My dad passed away — suddenly and unexpectedly — in January on his 69th birthday.
Losing a parent is a strange and terrible experience, but it's one that, unfortunately, most of us will have to go through.
Everyone handles grief and loss differently; that’s what makes us human. My mind raced between letting myself grieve, worrying about my brother and my dad’s wife — who were both by his side when he died — and also protecting my kids. After all, that’s what we do as parents.
I’ve been to several funerals over the years and nearly all of them have had small children or grandchildren present at them. I understand the concepts of both letting your children say their goodbyes and also letting them bring a smile to the face of so many grieving relatives.
However, I opted for my kids to not attend my dad's visitation or funeral.
My 7-year-old daughter is extremely perceptive and sensitive, and if she ever senses I’m sad, she is immediately sad as well. She cries for book characters who are bullied, and worries about how the animals in the forest stay warm during a storm. She and my dad share a birthday, which means she turned 7 the day her grandpa died. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her until the next day to protect her birthday.
I never actually told my 3-year-old son that his grandpa died; he wouldn’t understand it and it didn’t seem appropriate.
So knowing my sensitive daughter and my happy-go-lucky son, I thought they didn’t need to see their mom, uncle and grandma so sad. They didn’t need to see their grandpa (who was in an open casket) looking so unlike himself.
It was also, selfishly, one of my only times to grieve without worrying about my sweet little ones.
As a parent of such young children, there are always schedules, activities and friends to shuffle around. But there isn’t much time for me to be alone and to grieve. So not having my kids attend the events surrounding my dad’s death allowed me that brief time. After two long days of meeting hundreds of people — many who I didn’t even know — I was exhausted and worn out completely.
In all honesty, though, my main reason for not having my kids attend is because they are kids.
They have their whole life to deal with sadness, loss and pain, but the years they have to play, laugh and be completely innocent are numbered. I didn’t want to make them grow up any faster than they already are. As they get older, we will share memories of my dad and let them know how much he loved them — his only grandchildren.
In my opinion, those are the memories I want them to have; not the funeral and the feelings of sadness and loss.
The truth is, when it comes to grieving or loss, you do what you need to do. There are a lot of people who questioned my decision to not bring our daughter to the funeral, but in the end, there is no right answer. The one you feel comfortable with is right — so follow your gut.