Holidays After a Parent Has Died
Copyright 2008 by Neil Chethik
The winter holidays are usually happy times for families. But when a father or mother has died during the year, these celebrations may sting. Here are three things to keep in mind if you're dealing with the death of a loved one this year.
1) If the family has a tradition of gathering during the holidays, do your best to maintain the tradition. In some families, especially when a matriarch or patriarch has died, the sons and daughters and grandchildren may be inclined to scatter at the holidays. It's important to come together, in the absence of the person, especially that first year. Coming together signals that the family bonds will continue on after the death of this one person.
2) Speak of the person who has died. It's healthy to acknowledge – especially during mealtimes and at other gatherings – that the person is missing. You may even set aside time to bring out photos, and go around the room allowing each person to tell a favorite memory. Often times, the result is not only some healthy tears, but healthy laughter as well.
3) Include the children in discussions about their grandparent. We think we're protecting children by not talking about death or grief. But children actually become more afraid of death when the adults won't talk about it. So invite the kids to stay for the story-telling, and invite them to participate.
Click here to see more about Neil's book, FatherLoss (Hyperion).
Married Men and Sex: The Survey Says.... .
These statistics come from The VoiceMale Survey of 288 married men, conducted in conjunction with the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center. Copyright 2008 by Neil Chethik. Details of the survey are available in Neil's book, VoiceMale (Simon & Schuster), available at discount here.
Fatherhood in the Teen Years: The More Things Change
Copyright 2008 by Neil Chethik
I perched on the playground bench, reading Norman MacLean's masterpiece, Young Men and Fire, my peripheral vision concentrated on 4-year-old Evan in the sandbox. In the book, the fire raced up the mountainside. From the playground, Evan ran toward me. “Daddy, Daddy, can I tell you a story about what just happened?”
I placed my book on my lap. “Of course, Evan.”
There was a pause. I could see Evan's face scrunch up. And I finally asked: “Evan, are you going to tell me that story?”
He responded, pointing toward his temple: “Just a minute, Dad. It's rewinding.”
A year later, my wife and I were sitting reading the newspaper in the front of the fireplace on Sunday. It was Christmas time and the tree was up. All around the base of it was a miniature alpine village with little amber street lamps, cottony snow, and an electric train.
“Mom, watch this!” Evan said. Kelly put down her newspaper. Evan turned the knob on the train's power source and the engine chugged into motion. “That's great, Evan,” Kelly said, and turned her attention back to the newspaper.
“No, Mommy, keep watching!” he demanded. “I'll tell you when it's time to unwatch.”
Over the next 2 or 3 years, Evan struggled with fears in the middle of the night. He would come into our room when we were sleeping and whisper, “Mom, Dad, there are bad people out there. I heard some scratching at the window, and they're sneaking up on me.”
“Evan,” I'd say, “it's OK. There's no one out there. It's your imagination. Go back to bed and everything will be alright.” But then Evan would add: “Plus I'm scared.” And we'd melt and say, OK, come into the bed with us. And he would.
Now, nearly a decade later, nothing is the same. Indeed, sometimes the world seems upside down.
Evan, a high-schooler now, doesn't come to me saying, "Daddy, Daddy, can I tell you a story?" When I do manage to extract a story from him, I often wish I hadn't. There was the story of the fellow 15-year-old who borrowed the family car. And crashed it. Because he was distracted lighting a cigarette. And the police came. And the parents had to pay for everything. Including an investigation into whether they were fit to raise a teenager.
Hearing these stories, I wish I could rewind. Or unwatch.
Occasionally now, I go into Evan's bedroom in the middle of the night, instead of the other way around. He's sleeping, and I look over that long-sprawled body that fills that bed, and I want to say to him, “You were right. There are bad people out there. People who are scratching at the window, and sneaking up on you.”
And then I think: “Plus I'm scared.”
And I kiss the cheek that has bristles now. I kiss him and go into my bedroom, where I sleep, alone, beside my wife.
Neil's Wife Elected to Kentucky House of Representatives
Twenty-five years ago, I met Kelly Flood when she was an aide to a state legislator in Tallahassee, Fla., and I was a political reporter. I won't get into all the details, but our (initially clandestine) relationship resulted in marriage four years later.
In the two decades since, Kelly moved away from electoral politics to become a minister and later a fundraiser and educational administrator. Then, four months ago, she was approached by a local Democratic Party member here in Lexington, Ky., and asked to run for a suddenly vacant state House seat.
Kelly turned out to be a natural politician (in a good way!). She connects with voters, listens attentively, speaks eloquently. She won on Nov. 4 by a 65 percent to 35 percent margin. She takes office in early January. If you want to learn more about Kelly and her work, check out her site at www.KellyFlood.com.