A sad, tired, and confused man sat at the table across from me. “How am I going to tell my 3 year old daughter?” he asked.
“Should I bring her to see her mother?”
“If so, when should I bring her?”
“I want her to be able to say goodbye.”
“What should I do?”
All of these questions and thoughts just kept coming, as he shared his struggles out loud. My heart ached for this man, whose wife was about to be taken off of life support. We spent some time discussing ways to explain death to his three year old daughter and techniques to explain it to her as she gets a little older. We came up with some ideas to support his daughter over the next few days and as their family moves forward.
At one point, he said, “I don’t want her to be a nerd because I don’t know how to dress her. Her mother was always so good at that”. It was a comment that touched my heart. This was a dad wanting the best for his daughter; and he was suddenly discovering new challenges and experiencing fears of the unknown.
Ultimately this fear wasn’t just about dressing his child, although he was relieved to know stores often sell matching sets and outfits for younger children. This man’s world had just been turned upside down and he was trying to figure out, in his mind, how to fill the roles of both mom and dad. He feared he would fall short of providing everything his daughter needed and deserved. To him, this felt like an overwhelming responsibility; a common feeling for a parent in this situation. It took a little while, but eventually he began to realize that he didn’t need to play both roles of mom and dad to be a good parent. He needed to be the really great dad that he already was for his daughter.
It was an honor to sit with this father, listen to his thoughts, and provide guidance as he worked through how to support his daughter. I admire this father for his strength and his focus on caring for his child during such a challenging time in his life.
This family truly touched my heart; and I hope his story will touch your heart and help you to find strength when you need it most.