Donuts With Dads

Yesterday was a professional development day for the teachers in our district. My sister and I taught something ‘google-y’ as we tend to like to do. It’s fun and usually well-received by our peers. It’s practical information that I pray teachers will use as soon as today when they get back to class. Some of these type of days are spent by teachers grumbling about needing to do any type of continuing education. I agree we have had some dud days but I appreciated the choices we had yesterday.
Since losing Shane, I have had at least one student (this year two) gifted to me who have lost a parent. I say gifted, because that is the way I feel about every child who is in my class. They are a gift and they are there for a reason. Because of this and obvious other reasons, I chose a class about grief. I remember the first year after loss that I had a grieving student who was pushing every limit. Late to class, not doing work…brilliant little guy, but he was using his loss as an excuse. I took him in the hallway and had a little tough love conversation with him. I reminded him that I had dropped off 3 boys just like him that morning who I expected to be sad at times but never disrespectful of the rules. That it would eventually make more worry for his mother if he didn’t straighten up. I remember crying with him and telling him I understood, but to a point. I wanted so badly to know that I had said all of the right things. I called his mom and told her about our conversation and she was grateful and told me that sometimes it takes someone else telling him. 
I agree with that! Tate would not eat and I called in reinforcements. A hip, amazing young dietician who was also a lover of running. She gave him the same calories in/calories out talk that I had, but he is still abiding by her advice today! Lane thought a rule was far-fetched and it took Uncle Robb and Chris to help him see the light. Sometimes one parent gets to play off the other in the whole good cop/bad cop scenario. Well, when there is only one you just need to have backup.  These are the same two men who coincidentally had to be called off duty when another parent questioned my parenting decisions. They’ve definitely got my back! Just like Shane would’ve expected them to! 
I wanted this class to help me see a different side of these few kids a year that I have. I am so close to this at home and often worry about what my boys look like in a classroom setting. Are they focused? Are their thoughts drifting? Do they feel scared, helpless, alone? I am basically just naming off all of my own daily feelings here. They can be miserable.
Here are my take-aways, and they apply to anyone who desires to better understand a friend or family member grieving:
  • 1 in 20 children will deal with a death loss by age 7, many more are dealing with a life loss. There is a difference. 
  • Life loss is when their mom/dad might be out there but chooses a different life. I find this very sad and whole other blog post. This was me growing up…do they love you? Why are they choosing another family? 
  • Children dealing with loss of a parent do not trust everyone around them to still be there in the future. That could be said for anyone, but can you imagine their uncertainty.
  • Kids tend to grieve in bursts. Don’t be surprised if they are ready to face the world moments after an outcry. 
  • Children of loss deal with new aspects developmentally. For example, a 3 year old who loses a parent may ask the living parent DAILY where that person is. When that same child is 5 or 6, it becomes concrete that they are not coming back. When they are 10, they learn there is bad and evil in the world and they may suffer all over again with other worries associated with death. Coincidentally, this is where I am with Wyatt. Bad dreams, locking the doors excessively…I mean, who wasn’t afraid to take the trash out in the dark at some point in your childhood. It is all normal, but may be escalated for these kiddos.  
  • They could relive the death at every major life event. Wishing they were there for all of the big moments. The big game…the concert. What is graduation going to feel like? Leaving for college?
  • Important for everyone to know: Not one single thing you do or say will take away someone’s grief experience. Just sit with them, don’t tell them ‘it will be ok’ or other ridiculous things we all say because to them it just won’t, and just be still. Help them normalize their feelings so they don’t think they are going crazy. 
The reason for the title of this post is that Donuts with Dads came up…why do we do these types of things? Well, because the majority of the population can enjoy it while others are forced to face their grief head-on. Rewind to my first DWD experience as an elementary teacher and you will know that I have been bitter about it from day one. We had a student whose father didn’t show. They were supposed to meet them there. It was a day ruined for this child. They will likely never forget it. The counselor yesterday explained that we can’t shield them from every hurt and if it gives them a chance to unpack some feelings, then so be it. I agree. I can’t believe I am agreeing but I do.
It’s the everyday sting that I wish would go away. My boys have had things bother them that I wouldn’t have dreamed would but each time it’s been a chance to talk. To cry. To let it out! I didn’t even make it through senior night at the football game for thinking about next year for Tate. I’m going to require some mighty prayer warriors for all of these life events!
Something I am very grateful for is Wyatt’s lunch bunch. He participates in this at school with his counselor and other children dealing with a loss of any kind. What I believe is the key is this, they just eat lunch. They play and act silly. They visit about nothing in particular, but they start each time with their club rules and the one that sticks with Wyatt:

Whatever happened to create this loss was not my fault.   

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