Life isn’t fair.
How many times did we all say that as a kid? How many times have we said that as an adult?
When I was a kid, and I felt the hard truth of “life not being fair” in different circumstances, I just assumed life would make more sense and seem less “unfair” as an adult. Surely life as an adult, as a parent, was going to be better. Easier to understand. More fair.
Sadly that’s not true.
Life as a parent feels just as complicated and unfair as it seemed to feel when we were kids. In fact, it’s so much more so.
When Charles ended his life, Kaleb had just turned two. At that time, it was enough to tell him his daddy went to be with Jesus in heaven. As time progressed, and he got a tad older, it was enough to tell Kaleb his daddy was sick and died.
That explication satisfied Kaleb for a couple years. He didn’t ask for more. He didn’t question it.
This past winter, Kaleb and I both came down with pneumonia. We traded our germs back and forth essentially all winter long. Every time we turned around, one of us was “sick.” He heard me tell people we couldn’t attend holiday festivities because either “we were sick” or “I was sick”. Never in a million years would I have guessed Kaleb was analyzing that phrase over and over in his head, to the point of anxiety attacks.
It’s true though. One evening, after he had gone to bed, I stepped outside for some “mommy time” and without me knowing, he woke up and started looking for me in the house. Long story short, I found him curled up in a corner crying his heart out because he thought I had died. “You have been sick for a long time already, I thought you were dead like my daddy.”
.....after I tried to pick up the pieces of my heart AND his, I knew it was time to take action. It was time to get us both some help and time to further the explanation of how daddy was “sick”.
I found us both counselors, and again, long story short, between his counselor and myself, we decided he needed to understand that Charles’ death wasn’t as simple as getting sick and dying. He needed to know it was a choice and in understanding that, he needed to be reassured that it’s not a choice I would ever make.
I understood it would be a slow process. It’s not something you can spring on a 7year old and expect them to process, understand and deal with properly.
Counseling sessions brought on discussions about death and emotions, mostly. In the mean time, I researched ways other parents had explained suicide to a child. Amazingly enough, you really CAN find everything on amazon. I located 2 different children’s books that told stories of parents ending their life in a way suitable for the little minds. I purchased them and kept them put away until I felt like the time was right.
Fast forward to last week when I prayed over the books and asked God to tell me when I should read them to Kaleb. Precisely 2 days after that prayer, Kaleb approached me on a Monday night, holding the book and said, “I want you to read this tonight.”
I guess that was a pretty clear enough sign.
I took a deep breath, said a 2 second prayer, and stepped into the hardest moment I’ve ever experienced thus far as a parent.
Three pages into the book, the dad ends his life. Kaleb stops me from reading, looks up and me and says, “is this about my dad?”
I told him yes, this was the same kind of way his dad died.
“So, my dad wanted to die on purpose??”
Remember when I said life isn’t fair as a parent? It’s really not.
That Monday evening, I had to break my kids heart. The look of devastation on his face will forever be seared onto my heart. He was crushed. I was angry all over again. I wanted to scream and yell and punch Charles. I wanted to trade places with Kaleb. All of my emotions from those first few months came rushing back to me and my heart was sick, knowing he was about to feel all those stages of grief and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do.
In the breaks between crying, we talked about things. I let him take the lead because that’s what we learned in counseling. He mentioned finding a earth dad and expressed concern of not knowing how to be happy about getting an earth dad (one day) and still being sad about heaven daddy. We also discussed (and had been discussing the last few months) about how daddy’s brain was sick and it’s a different kind of sick than a cold.
Kaleb cried for about 15 minuets, thankfully went to sleep, and I cried for the next 24 hours.
I had been terribly anxious about this day for a couple years already. I hated that he didn’t know the truth yet. Because of my blog, and because of my openness of it all, every single person around him knew the truth. And I don’t regret that, it just killed me knowing EVERYONE knew except him. I didn’t want someone else telling him when I wasn’t there, I never wanted him to feel like I was lying to him and I never wanted him to feel like he needed to handle it alone.
When it finally happened, part of me was relieved. It was sorta like ripping off the bandage, only I realized we still had a lot more ground to cover and those moments will come for the rest of his life, as he gets older and is able to understand more.
The phrase “killed himself” was never used. “Daddy wanted to die on purpose” was as far as we made it, a week ago. I was okay with that. I didn’t want to push it any further. His little mind can only process so much and he actually let me know he wasn’t ready to talk about it any further.
I left it alone for a week. A whole week of regular activities went by. Kaleb was his normal, crazy talking, self. In the back of my mind though, I knew he was processing. He was taking it in. He was analyzing it all in his own Kaleb way.
Tonight. Tonight a little more of that bandaid was ripped off. And life became intensely unfair for us both. Again.
I was tucking him in, leaned down to kiss him goodnight and he looked up at me and said, “so my dad killed himself.”
I said, “yes buddy, he did.”
And he said, “that’s why you cried so much in the bathroom when I was a baby.”
I said, “yes, that’s why.”
He said, “has your brain ever been that sad? Does it tell you to kill yourself?”
I said, “no never, I promise.”
And he said, “okay because you’re my only parent.”
I said, “I know buddy, and I’m not ever going to leave you.”
He said, “let’s say some extra prayers for you then”
And we did. We prayed the hell out of it. He asked Jesus to protect me always. And it made me so damn proud and heartbroken at the very same time. Because he knows I’m all he has and that scares him. At age seven, he’s scared that his only parent will die.
My friends. Life isn’t freaking fair.
I laid there and held my baby until he fell asleep. There were so many silent tears falling into his pillow as I rubbed his back. And there were so many silent, but intense prayers happening, asking God to have mercy on us and take away the fear.
I won’t sit here and sugar coat my status at this very moment. I’m sobbing as I write. My heart is broken for him. I’m angry with Charles all over again. I’m pissed that there isn’t an “earth dad” yet, and I have to do this alone. I’m fearful I haven’t handled it the best way. I’m scared my words will never be enough. I’m in disbelief that after I write this, my prayer to God will be that He let me keep my promise to Kaleb that I won’t just up and die one day. Because that’s what he made me promise tonight.
This journey has pushed me to the edge many times, but just as many times, it has pushed me to be stronger. These last few months, especially these last 6 days, have done just that. Thankfully, tomorrow is a new day and kids are stronger than we think, they are actually stronger than we as parents. My faith and the support that surrounds us will undoubtedly get us through.
Of course I write for my own therapy and for the benefit of others going through similar things, but tonight I mostly came here to ask for prayers. Obviously my emotions have taken over, and in moments like these, it’s hard to come up with prayerful words that even make sense, so above all, please pray for my sweet Kaleb. He has a precious heart and it’s hurting.
Life seems unfair today. May God shine new light on it tomorrow.