the other half, the person whom you agreed to have children with and share responsibility in life with. The only other person who is legally responsible. They held you together so you could do life and handle a busy day. But now the cup is gone so whatever substance was in it is just an uncontained puddle. Your foundation is gone and you must scramble to contain yourself.

You have to figure out how to put yourself back together and find something to help support you from remaining a puddle at one of the weakest moments in your life.

How do you do that when you aren’t sleeping? (as I pen this at 3:00am after working 10 hours and tending to 4 children). Melatonin doesn’t work. The medicine isn’t strong enough. Death has made you unable to sleep soundly. Oh did you hear a noise at night? Who’s going to check it? You and you alone. There is no true rest when your body throws you out of sleep to replay the image of the last moment your loved one was alive. There is no way to rest well after seeing that…and knowing it was true. It wasn’t a nightmare. That nightmare really happened.

How can you take care of yourself then? A massage sounds nice. When could you work that in? Can you afford it? Do you have the energy to even go? Do you have to pay a sitter? Who can actually be trusted to watch the kids? Who can ACTUALLY HANDLE watching grieving children with behavioral issues? Fuck, that’s it. I’m not going.

Maybe you could invite friends or family over? That eliminates many problems above right? Perhaps. Or maybe your friends and family don’t actually understand your situation and it’s hard to be around them because they have no idea the chaos that is your life. It is not worth the mental challenge to educate them when they are so damn determined to be ignorant. You want to wake them up to the fact that everything they heard and saw on tv or read in outdated books is so wrong. But you are too tired. It’s too much.

They somehow know how you should raise your now grieving kids, manage your life, and your actions. After you are done handling everything alone for the day and battling issues nothing sounds better than getting the most ignorant advice ever from someone who doesn’t even know what its like to lose a cat.



Shocking. I know. Who would have thought that finding a step-parent for your children doesn’t actually solve all these issues? Not me!

Why is that? Super simple really… *whispers* they are not the biological parent.

They are probably really great and your kids may actually like them, but they will walk right past them to go to you to ask a question even if you are clearly busy. If your children have a personal problem at school, do you think they want to discuss it with the stepparent or their natural parent? *hint* It’s the latter.

So where’s the positive in all of this? 

There isn’t. 

It just sucks and it has to be waited out. Waited out for what exactly? A mere possibility that one day it will not feel this way. The smallest particle of hope. That maybe if I just hang out long enough I can figure it all out. 

Accepting the fact that these feelings may never fully go away isn’t what anyone wants to hear but it is the truth. Not everyone gets to live the romanticized American dream and that realization hurts. If they do get to live it they do not truly realize how it can be taken tomorrow as the most arbitrary of events unfold.

My only solace in alleviating any of this mental anguish from solo-parenting and grief has been to fully realize my lack of importance. Which sounds off because I know I have made an impact in certain ways. 

I do not feel unimportant, but I am nonetheless. 

I simply exist and engage in physical actions every day. Nothing happens to me or for me, it just occurs. I only have control over the most minor of activities.

While this seems depressing it has offered me a temporary escape from the emotions that come with grief. If I accept all of the above to be true, it means that this death, subsequent pain and chaotic life wasn’t done personally to me. I didn’t deserve it. He didn’t deserve it. There was no wrong or right action committed. 

It just was an event in my short existence that happened to occur while I was present. And when I encounter another lonely and chaotic day, I must remind myself of all of this. That even in being so alone and stressed, it is not unique to me and it is shared in some way by every other person still present.

This feeling encompasses the phrase:

“For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Raising Broken Children.

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.

I have filmed and my door bell has caught some footage of Raiden’s outburst. I debated sharing this and will likely not share videos, but it’s a daily struggle. Anyone who happens to be present during an outburst of his and knows him immediately will start crying too. It is painful to see him like this. Especially if you knew him before. I don’t want my kids and I to be the poster family for this, but it’s such a neglected topic I feel like it’s right for us to do. This became apparent when Jesse passed, as I was referred to AARP.org. Not a place for a 30 year old.

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.

It sucks I didn’t see this. I was finally able to enter my three hour depression coma when she text me. Luckily my best friend comforted her and brought her home. This isn’t normal behavior for her. When I see these messages it is reminiscent to me of Chloe’s text to Jesse the day he died that said “Are you still alive. Please answer me. Please.”

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.