The development of a support group provides a lifeline for seven young widowers.
Rosenstein (Medicine and Psychiatry/Univ. of North Carolina) and Yopp (Psychiatry/Univ. of North Carolina) both saw a need for a resource where there was none. Though they had worked primarily with those facing the end of their lives, they came to recognize how those deaths cast others adrift and that widower fathers of young children felt particularly helpless. Not only were they often the parent who had been less involved in the daily nurturing of the children, but men were less likely than women to seek support from anyone, including others in a similar situation. So the authors decided to start a group called the Single Fathers Due to Cancer Program. “None of the fathers had ever pictured himself as a ‘support group kind of guy,’ ” they acknowledge. “Of course, none had imagined being widowed at such a young age with children to raise, a home to manage, and lives to restore.” Each of them had decided to come primarily because of their children, to do whatever they could to help them adjust, but the lives they had to restore were their own; if they couldn’t work their way through this, they wouldn’t be able to help their children. In sharing their grief, they learned that what made them feel so bad about themselves—namely, feeling like the wrong parent had died—was common among them. They began to realize that being a perfect father was an unattainable goal but that each had it within him to be “good enough.” They also learned that though “fathers and their children had each lost the same person, they were grieving different relationships and in different ways. Their grief trajectories did not always converge or progress at the same speed.” Ultimately, they learned how to help others, with a film, a website, and this book among the resources that this initiative has generated.
Beyond the specifics about young widowers, the book offers broader insights on loss, grief, and support groups.