What I Want My Kids To Know About Their Dad After He Unexpectedly Died

by Katie Pettigrew
Originally Published: 
A two-part collage of Katie Pettigrew kissing her husband and taking a selfie with their sons after ...
Katie Pettigrew

Trigger warning: spouse death

When your spouse dies, almost everything feels different while most everything stays the same. It’s something that is pretty difficult to explain to others. Navigating the waters of widowhood is rough. I have found that even in my fits of rage and moments that I feel so hurt in my reflections of actions made while he was alive, love always presides over everything. And, in a twist, that is the one thing that seems to feel nearly the same while everything else has changed. And that’s why it’s rough and it’s weird.

I’m thankful I can tell my boys that they were created out of love. For everything else to be wrong, I know that to be true. I know that to be true because I loved their daddy with no conditions. From loving him, I learned that I am capable of giving unconditional love to someone other than my children. If nothing else, we handled our parenting well together. Not perfectly. Not without mistakes. But well. And I believe it’s those two things that allow me to have peace in my heart when I think of him.

Even on days where I ache and hurt more than I can handle, there’s still some peace in those flames. I believe we were each confident in the other as protectors. And it brings me peace to believe that he’s still helping out and watching over and protecting our boys from wherever he may be.

I believe our spirits live on after our bodies die, and that helps me. Because while I did lose my husband in my 30s, my kids lost their dad in their ones, and that is devastating. They will go through life with only one parent. Suddenly. Tragically. Lots of people love and support them, yes, but they have only one parent. Only one who will be responsible for one hundred percent. To make sure they get therapy for the trauma they are processing, the grief they are navigating. Only one to make sure their homework is complete. Only one to make sure their clothes are not stained and ripped and their sheets are clean and their hair is washed and their hearts are okay. I’m only asking for okay right now. Just okay and that they want to stay. Stay right here on this Earth and keep growing.

They do not have one parent responsible for one hundred percent, 50% of the time or 80 or 20. They have one for 100, 100% of the time. There’s no chance the other one will reappear. There’s no hope of a birthday card or a holiday wish. There’s just one. Only one to get mad at. Only one to take their pain and anger out on. Only one to ask questions to. Only one to sit at the dinner table with them. Only one to watch them grow. One to celebrate with. One to teach them how to drive, how to defend themselves, how to cook and clean. Only one to hug goodnight and tell you love them and actually hear it back. Only one who heard their first cry, who held them the day they were born. Only one to tell them all of our stories. Only one.

But they want two. They want two to grow old with and two to confide in and two to comfort them. They have one they cannot touch. One they cannot see. And one they miss so much that it pains their heart in the heaviest way imaginable.

And they are left with only one. One who rubs their chest to try her best to ease that pain. Who wishes she could take their pain away and consume it all for them. Only one who tries to tell them she believes daddy is watching and protecting, but they are two individual beings of their own. What helps one doesn’t necessarily help the other. So they have one who will continue to confuse them and probably disappoint them and not have what they believe they need from time to time. But luckily for them, it’s one that is getting pretty comfortable with humility, so she will never quit.

But they definitely had two. Two who chose to parent with the other for a reason. Two who believe our children carry an undeniable amount of strength that will help them navigate this new world. The world of uncertainty. The world where routines are no longer trusted as safe. The world of reality where everyday could be your last, no matter your age. They had two who would work everyday to build their children up to be able to stand on their own when we’re gone.

And now they have one on this tangible earth who will continue that work. Always. And they have one who will continue to help and guide in any way they can from wherever they may now be. And the two of us know that the other one will do just that, whether we see it, whether we believe, whether others doubt it. They will always have two that provided love that carries on beyond our wildest imaginations.

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook pageis here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

This article was originally published on