It had been four long years since my now 19 year old son had heard from his father in any way, shape or form so the phone call from the hospital was completely unexpected. All they could tell my son was that his father was in ICU and not expected to live. In that moment he was faced with some monumental decisions and in spite of his anger and pain at being abandoned, he rose to the occasion and began to make plans to go and see his father, before he could get there, his father was gone.
I encouraged my son to go over and pick up his fathers personal effects and to clean out his room in the boarding house. He is the only heir and this was his responsibility although he could’ve passed it off to friends he went over and did it. Here is what helped my son cope.
By touching things that belonged to his father my son found that he felt closer to him. He was able to lay his anger to rest and be at peace. He found many things that showed him how much is father truly cared about him and that helped him a lot. As he touched things he felt more and more peace. He found things that he could wear that would help to make him feel closer and at long last felt as if his fathers arms were around him.
When he was little my son never could understand how his father could have left us. I tried in vain to explain that he was an alcoholic and protecting us. Now that my son is older he was able to understand this and talk more about his feelings. He also found a wonderful journal where his father talked about him nearly non stop. This helped a lot and my son was able to lay his anger to rest. Talking and sharing his feelings has been very healing.
Overwhelmed by unexpected emotions as he was about to leave the boarding house he called me. “Mom, I feel so empty and lost” he cried. I encouraged him to talk about his feelings and let the tears flow. Healing tears of what should have been, but wasn’t. I listened to him for over an hour and he told me his feelings and hurts. I encouraged him to take pictures of the room so he could look back at it if he wanted or needed to.
Upon his return, we unloaded his car as a family. Each and every belonging was lovingly placed in the dining room where my son wanted it for the time being. I didn’t rush him in moving things upstairs to his room nor did I paw through things. I allowed my son to begin moving things in his own time. It was both a comfort and a sadness that my son felt at having his fathers belongings in our home. Slowly, he has begun to incorporate his fathers belongings into his own.
Dealing With The Remains
Since we hadn’t expected this and my former husband had no money we opted to have him cremated. My son had to borrow money to do so but he felt good about his decision. When the ashes arrived I thought it would be bittersweet and in many ways it has been. My son first carried his fathers remains into the living room and placed them on the coffee table. They remained there for three days and my son would sometimes talk to his father and say things like, “Tonight we’re watching Finding Bigfoot dad”. I think it helped him cope a bit with the shock of it all.
Today, just three short weeks later, my son is doing very well and has a positive attitude. Every so often he’ll trip over something of his fathers in the dining room and mumble that he needs to get that upstairs. Allowing him to talk, share his emotions and carry his fathers ashes into our living room has actually helped him to cope with this more than anything else.