I hope this comes across as a positive read. I haven’t really written much about my experience with having a daughter who lost her Dad when she was young but I’m writing in the hope that it might help anyone going through a similar situation & the things I found most helpful along the way.
I have an amazing Dad who has always been there for me ( he has dementia now & unable to communicate very well or walk so it’s a little different ) but I’ve always had him around & feel very lucky and blessed that I have. However Lottie, my eldest daughter ( now 11) lost her Father to melanoma cancer at the age of 3 and a half. I don’t know what that must feel like - what she must feel, what she thinks … so I can only use my instincts to care for her the best I can and be the best Mum I can to her in her situation.
When Ade found out he had a terminal cancer his main concern was that he wanted Lottie ( then only 1) to remember him - so between us we did as much as we could to make that happen. He was very mobile right up until his last few weeks in the hospice. He finished at his work when he started his treatment & he was able to take Lottie to the park every day which was conveniently across the road from where we lived. He would read her a story every night at bedtime and hug and kiss her as often as he could & most importantly make her laugh. He was a funny person - as in liked to make people laugh & I often see his humour in Lottie when she’s being silly.
We found the website ‘Winston’s Wish’ - amongst others - when Ade was diagnosed. They offered so much information, help and advice on dealing with child bereavement & things to say / do to prepare for the future. Unless you’re facing it it’s not the sort of thing you research or have had to think about before. The main thing I took from everything I read, was the memories and keeping those memories alive. So I took hundreds & hundreds of photos and video clips ( this was hard as he didn’t want to be filmed much or talk to the camera) & more photos.
They also recommended having a memory box to keep everything safe in which is now full of photos, cards and anything to do with her Daddy. I have back ups of my back ups of the digital photos and have always been a bit paranoid that I’ve not saved them properly. Its worth having them all in a number of different places as they are so important. I don’t push Lottie to look at them but I know she visits the memory box - and sometimes when I’m not there. We have now upgraded the box that she started off with to a metal trunk from LaRedoute . (Thanks to the lovely Gemma from @mutha.hood for the idea! )
At Ade’s funeral we gave out large blank cards and asked friends to fill in the adds with a funny story or anecdote about Ade - he was such a character and I wanted Lottie to have a really good understanding of what her Dad was like.
She also has a large stone which she got from Langland beach ( Mumbles Wales) on one of our first trips after Ade died - and she trys to paint it a bit more every year. We’ve always spoken openly and often about Ade. She’s had some rocky patches over the years but It's always been hard to work out if a certain behaviour is because of what has happened or whether its normal 4 / 5 / 6 year old behaviour. Tantrums, out bursts, separation anxiety etc
If she stayed anywhere with out me I’d often give her something of mine to take so she knew I was coming back.
There are also some great books on helping children understand what happens when someone dies. Above are some I read with Lottie - all available at Amazon
Always and Forever - Alan Durant Amazon
NoMatter What - Debi Gliori - Amazon
Up In Heaven - Emma Chichester Clark ( also good when you've lost a pet ) Amazon
I wish 'The Magical Wood' by Mark Lemon had been around when Ade died. Its a beautifully illustrated book to help children facing grief.
Mark also donates part of the profits to Winstons Wish. You can buy this book from his site Lemon Drop Books
Lottie saw a councillor before Ade died - and up to when we moved to Birmingham after he died to be nearer friends. She also had some more about a year ago as I’d read as children are growing into young adult, pre teen the emotions are flowing and thought it might be the right time to re visit. Both times it gave Lottie an outlet to talk about how she was feeling.
We now have a new little family & Lottie has an amazing step Dad - Chris & Lottie have their little jokes and a mutual love of Star Wars & it's so important for her to have a male role model in her life. Before I met my parter Chris I was always very conscious that Lottie spent time with other Dads. My Sister got together with one of Ade’s best friends at our wedding so Lottie will always have an uncle who knew her daddy better than most & has some very funny stories to tell.
There is no right or wrong way of doing things I guess & I always hope I’ve done the best I can with Lottie and bringing her up to face the world & her future without her Daddy by her side.
We donate part of the profits from the sales of our 'We Are Family' sweatshirts to Winstons Wish & I'm also doing a 10K run this Sunday - 1st July to raise as much for the charity You can sponsor me here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/helen-dukes
Useful websites for childhood grief