‘Two children whose father has died have just been in. It was a sudden and quite unexpected death, the sort called tragic. And they seemed to cope quite well in the immediate aftermath. It helped that their mum was brilliant and sensible and able to support them even though she was grieving. Now it’s months later. All the excitement is over, no more sending letters to daddy or fuss from teachers and neighbours who are aware, just the grind of permanent loss. Mum and the children are close and talk to each other a lot, but there are still things they can’t say. One of the most difficult things for small children is protecting their parents. That’s one of the hardest things for the parents too. So the children don’t say something because they know it will upset Mummy -or daddy – and the parents can not do a thing about it. Except, perhaps, to find an outsider who could provide an ear. Sometimes an Aunt or friend will be the answer, sometimes a guinea pig or dog, sometimes – even – a psychologist! So here I was. And the children told me first the bare bones of the story, and then more about their dad. What fun he had been, how he sometimes got a little silly and tickled them and their mum, how he could be very cross in the mornings if he was tired and how he had not cried when his Dad died. We talked about whether he might have cried when they weren’t looking – grown-ups do – and whether crying was the only way of showing you were unhappy. And then we talked about the worries that were current. The Boy is worried he won’t be able to clear the snow from the drive like his dad did, the Girl is worried that no-one will be able to carve the Turkey at Christmas – Daddy always did that. Underlying most of this seems to be the realisation that this is a permanent state. Daddy will never come back and life will never be the same. It’s sad. Knowing that, makes them different from many other children. Many adults have not experienced a significant bereavement and won’t be able to share their grief, although they may try to empathise. There is a hole where someone was, a gap that will never be filled. I tried to help them remember the whole person. Their father was not a saint and had some less attractive points. But he loved them, was proud of them and rejoiced in their happinesses. And now he isn’t there, they are allowed to be unhappy. As long as they also remember to enjoy life too, and not to feel guilty because sometimes they forget.

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