I’m Sorry Your Husband Died – Parenting A Toddler Through Grief

So yesterday Zoya told me she was sorry my husband died. I was totally torn between, ‘that’s so sweet, I’m crying,’ and ‘damn, you are smart.’ We have always talked about him as her daddy. “Are you sad because my daddy died” is the normal question if she sees me crying. It felt like a huge developmental step for her to realize he was something else to someone else.

She is certainly growing up. After a solid three days doing things together, her attitude has improved. We didn’t have nearly as many screaming and stomping fits the last few days. It was a good break.

I realize not all three year olds are trying to figure out life and death. She has asked me if daddy could still drive a couple of times, and then last night in her prayers she prayed about being sad that he couldn’t come back and see her ‘because he couldn’t drive.’ I’ve even heard her pray about wanting daddy to come back but she didn’t know how to get him to come back ‘even with a stick.’ I always try to clear up the won’t come backs and change them to can’t come backs.

I’m trying to always speak truth while letting her development control the pace of what we talk about as much as possible. Some things I say she can’t understand but when she does understand I want it to be the truth she has always heard, not some nonsense about Shah turning into an angel or sending him messages in balloons.

She is a sleep talker. Last night she woke me up twice. The first time it was because she was crying that she didn’t want me to die and go away. The second time was because she wanted the ‘blue thing now, not later.’ She was asleep for both “conversations.”

I think the first comment was prompted by her telling me that when we die we can be with daddy and he can touch us. I don’t know what prompted her to say that. It was definitely a trying to work things out sentence. I didn’t disagree.

When Shah was killed I realized I had two options, I could shield her from death until a more appropriate age and risk her thinking her daddy abandoned us or I could introduce death before any child should know such evil. I choose the latter, so parenting this fatherless child comes with an added layer of complexity, but hopefully it’s also leading to a child who knows she is loved and has compassion for others.

That would be a big win. That would be good triumphing over evil.

About Camila

Based in Atlanta, but from the mountains of North Carolina. New widow of a man from Iran. Mother of one precious girl. Anti-human trafficking expert. Sister to 16 siblings (Yes, some of are adopted). Daughter of God.

2 comments on “I’m Sorry Your Husband Died – Parenting A Toddler Through Grief

  1. rossboone

    So good, Camila. That dear child.


  2. stellise kirk

    i love this.


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