My last post received lots of really helpful comments about dealing with my son’s grief-related anger. So useful have they been, in fact, that he’s actually been much better. And perhaps that’s because some of the advice I took on board has enabled me to be a fairer father to him.
Someone suggested I look a what triggers his anger – usually not getting his own way about something seemingly trivial – and it made me think about how I might better respond to a situation as it simmers up rather than when it’s already boiling over. As a result I’ve been an altogether nicer dad today and he’s been an altogether nicer son.
But one comment that followed the post stood out to me above all others. A young mum who lost her husband admitted something that many others might find too hard to accept: that her husband’s death hadn’t only taken her child’s father but that it had left her mentally absent as a mother too. I feel the same. My son’s also lost a big part of me. And I find it safe to assume that he’s grieving not just the person he lost when his mummy was killed but also the personality that disappeared from his daddy as a result.
I guess I’d already admitted this I myself when I wrote this poem earlier in the year:
Half the patience,
Half the fuse,
Half the parent,
Half a man,
Half a boy,
Half the home,
Half the joy.
Half the time,
Twice the toil.
Twice the effort,
Half the spoil.
Half the father,
Half the son,
Half the future,
Half the fun.
Half the memory,
Half the drive.
Glass half empty,
Glass half full,
Wholly wanting to feel whole again.
Wholly living with a hole within.
I’m less patient, less happy and less fun than I was before. I’m not angry by nature but I’ve realised that I’ve become snappy and quick-tempered since Desreen died. At the very best of times it’s hard not to snap back when someone snaps at you, even if you know that you should probably try to act like the bigger person. It’s harder still when times aren’t good and when you’re constantly on the brink of breaking. But when you actually are the bigger person it’s probably a time to cut some slack. I mean, if I was sat smoking a joint whilst I told my son never to take drugs I’d gladly take to the stage to accept my Hypocrite of the Year award. And yet I expect my son to stop shouting at me when I shout at him. It suddenly doesn’t make sense.
I see many a friend’s child brought into submission by a raised voice or a sternly pointed finger. Not my son though. He serves no one. Most days he tells me that he’s the boss so I’ve given up on trying to be seen to be the one who’s in charge. A chief executive can’t run a company alone though. And more often than not it’s the CEO’s PA who does all the work. So I’ll be delighted if I can help him to implement his vision for a happier, less fractious life. I’m going to try to support his leadership with the gentle art of persuasion rather than positioning myself as a second iron-spooned cook around an already too small broth pot. I’m going to attempt to be the diplomat even when he wishes to be the warmonger. And if Jackson wants to take all the credit at the end for ‘his’ successful peacetime strategy then that’s more than fine by me. He is ‘the boss’ after all.
This is syndicated content from Life as a widower
Content reproduced with the kind permission of Benjamin Brooks-Dutton
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