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Death of BD, any advice on how to cope as a family?

CatDaddy1091's picture


A little background on my situation:

My SS's BD passed away a couple of weeks ago and our family is going through a rough time handling it. The BD and I both got along incredibly well, were able to get along for the childrens sake, and I saw the love he had for them every time he would pick them up for visitation. My SS's are 4 years old and 10 years old, so dealing with his passing has been difficult for them to say the least. Their BD was only 31 and died from sudden causes. So sudden that we still haven't recieved the autopsy or toxicology reports so we don't even know what he died from, we just know he went to work and was found in his car the next morning by some co workers and there was no foul play.

I was wondering if anyone here has ever had to go through something like this and if anyone has any sort of words of advice to just help my family make it through this difficult time. We all cared about and loved the kids BD, and I am struggling with connecting with the kids as well as being there to comfort them. Being I am not their BD they both seem to want nothing to do with me right now. Is there any way I can break through that wall and just be able to comfort them and be there for them without them just shutting me out? I care immensly about my SS's and just don't want this to ruin their childhoods.

JRI's picture

I'm sorry for you all,  how sad.  I didn't have this same experience but when my ex died, it was so confusing to me.   He wasnt even a good dad, more of a deadbeat dad, but his death hit me unexpectedly.  Any death of a beloved dad is hard for young boys but it must be just that much worse after a divorce.

I'm sure other Steptalkets will have good input.  Again, sorry for your family.

notarelative's picture

The local hospice here runs a grief group for children. You don't have to have utilized hospice services for a child to attend. They also run a group for the parent on helping your child cope at the same time. Check with your local hospice to see if something similar is available. 

My niece utilized this when her husband unexpectedly died and left three chilfern. She has nothing but good things to say about the experience.

CajunMom's picture

I wish I had words of wisdom. As someone mentioned, most Hospice organizations have support groups for adults an children. We have a facility in my city called The Healing House where the focus is on helping kids grieve the loss of loved ones. Our guild made "Feelings Dolls" for them, something the kids use to express feelings when they can't say it. If you are church attending, their is a program called Grief Share and they have one for children, also.

Wishing you all the best.

Rags's picture

My condolences to your family on the loss of your Skids BioDad.  Though not direct correlations, we lost my youngest brother when I was 8.  He would have turned 49 last month.  The loss was painful and still draws tears for me and for my parents. My surviving younger brother was 2 when the baby died so he does not experience the periodic grief related to that loss. 

My DW lost her StepDad in June of 18.  He is the the only dad she has known as her BioDad was killed a few days before my MIL found out she was pregnant with my DW.   

The commonality in these losses is that the families grieved together and went through the grief cycle together during that loss.

Though I am far from a therapist what your Skids are expressing towards you may very well be a fairly normal part of the grief cycle. Particularly the denial and anger stages.  Don't forget that the grief cycle is not entirely a sequential nore is it a linear process and most people recycle through various stages of the process any number of times as they progress. The process generally takes 2-4ish years.  

I would suggest that you be side by side with your bride and the two of you show a united supportive front for Skids as they grieve the death of their dad.  And... as you work through your own grief on the loss of the BioDad the two of you and the Skids respected.

Again, my condolences.

I Think I Am's picture

I commend you for coming here & reaching out, I'm afraid I don't have any wisdown to share but I do wish the very best for your family, I like the advice above about grief groups & individual therapy for your SS's may be an idea when the time is right. They may feel as though they're betraying their dad by seeking comfort in you, it's not logical but I can see that being a possible factor, don't take it personally as it sounds like they're very lucky to have you in their lives. 

clover63's picture

Hi there

I have three stepchildren (22, 20, and 13) and their BM died by suicide last month.  Our oldest children live on their own, but I have been the primary support for my 13-year-old stepson, including telling him that his mother took her own life.  It was the most excruciating collection of words I have ever had to string together, but his dad couldn't get it together emotionally to tell him.  I spoke with two counselors in advance, and both have known my DSS for most of his life.  They were very clear that children need and deserve to hear the truth from someone they trust, but the truth must be told gently and at a developmentally appropriate level.  I have been with my DSS for over 11 years, and I have a very strong bond with him.  There is no "right" way to help children navigate their grief since every child is unique... but some of the things I have said to my DSS include:

1.  you don't have to be brave, you don't have to be strong, you don't have to be anything or anybody right now... you just need to be.  Be present with your feelings, no matter what they are, and if you need support, I am here.

2. It's ok to laugh, and to smile, and to still be silly even when others around you are sad.

3.  It's ok to be quiet, and it's ok to be loud. It's also ok to be mad sometimes.  Grief is all of those things

4.  You don't have to talk, but know that you are safe with me if you need to ask a question about your feelings, or about your mom, or about things we might do to help you when you feel overwhelmed.

5.  Move a little each day, throughout the day.  Throw something (outside!) or smash something (outside!) or scream if you want to.  We can do it together if you'd like.  (My DSS smashed a miniature wooden baseball bat to smithereens a few days after his mom died, and I just watched him from the kitchen window and knew he was doing exactly what he needed to do.). Children need to be physical and I believe that movement not only invigorates their souls, it can also help them release their emotions.

6.  When they say "I wish I had..." or "if only I had..." make sure they know that these feelings are normal, but it is important to feel them and then move forward to "I'm so happy I was able to..." or "I remember when..."

It has been a month for us, and each day gets a little better.  We let our son take a full week off from school, and slowly eased him back into his friendships by the end of that week.  It was nice that Halloween occurred then, so he could go trick or treating with his pals, sort of in disguise, where everyone was play-acting anyway.  He did great when he returned to school, but his mom's funeral was 3 weeks after she died, and that was sort of a rough setback because it made her death absolutely real for him. (He has lived with us full time for over 2 1/2 years, and so his everyday life was not really disrupted in that he didn't have to pack up his stuff from her house and move here full time) He stayed home from school the day after the funeral, but he's been pretty good since.  He seems to be talking more openly about his mom, and remembering her with words, and I think that is great progress for him.

It is heartbreaking to see our kids grieving, and it takes a lot of emotional energy and fortitude to be present and to be strong for them.  Take good care of yourself, and try to communicate when you feel they are receptive.  Admit when you don't know how to answer them, and also talk about your own struggles with grief, and the lessons you've learned.  I think you will find this painful situation might offer you some wonderful opportunities for nurturing trust and a lot of good conversation about feelings and emotions.  It is good for children to develop a vocabulary specific to their feelings (it is good for us all!)

Hugs from our tender household to yours.

CatDaddy1091's picture

I just want to thank everyone that has commented. All of the advice has been amazing and super helpful, the boys are slowly coming out of their respective bubbles and becoming their old selves. Their BM and myself have both been very open with them and have allowed them to express themselves and their emotions freely concerning their BD's passing. We now have nightly movie time before we put them to bed where all four of us snuggle up in their BM's and my bed and pick a movie to watch as a family. After the movie is over we normally have about a half hour left over before their bed time so we use that time as a sort of open forum where the kids can ask us anything they want and my wife and I will be completely honest with them. I think this has really helped them feel supported, loved, and most importantly comfortable talking about their feelings and the grieving process. Thank you all again, I have been seeing both of my SS's respond well and they both are actually smiling, laughing, and playing again. Which, at the end of the day is all that matters to me, those kids are my life.