Monday, September 29, 2008

"Do you want people to bring up Joe's name and stories and things to the kids? At any given time? What if it feels like it would be more painful for the kids to bring it all up? When is a good time to talk about their dad? Is it painful for you or inappropriate?"

The question above is from the comments from a few weeks ago.


I guess I can only speak for my own family of 3, but I feel the whole "don't talk about it because you will upset them" is a big myth. I don't think that any of the three of us have ever broken down when someone told us a story about Joe. But, honestly, it happens pretty rarely. Most people do not talk about Joe around us. In fact, when I bring up a story about him I often get a reaction like "wait a this okay that she's talking about him??" and it makes some people visibly uncomfortable.

Let me just interject here that I am not judging anyone for their behavior. I understand that most people have not been in our shoes. I know that I would not know what to do either if I were on the other side. But since I am not, I will tell you exactly the truth of how I feel and what you should do around us.

It seems that it is a widespread belief that if you talk about the person you will upset the family. I guess this could be the case in some families, I am sure it is. But not in our's. It is exactly 100% the opposite. We talk about Joe all the time. I purposely remind my kids of stories and little things that daddy did or said or anything, just anything, to keep his presence with us. Most of the time, we have smiles on our faces when we talk about him. I don't want any of the three of us to forget him. I already feel like I have forgotten some stuff and that makes me sad.

What would you want if the unthinkable were to happen to you in an untimely and sudden manner? Would you want everyone to just stop talking about you? Remembering you? Or would you want people to keep your memory alive, especially with your children? Those questions solidify in my mind that talking about Joe is the exact right thing to do in our family. You have to remember that the stories that a lot of you have, are the stories that my children will learn who their father was from. In fact, I would be very appreciative if you would write those stories down and send them to me (or email) so that I can keep them or my kids. Funny things that Joe did, nice things that he did, even bad things that he did....these are all ways in which my kids can know who their father was 10, 20 , 30, 40, 50 years from now. They don't have to be long. They can just be a few sentences, just anything that sticks in your mind about him. It would be a gift that Luke and Alyssa would treasure in years to come.

All of that being said, there is one big condition that this rests on. That is that YOU must be strong when you talk about Joe. YOU must be able to talk about him and give the impression to my children that "hey we can all still talk about daddy and be happy when we are doing it". If you can't do that then right now would not be the best time to be talking about him. Trust me, my kids see plenty of my tears and they know that what happened is a sad, sad thing. But they need to know that the world goes on, and that things can be okay still and one way to convey that is for people to talk about their dad without being upset. If you think you can do it and you end up getting upset unexpectedly, don't worry. We'll just muddle through it. My kids will be okay. Just do your best when you feel you are ready and have something to say.

So when you are ready to talk, we are ready to listen. Ready and waiting. It doesn't have to be forced. If you are with us and a memory pops into your mind about him....say it out loud. That is what I do. "I remember when daddy....". Just say his name...let us hear that you think about him too.

The other day Alyssa was talking to me about something regarding the kids at school. She said to me matter-of-factly (this was not a sad conversation) "...but I don't have a daddy". I stopped her as I always do when this general topic comes up with Luke and Alyssa, and I told her "Alyssa, you have a daddy, he's just not here with us". I don't want her to forget that. We all need to remind her and let her know, she has a daddy.


Katie said...

It was nice to hear your thoughts on this one, Robin. That was very well said and nice to know how you feel.

I am working on something for the kids.

Kerry said...


Your post makes me think of a crisis counseling class I took as a grad student. Part of what got the faculty member interested in developing the course was the loss of an infant child...not the same as your situation, but a loss none the less. She said one of the worst things was no one wanting to talk with her about what happened - didn't want to ask her how she was, didn't want to bring it up. Having people not acknowledge what occured made it that much worse to cope with the loss.

Although I never got to know Joe and can't contribute a story for Luke and Alyssa, I can tell you that I am certain they and you will treasure what others send. Each year at the holiday time I now look forward to the letter my uncle will send about my dad and a reflection about them growing up. The letters have helped me learn more about my dad than he ever shared (you may recall he was a man of few words) and I really value receiving them each year.

While I've been "lurking" on your blog for months, this post finally prompted me to comment. Know that we think of you often.

Take care,