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Mourning an Absent Parent

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"My son hasn't seen or heard from his father in more than three years," begins an e-mail we recently received from a single mom.

single mom comforting little boy

Single Mom Seeking: "I've always told my 7-year-old son that his dad moved away and I didn't know where he went," this mom goes on. "Truthfully, I knew that he moved in with his girlfriend with whom he had two daughters. So, I found out last night -- quite accidentally -- that they just had a baby boy. Clearly, he has no plans to have any sort of relationship with our son. I started crying. My son heard me and hugged me. I blurted out that his dad probably won't be in his life -- and his father has a new family."

Now, this mother is wondering if she did the right thing by being so bluntly honest with her son. She explains: "I just can't stand the thought of my son waiting for his dad to call -- when obviously his dad has moved on. Both of us are heartbroken."

She wants to know: What can I say now to help my son get through this terrible loss?

Here's what Dr. Leah, author of The Complete Single Mother, suggests:

Don't waste any more energy second-guessing yourself. Unfortunately, there are no "magic words" to soothe this kind of loss.

Do make sure that you emphasize to your son that his father's decision to abandon him has nothing to do with him being unlovable or inadequate. His father left for his own reasons, which even he may not fully understand.

Rituals and ceremonies commemorate transitions in life, such as marriage and death. Consider organizing a ceremony to give your child an opportunity to speak about his loss. Invite selected friends and family, if appropriate.

Give your son an opportunity to give a little speech about his father -- kind of a eulogy for the living. You can also talk about your good memories of his father. You can set aside photos and other mementos in a special place. Light candles and prepare special refreshments. Like an old-fashioned wake, there will be tears and laughter.

Most importantly, others will acknowledge and mourn your son's loss. This is critical for both of you. Wish Dad well as you light the candles. And tell your son that it's time for both of you to move on with your lives, too.

We'd love to know: Have you coped with a similar situation? What advice can you offer to this single mom?




next: First Date and First Diaper Change
7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous October 6, 2009, 9:13 AM

I’m sorry but this is probably the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Who knows maybe one day his dad will come back in his life. In the mean time, surround your son w/good male role models. I could be wrong but if his dad has now had his third child w/ his girlfriend since he left you, he’s been gone long enough for you to have gotten over him and moved on.

shay October 6, 2009, 9:58 AM

my sons father did the same…he never called…only wanted to see my son when it was convienent for him and I got tired of seeing my son getting stood up and I enforced child support on him thats when he started coming around and I told him to go to hell and get a lawyer because he was’nt being consistant enough in my sons life. He has’nt called or seen him in 2 yrs but he pays.

shay October 6, 2009, 9:59 AM

my sons father did the same…he never called…only wanted to see my son when it was convienent for him and I got tired of seeing my son getting stood up and I enforced child support on him thats when he started coming around and I told him to go to hell and get a lawyer because he was’nt being consistant enough in my sons life. He has’nt called or seen him in 2 yrs but he pays.

shay October 6, 2009, 10:03 AM

i would also like to say it is very hard to move on…i know that it is, but you can’t mention him in any bad manner to your son. That makes you look like a monster. I have recently got married and my son loves my husband and don’t even ask about his dad any more, he calls my husband dad.

shay October 6, 2009, 12:29 PM

one more thing…your son is going to feel what you feel. If you are being depressed it is going to rub off on your child. You have to let this go for your child. surround yourself with good company and fun stuff to do. One thing I did is I just quit talking about it because it just made more upset and angry. I kept myself busy so I did’nt have to think about it.

Rick October 29, 2009, 10:53 AM

“I told him to go to hell and get a lawyer because he was’nt being consistant enough in my sons life. He has’nt called or seen him in 2 yrs but he pays.”

Its when I read things like this that I remember why I tell my son to never get married and and to only think of women as temporary companions.

Women have rights and men have responsibilities…


ncognitio November 20, 2009, 9:39 AM

i am going through the same issue i have 3 kids and 2 are from the same man but my oldest i had before i met him so him claimed him as his as well. Well we broke up about 7 years ago and i got into a serious relationship maybe 5 years ago and now he does not even call or see my kids. He now has a girl friend that has a baby of her own not by him and he is playing daddy to her’s but has nothing to do ours. His family still acknowlegdes all my kids as their family but i cant get him to even call and talk with them. I have even talked to his girlfriend and tried to speak with her about the issue which went nowhere. How can i woman with a kid be with a man who you know has kids and can see and spend time with them whenever he wants but choses not to, what kinda of woman r you to not tell him to go check on your kids.


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