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Newly widowed father of two girls 9 and 12

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I am a 43 year old widow. I lost my wife this past October. We were married a week shy of 14 years and have two daughters (9 and 12).  My wife battled metastatic breast cancer that has spread to her bones and liver for 16 months.  She was on hospice for the last 5 months and I was fortunate to be able to stay home and be her caregiver.  Cancer is weird because you think you get a jump start on the grieving process while you juggle hope with preparing for what seems like the invevitable. I don't have any regrets. We were able to say everything we needed to say to each other and make some positive memories even during the last months.  We were able to take a family trip to Monterey exactly one month to the day my wife passed.  It was hard and not perfect but were were able to have fun.


My wife taught at our girls school and was the glue the kept this house running smoothly. She handled all the important decisions, did the scheduling, and budgeting. Now its all on me.  I try so hard to do half as good of a job as my wife did. In the last 4 months I have learned how to use overnight curlers, make hair buns, do make up, and shop for a pre-teen.  I know I am doing a good job but that doesn't any easier. 


I am having a really hard time balancing my grief and the girl's grief.  We are on different roller coasters and when I am up they are down ore vise versa. Both of my girls get so angry with me. I know its normal to be angry, but it still hurts especially when I am feeling vulnerable and filled with my own self-doubts about my parenting abilities.  


I try to get the girls to help out around the house, but it has been met with defiance, along with yelling, screaming, and door slamming.  I know no kids likes to clean up around the house, but I also know its another example to them of how things are different without Mom.  While my wife was on hospice, I did not make the girls help out.  I was not up for the fight, but I also wanted them to spend as much quality time with their Mom as possible.  Now I am paying the price.


I try very hard to have fun with them. And want to continue to show them that sadness and anger are part of this process but not the whole process. We can still have fun and both feelings are ok. But I know that our relationship has changed after going through such a terrible loss, but I can't just be their friend. I have to be their Dad too.  That balancing act is so hard.  I have the girls signed up for camp Kesem, they are seeing a social worker through hospice, and I am working on getting them into a peer support group.  I know it will get better but it is so hard right now.  


I have seen so many articles about how children grief and they have been helpful. But I don't see many about how to grieve yourself while supporting their grieving process. Any advice is welcome.

Edited by Mc5

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I am sorry for your loss.  I also just wanted to say that my daughter will be in her 5th year at Camp Kesem UPenn and it has been an exceptionally positive experience for her not just during the week of camp but throughout the year.  I cannot say enough good things about our experience with camp.  Hopefully, this will be something for you ALL to look forward to in the coming months.  I know CK UPenn has a spring event (a sort of reunion) - maybe inquire and see if your chapter has one and maybe you can take your daughters for a taste of Camp Kesem.  Honestly, it is a wonderful, supportive and above all FUN organization - your daughters will have a fantastic time (and you will get a week "off").

Also, in many ways, my husband (GBM - brain cancer) was the primary caregiver for our daughter.  When he died after 18 months with the disease, I was a wreck - working, grieving, trying to redefine my relationship with my daughter, while also pretending in public like everything was "normal" and I had it under control  - I held myself to a ludicrously high standard and often beat myself up, I now see looking back, unnecessarily and to our own detriment.  Please try to do the best you can at a pace you can keep for the long haul.  I tried to do too many things, wear too many hats, please too many people and we really paid for that.  This, for me, has been a marathon, not a sprint.


Things eventually do level out and you and your daughters will find a balance.   I know i have with mine (who is now 12 and slamming doors!).   It looks very different than the relationship we had before but in time I learned that that is both natural and ok.  


Sending you support and wishing you peace.  And I hope you will utilize this board - it has been a life saver for me and I still rely on it even now.  It does get better.  

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Mc5, I am so sorry for your loss. Raising two kids alone is no picnic, but it sounds like you are doing an exceptional job. Do you have a close female friend or family member that can commit to stepping in as a female role model? Adolescents is such a confusing time to begin with, and they may resent not having their mom to guide them through their changes. If you don't have a female friend or family member, perhaps check out Big Brothers Big Sisters? 


It is hard to grieve along side your kids, and to take the brunt of their anger. Grief support groups are a good outlet, and I will second the grief camps. The unspoken bonus of the grief camp is that while they are away for the weekend, you get time alone with your own grief. 





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Condolences on your wife. Teen girls....they are their own level of challenge. My girls were 12 and 16 when their dad died. They may be older than some other kids but gosh they still need chauffeuring, appointments, activities, needs, etc. and it’s exhausting when they didn’t drive either. 


I spent most most of my time working on them first and then myself second. I made their survival my absolute priority. I needed to find control of our lives and then figure out what I could manage and what I can’t and then find a viable solution. It sounds to me you might have to ease them into chores and strengthening the family unit. I had to stress this. I was the mom who did everything because I could and didn’t mind but when you have to work and provide, I had to change gears and they had to help. They miss my cooking but they understand when I choose to pick up carry out or keep it simple like soup and grilled cheese. They do chores and take care of the pets. They walk to places or decline invites because I’m at work. They understand we need to be a team and that sacrifices are necessary. I have also told them that they never have to get over losing their dad but they need to move forward and progress. He will always be a part of us. 


How I dealt with my grief? I was honest with the kids. If I was sad and having a bad day, I didn’t necessarily hide it and I would talk about it with them. This in turn encouraged for them to do the same. I often journaled to “speak” to my husband as I needed to vent and also work things out. I found hobbies that gave me piece of mind so I wasn’t feeling the oppression of sadness all the time. I did therapy and I came here a lot to read and gain perspective. I changed the way I did things so everyday or annual rituals weren’t painful. We changed seats in the kitchen, I hosted Thanksgiving instead of Christmas, we chose to do more experiences together rather than focus on material things. I also made myself make time for myself - go out with my own friends to get adult time and to recharge. It helped prevent horrible burnout and closeting myself at home as I could do.  


I knew I need to be well for my girls to be well. My energy effects them. I made sure I ate and stayed hydrated and I do my best to get at least 6 hours asleep a day. 


You can do this. We have dad’s here who did it and are still doing it. Read around here and get some perspective on other people's struggles that might be similar to yours. Tackle one thing at a time and be patient for those challenging teen years. Stay consistent and work on getting them to be part of the solution. Trust me, when I’ve had enough, I can call my sister in for reinforcement! 


Hugs to you today! 

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Hey Mc5, my loss followed a similar time frame as your own.  I was 42 when I lost my wife in 2016, my daughter was 12.  We couldn't have more kids because my wife became sick when my daughter was 5 months old.  Teenagers have their own challenges even when they haven't lost a parent, which would sometimes leave me wondering whether issues were related to losing her Mom, or just being a teenager, getting her period, etc (told me last year she is gay too).  It sounds like you are doing all the right things buddy, hang in there, I hope you have some supports, I had lots of help from my family, in-laws and neighbours, it helps keep you sane.  There are lots of people who have travelled this road of grief before us and this forum allows us to learn from them.  It has helped me many days with different thoughts and situations.  Hope you find some help here.  It is a tough balance, but you are doing great, you are right to ask them to help with the things they can do around the house.  Take care, Paul

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I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm also 43. I was 38 when my husband died, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. My daughters were 14, 12, and 16. My husband and I always taught our girls that this is our house. We all clean up after ourselves. One person shouldn't be expected to do it all. We all help out. Everything has a place, so put it back in its place. I don't like nagging, bickering, or chore charts. I just expect them to help. If I feel they're slacking I will mention it. That's usually all it takes. I think they bicker more between each other as to who does the most to help with the house. My girls are 19, 17, and 11 now. This works for us. I am a stay at home mom, so I'm sure this will change somewhat when I start working. Maybe not so much with chores, but at least with cooking. I do the majority of the cooking. 


I agree that it's not just the grief, but also the teen years. I am open and honest about my grief. I always encourage them to share too. My youngest daughter has had a hard time sharing with me because she doesn't want to make me cry. We actually had this conversation again today. I told her that I hurt, but I hurt even more for her and her sisters. I miss their dad, but I'm still experiencing everything he's missing with them. That's why I tear up. It came up because she asked me who walks the bride down the aisle if her dad died. Of course I teared up. 


If you ever need a listening ear, to vent, feel free to message me.

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First of all I'm sorry you had to join us on here as a young widower. It cannot be easy trying to raise 2 teenage girls on your own but it does sound like you are doing a wonderful job. And there will be a lot of bumps in the road - after such a massive loss for all of you. Getting outside support and support groups for your girls is a smart path to take. It will help that they have another grief outlet with other teenagers who have been through such a tragic loss as well as the support from professionals. My son was only a baby when his Dad suddenly died so my circumstances are different - interestingly, a grief therapist for kids (that I consulted) told me that grief is more severe when children lose a parent later in their life; for kids that lose a parent before they have an established memory have a more prolonged sense of grief and a different degree of grief.


A few things that I have learned as a mother trying to raise a young boy - I learned I am never going to be able to replace what a father figure might have done but I do get actively involved as I can in his activities (e.g. Scouts) and that has been a real bonding experience and I have really stepped up to find activities to do with him so we can have fun together. I have helped foster a good relationship between my son and my ex-in laws so my son is very close to my brother in law. Having a male to hang out with and bond with has been helpful for him. I don't let my son use his Dad's death as an excuse for bad behavior - even if he gets upset with me. I do think its important to parent and not just parent on emotions. I also let my son see if I am very sad about missing his Dad and I encourage him in return to talk openly about his grief and his feelings. I also remind him constantly that despite our significant loss we have a lot to be thankful for and I try to put my grief in check sometimes to focus on the positive for him. Wishing you all the best,


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First, I'm so sorry for the death of your wife. My daughter was 8 when her dad died and that was about the hardest aspect of grieving for me - managing the twin griefs of my own loss of my husband and best friend, and trying to support my daughter through her grief. You are right, kids follow a different path and their grief looks very different from adult grief. My daughter had lots of anger and took to punching pillows when she felt really angry. We tried to find ways for her to focus on breathing and using music to calm herself to get to sleep. The biggest thing is just to listen, to be honest with them about your emotions, and to be okay with making mistakes. You're not going to get through this without screwing up some - that is okay. Be gentle with yourself. There are no guidebooks for this, just instinct and communication.


My daughter is now almost 15. We've had a rollercoaster and are dealing with some very difficult teen issues now. The challenge for me, and it may be for you, is what is due to the grief and what is normal teen/tween behavior. In the end, I think it doesn't matter that much. The same principles apply: consistency, empathy and compassion, clarity of expectations, love, communication. Build support around your family to the best of your ability and lean on family friends, coaches, etc.


And this group can be a huge help - if for no other reason than you know you aren't the only one who has gone through it, who is going through it, and you aren't alone.



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Thank you for all of the kind words. We continue to plug along.  I have implemented a points rewards system that seems to be helping and they both started a group peer support that both seem to enjoy.  I am thankful that while the girls are having their peer support the parents meet at the same time. 

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