When I was 16 my friend Laura’s mom passed away from complications from Lupus.
We weren’t the closest friends but we were friends. I am sure that her mom was sick before we were 16 but that is the age that comes to mind for me. I remember her Sweet 16 being the day after mine. If I remember correctly, she had moved the date up because her mom wasn’t doing well. She passed away shortly after that.
We lost contact when we went off to college. All these years later, she and I are now Facebook friends. She seems happily married with beautiful children.
A few weeks ago, she commented on one of my blogs that I posted on Facebook. It was such a nice comment and I was so touched.
This got me thinking about her losing her mom when we were kids, and about my kids losing their dad now. About all kids that lose a parent. About how other kids handle things and react to them, and adults as well. And about how times are so different.
It can be hard to remember how you felt about something from when you were 16. I am trying to remember how I felt and how I acted when Laura’s mom died.. What I remember is feeling bad for her around the time of our Sweet 16’s. I remember thinking how hard it must be to celebrate when something like that is going on in your life. I also remember her looking happy that day and having a good time.
That’s it. I don’t remember saying anything to her when her mom died. I don’t remember paying a shiva call. I might have and I hope I did, but I don’t remember. And if I didn’t, I actually feel bad about it now.
I texted her today to tell her that I am writing about this. She told me that her house was robbed two days after her Sweet 16 – while they were visiting her mom in the hospital! She also told me that her father passed away when she was 19. I can’t even imagine how tough that all must have been for her. But it is crazy to me that I didn’t know these things.
Kids will be kids. I was 16 and still pretty much a kid back then, but looking back now as an adult I can’t believe how clueless I was.
I can’t help thinking that I should have been nicer, done more etc.. I also wonder if her closest friends did more for her, were more supportive. Then I think about my kids when Howie died. They were much younger, only 10 and 12, but they both had friends that were really good to them. They came to sit shiva often, brought them little presents, and were just there for them – as much as kids that age can be. I think a large part of it was their parents being so good to me, so the kids were led by example.
I also think it was a different time back in the 80’s when Laura’s mom died. There was no social media, you didn’t always know everything that was going on with everyone. Plus our parents were different, they weren’t as involved as we are now.
As time goes on, life goes back to normal for everyone around us.
This is when my girls would sometimes get upset about things their friends did or said. I just want to make it clear that nothing has been done purposely or in a mean way. Their friends just might not understand that their dad’s death affects my girls (or anyone else in this situation) every single day in all kinds of ways.
On Father’s Day, when 500 pictures pop up on Instagram of everyone’s dads and how much they love them, it can’t help but bother them. Or when they talk about all the fun things they did on vacation with their dads. Or when it may be harder for one of my girls to do something because they only have one parent, and friends aren’t always understanding.
Kids will be kids and they are not always sensitive. Teenagers maybe even less so. So unless it’s something terrible, I have just explained to my girls that their friends probably don’t realize what they are doing and they do not mean any harm.
I do expect a little more from adults around my kids.
While for the most part people have been more than kind, there are those who just don’t think. My girls have been pointed at and stared at often, especially in the beginning. This was so disturbing to them.
There was one instance when Amanda was in the office of her middle school waiting for me to pick her up. There was a couple in the office waiting for their appointment. One of them motioned towards Amanda and said “that’s the girl whose father died” loud enough for Amanda to hear.
She came out of school crying. I wanted to kill them. I called the school to find out who they were but they said they didn’t know (I have a feeling they just didn’t want to tell me).
One of my best friend’s lost her dad when she was twelve. I did not know her then, but there has been no one more understanding of my girls and their feelings than she is. I’m sure it is because she has been there. I hope that one day my girls will be the same way if they are ever in that situation.
As for me – I have learned to be a lot more understanding than when I was 16. 🙂
Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.