As a young COVID widow with two very young children, I cannot stand when I hear people say “Kids are not affected by COVID.” For the past year I have watched my now three year old daughter, Elsie, struggle to accept and understand that her Papa won’t be coming home ever again.
I have had to have numerous conversations with her about how Papa went to the hospital to get better, but he was just too sick. I have had to explain to her that because Papa’s heart stopped beating, he is now up in heaven and we can’t see him, but he will always be in our hearts. I have had to watch my daughter stop eating all the things she used to love eating when her Papa was around. I have had to watch her sit and stare into space with this sad face knowing she is longing for her Papa.
For months, I watched her stand by the front door like she always did waiting for her Papa to walk up the stairs and run to her. I have watched her run to our bedroom every morning and night like she always did, expecting her Papa to be there. I have had to hear her ask “Where is Papa?” or “When is Papa coming home?” I have heard her say she loves and misses Papa and wants a Papa hug. I have watched her have really rough moments and feel completely helpless because I can’t take her pain away. I have had to snuggle and console her when she is having a rough moment.
I have watched her kiss her Papa’s picture every night and say “Goodnight Papa in heaven, I love you.” I have watched her carry a picture of her Papa around the house as she hugs the frame, knowing that she is wishing her Papa was here so she could really give him a big hug. I have had her ask me to watch a video of her Papa singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with her and her wanting to watch it over and over again. I have heard her constantly talk about her second birthday and how she and Papa made a special cake with unicorn sprinkles. I have watched her reach to the sky and say “I can’t reach Papa, he is too high up in the clouds.”
Not only do I have a three-year-old who is dealing with grief, I also have a 17-month-old. He was only four months when his Papa got sick, and just five months when he died. The sad reality for him is that he won’t remember his Papa for himself. He will have to rely on the pictures, a handful of videos I have of him and his Papa, and the stories that others will tell him as he gets older. Just thinking about that breaks my heart. In the past year, I have watched him grow into this amazing little toddler. Graeme is the happiest, silliest, and smartest little guy who brings so much joy to both my life and his Big Sister’s life. However, when I look at him I cannot help but wonder how losing his Papa will affect him when he is old enough to understand what happened and questions why he doesn’t have a Papa like his friends do. It is hard not to worry, and although I know I am doing my best and making sure even now that he knows who his Papa is, I still think about the impact his COVID loss will have on him in the future.
My little Elsie has come a long way in a year, but COVID has forever changed her and her brother’s life, along with the estimated 40,000 other children who have lost a parent to COVID. We cannot say kids are not affected, because I see first hand how much they are. Since starting my Young Widows and Widowers of COVID-19 Facebook Group I have met many other young widows and widowers with children. Through my newly found friendships with these remarkable women and men I often hear about their kids and how they are coping with their loss.With each story, my heart breaks for not only my own two children, but all the children I know that are struggling with the unexpected and traumatic loss.
This is our reality, we are not only dealing with our loss and grief, but we also are dealing with our children’s. I cannot put into words how both painful and overwhelming that is. I along with all the widows and widowers in my group have seen what COVID has done to our children and how it has changed them. Sadly, our children are the youngest victims of this pandemic whose lives will never be the same because they now have to grow up without their mother or father. So before you say kids aren’t affected by COVID, remember that there are so many young children whose lives will never be the same because they lost a parent to COVID.