1. The grief you experience, as the ex partner, will be about the person you once knew and the life you once lived together. The grief your child experiences, about their absent dad, will be about the pain of abandonment and the loss of the future possibilities. Provide space for multiple ideas of grief.
2. Your fantasy thoughts about end of life conversations, where past hurts are apologised for and pain acknowledged, might not happen. It takes a long time to accept that (if ever)
3. You will be the invisible griever, people will not accept that you may still be sad, or they will feel uncertain if they can even check in about your bereavement, as you were not intimately connected to them. Don’t think this doesn’t legitimize the feelings you are having. Honour them.
4. Hospitals, social workers, grief admin organisations and the funeral industry will not have clear guidelines for working with ex-partners who are raising the child of the deceased person. You will be told ‘we’ve never dealt with this scenario before’ or be met with bureaucratic walls. You will have to explain your connection, agonisingly and with tears, to get the paperwork required for your own child’s life. You might even need to take it to Twitter.
5. Be prepared for your history with the person to be skipped over at the funeral. Your presence will be confronting to others. Be kind to yourself.
About Sarah Wayland
Sarah Wayland is a Sydney based health academic who has been researching grief, disability and trauma for 15 years until she experienced a loss of her own. Her ex-husband, and dad to her 13 year old daughter died from lung cancer in April 2019. He had been absent for years but made contact when he became unwell.
You can follow Sarah on Twitter and Instagram.