Question from BJS66: Hi Ann, my husband died in August last year, he had been given a terminal prognosis 13 months before that. My sons, now aged 17 and 13, barely mention what has happened. I know they don't like to see me upset but it upsets me that they won't talk about what has happened. My oldest feels - and has said - that he has to be cheerful all the time. I know they are resilient boys and this is their way of dealing with everything but sometimes I feel really lonely and want to speak to them about it. They watched their Dad deteriorate over the 13 months and we were honest from the start that there was no hope. I just don't know the best way forward.
Hi there, if your sons are able to bring their dad's name into your conversations, this maybe adequate for them. If they are also struggling to do this, then it could be that like you mentioned they are protecting you. If they are not talking about memories or mentioning dad's name, maybe start from here. Let them know that even if your upset, it is still ok to talk and you are comfortable with this. It can work better with lads if conversations like this happen whilst doing other things so it is not as formal. Being cheerful all the time could be his way of protecting himself. "If I show people I am happy then they won't treat me differently or ask any questions." There is no time limit on grief even though there can be an expectation that after so long grief disappears.
It maybe that if you are able to share memories with one another, this in turn will then help them work through their journey of their dad's illness. For some young people the importance is remembering the person for whom they were when they were well. It may be useful to check out with them if they are able to talk and share with others, maybe for your youngest a member of teaching staff or friend.
Depending on where you live, there are supportive organisations for both adults and children where you may find it beneficial to talk through your journey with an independent person. This can be useful as you haven't got that thought "I'm bothering you again or I wish I hadn't said anything now". It can be good to share your feeling and know it is a safe place. This can help you also feel less alone. For some young people in grief the importance is on keeping positive. As long as they are comfortable with how they are managing their grief, try not to worry too much.
Keep an eye out for behaviour changes. This is a good indication if a young person is struggling in their grief. As a parent you are not only having to work through your own grief, but your children's too. Children and young people have the ability to separate their grief from others therefore allowing them to move forward in their grief at a faster pace. However if you do feel they are bottling their emotions up, it may be worth suggesting talking to someone external to the family. Please remember though, you are giving them the opportunity to talk by inviting them to. They will take their lead from you. If they see you are ok talking about dad, this in turn may help them to. Marie Curie Cancer Care have a book called Teenage Grief which you may find useful. You will be able to obtain a copy from Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Hope this is of use all the best
Ann Scanlon - Marie Curie Cancer Care