Catherine, a 55-year-old artist, is the mother of a 21-year-old girl and a 24-year-old boy. The father of his children died of cancer when they were only 7 and 10 years old. She gives us her testimony about her situation ...
How did you deal with the situation?
The death of their father was something very violent, very hard. Especially since their dad was much older than me and was very present because he had less professional activities. I have a job where I often move, so he took care of children.
How to manage your own sentence and that of your children?
When I was alone with my children, I was lost. My artistic career was a real therapy and helped me a lot. But it was very hard compared to my children, even if in front of them, I tried to hold on. The hardest thing was when they asked for their daddy and said, "We miss him." I told them that I, too, missed him.
How do you respond to this lack? Do you often mention your husband with your children?
We mentioned it mainly by the places. We stayed a long time in the house where we had lived all four. She was filled with him by his books, his pictures, he did a lot of things. We also had a place in Auvergne where there is really a lot of things. We also evoked him by his habits, like the dishes he liked to do us or the music he listened to. There are so many landmarks related to him in our lives, we carried his presence.
We also kept a very precious link with my husband's sister. My son asked him a lot of questions about his dad's youth. It was extremely important, these are landmarks to build on. And regularly, she gave them objects that belonged to her brother, like a book or a photo. In addition, my son looks like his father when he was young, so it was only happiness.
How did your children live their childhood and teenage years without a father?
My son never recovered from his father's death. For a boy, to build without the image of a father, it is very difficult. Besides, they were really in tune with each other. It was unbelievable this transmission from father to son. So for him it was catastrophic. Even today, he does not trust him. The teenage years were horrible: anguish, panic, looking for and being on appeal from this father. Now, of course it's better, but it's done gradually. It was difficult to understand for me, there were all his questions, and there, I was wondering why I'm all alone?
And on the side of your daughter?
For her, it was different. What was terrible about being smaller was that she felt like she was losing her dad's image. She thought she had not had enough time with him, which is true. At first, every day, she tried to remember when he took her in his arms, when he sang a song to her, when he told her stories, when they played games together. During adolescence, she took a lot on her, she was very mature, and I think the situation has increased this maturity. I think she saw my pain and the difficulty I had trying to protect her brother, so she managed herself. But it's not the role of a child to wear so much. I am sure that in her life as a woman and a mother, it will play a vital role.
Did you grow up without a father? Did it help you deal with this situation?
No, already because each story is different. I did not live with my father at all, I found him when I was 18 years old. And my mother pretended that he did not exist, even though I was asking questions. I even thought he was dead. It was a horror all those unsaid. So, it did not help me. What is certain is that I was less armed to raise a boy because I grew up without father or brother. This is probably why I was so lost to find myself alone with a boy.
What did you get out of this difficult situation?
I have seen that for the construction of children, the father is essential. Mother too, both are. When one is alone, it is too difficult. I really see what it did on my son, it's terrifying to see that it will take four times longer to build, maybe because he has hypersensitivity, but I think a child needs father-mother complementarity.
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