I am a priest serving three small parishes in south-central Nebraska. I was given another parish in our diocesan series of transfers on Monday, June 17.
I have a widow in her mid-50’s in my current parish. Her husband died suddenly in February 2012 of an aneurysm in his brain. They have two adopted children, a 17-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter.
Your book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, seems to be a good fit to give to this woman. She is a reader, and I know she would read it if I gave it to her. I don’t want it to cause her to feel hopeless at having lost her husband in the midst of the adolescent parenting portion of her life. Her daughter is strong-willed and sometimes gives her mother fits. But at the end of the day, she is very sweet. I thought the book, although directed toward dads, might help this widow to see strategies of things to watch for as her daughter grows up.
The son presents a whole unique set of concerns, including the presence of some autistic traits, although never diagnosed as such.
Can you be of help to me? Specifically, do you think your book would be helpful to her?
Father Loras Grell
Diocese of Lincoln
Thank you for your lovely letter. You are a wonderful servant to be so considerate of this widow when I’m sure you must have many, many parishioners. Yes, I do think that Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters would be helpful for her.
I would encourage you to tell her something. I know that the children are in deep grief, but this mother needs to know that the person that their father was lives inside each of them. By the time kids are this old (as opposed to three or four) they have a strong sense of what their father believed about them and felt towards them. That is very important because a child’s identity is shaped by receiving cues from fathers about who they are (in his eyes) and then children come to believe that about themselves. So, these children should have a very solid foundation from their father that will carry them for the rest of their lives.
I have found that this is important information to tell mothers in their grief because they feel that their children are losing out on so much that their father could have taught them in the future. Helping them see what he has already given them over the course of their short lives is very important because his presence shaped who they are today in a very profound way.
You could also offer to talk with the kids if they need a man to chat with. No one replaces their father, but they are going to need a strong male presence in their lives moving forward because Mom can’t be both Mom and Dad. If there are other men in your parish who could come along and fold them into their families in some small way, that would help a lot.
Thank you for all you are doing for your families.