Seth Romeo Singleton

To Envy Those Who Grieve

I went to a funeral a short time ago.  While nearly all funerals are sad, this one was particularly heartbreaking, as the deceased had passed away suddenly, unexpectedly, and at a relatively young age.  A mother, still in the prime of middle age, was taken without warning.   A large and loving family had gathered from all over the United States to grieve the passing of a woman that they all had fond memories of.  Although I didn’t know the woman at all, it was obvious that she would be missed by a great many people.

While I sat and watched the family pour out their grief during the funeral, and then later the burial, a strange emotion came over me.  It was an emotion I would have never expected to feel at a funeral, and it took me some time to identify it.  It was envy.  I felt envious of the family that had gathered to mourn the loss of someone they loved so much.  I felt ashamed of this emotion at first, and I tried to bury it.  I was there to support someone who had lost a close family member, this was not the time to be focused on myself.  But later on, once I was alone, I began to reflect on what I had felt, and more importantly, why.

I obviously didn’t envy the family for losing a loved one.  I have many people in my life whom I love dearly, and I would not want to lose any of them.  I have had loved ones die, and I certainly did not want that to happen to again.  What I envied was not their grief, but rather that they were able to express it.  My sons are gone.  Not dead, but just… gone.   They are gone from my life, and the lives of my family.  When my wife filed false allegations against me, and took my children from me, it was emotionally devastating.  It was a horrible feeling, a great loss, and it was very painful, but it didn’t feel like death, with its shock and finality and hopelessness – at least, not at first.

Unlike with death, there were moments of brief hope.  For five long years, every event was a chance at getting my sons back into my life.  Every time I went to court, I believed the judge would hear my story, and award me time with my children.  When I was finally awarded visitation, I believed I would see them again.  When my wife hit me with her car, I thought for sure she would be charged, and I would be able to hug my kids.  When my wife burned down her house, and the arson report concluded that she had done it, I thought surely something would change.  When my daughter was taken from my wife by Child Protective Services, and I spent nearly a year EARNING her back from foster care, I believed that the authorities would force my wife to reunite both of us with the boys.  But each and every time I was disappointed.  And slowly, creeping up more and more each day, the feeling that they were dead formed like a malignant tumor, growing inside my heart.

Now, it feels like my sons are dead.  I know that they are not, but they have been removed from my life as surely as if they were placed in wooden boxes and lowered into the ground.  No voices, no pictures, no word of what they doing has come my way.  I don’t even know what they look like today.  I know from letters that were sent to the judge, and from what my daughter has told me, that they hate me.  They believe I am a terrible person, and that they want nothing to do with me.  This is all so different from the relationship we had before.  I was once their hero, their confidant, their champion – I was their father.  The last time I saw Aiden he was sick, but he insisted on spending time with me, even though he felt awful.  The last time I saw Seth, I held him while he cried in my arms, as I tried to console his fears about his parents splitting up.  Now, in their minds, I am dangerous, a cancer – someone to avoid at all costs.  Such has my wife poisoned their minds and hearts against me.

Everything I knew about my sons is gone.  Our relationship no longer exists.  The children they once were no longer exist.  It has been five years now – they are both approaching 15 years of age, well into their teens.  To me, they are still nine years old, frozen in my mind at the age I last saw them.  But the children I knew have grown up, and every connection I had with them has been severed.  Even if we were reunited tomorrow, nothing that we once had has been preserved – we would have to start our relationship from scratch.  I have lost my sons.

Throughout history, our society has developed ways of dealing with grief.  We have a funeral for the deceased.  We tell stories of fond memories with them. We look at photographs of the ones we’ve lost, and we remember the joy they brought to our lives.  We pour out our grief, and those around us acknowledge the loss, and they comfort us.  Then, as the final gesture, we lower a casket into the ground, or present an urn of ashes to the family.  The survivors go through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.  And often there is a stone at the final resting place, a marker of the one who has been removed from our lives.  I will see none of that.

I will not get to hear others laugh telling stories of my sons, or cry over how much they will be missed.  I will not be able to gather my family together in mourning, and watch a collage of photographs showing their lives.  I will not see a casket lowered into the ground, or hold an urn, as a tangible reminder that my sons are gone.  I will never allow myself to fully reach acceptance, because no matter how distant and dim hope becomes, it is always there, taunting me, just out of my reach.  Instead of bringing comfort, that hope has become a hand in the graveyard, reaching up from the ground and grasping my ankle, holding me there.  There is no plaque in the ground, no marble headstone, nothing to indicate the day my sons were taken from me.  My great loss is invisible and unacknowledged.

  My sons are gone, and I must envy those who grieve.

14 thoughts on “To Envy Those Who Grieve

  1. laurelwolfelives

    I can hear the grief in your words. I have four children and they are…by all rights…gone, too. Three girls and a boy.
    When my ex cheated on me and gave me a disease it was bad enough. I never forgave him but we kept up the family appearances even though I moved three states away.
    Then he found another tramp. He wouldn’t give me a divorce. He lied to her and sneaked down to Florida to see me. I finally confronted them and let him know that he wasn’t going to treat his tramp like his wife and treat his wife like his tramp.
    I divorced him and my children took his side. He and the tramp have told everybody that I am clinically insane. The tramp told my ex that he should be careful around me because I might shoot him and I think she told my children the same thing.
    I have a granddaughter that is 2 1/2 years old and I saw her once when she was a few weeks old. I have another one who is almost five and I have seen her only two or three times.
    I have always heard there are two kinds of death.
    Physical death and divorce. With physical death, the person is gone. With divorce, the person is still there.
    What your ex did to you is unforgivable. Teaching your sons to hate you is the work of a monster.
    Maybe someday when they grow up, they will start to question things.
    I don’t understand a court system that would allow her to get away with what she has but I do know how an accusation can literally ruin your life.
    I am just so sorry. I hope writing about it helps you a little. You will find a lot of support and caring here.. We will grieve with you…hope for you and send warm cyber hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Blue Sky

    I do feel your pain and loss. I have and am still living this torturous agony. No one grieves with you or for you because no one can understand this pain unless they have lived it. And nothing prepares you for this kind of loss… it is unthinkable! I am so sorry for your loss. You expressed this painful experience so well. It must have been very painful to write. You are heard and understood and relatable! Again, I am so very sorry for this unfathomable loss!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. prodigal nine

    I can relate to your situation.I have three teens that I am estranged from.I have done everything I know to be a part of there lives.It certainly seems it would be easier to grieve a death than being alienated.I have never walked through a valley as dark as this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. E.Whyte

    It’s very sad that any child should be denied the inalienable right of access to both parents while they are children, in childhood especially.

    [Edited for brevity]

    Family? Yep, been there ,done that and tossed the T-shirt in the garbage can. Genghis Khan learned from a young age when a battle was not worth fighting. I’m doing my best now to get my finances healthy, you never know, in the future having a dad might be a dream come true for adopted kids whose parents are dead and gone.
    If ever, peace out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Walter Singleton Post author

      Hi E. Whyte, I hope you don’t mind that I edited your comment for brevity, keeping in the most important parts. Thank you for your comments and your empathy. I sincerely hope you are able to find peace with your situation, however it turns out. As for me, I am slowly finding my own peace. It’s finally becoming a little easier, day by day, as I let go of what’s been lost, but maintain optimism for the future.


  5. Peter

    Walter, I just found your website today (via your post on Karen Woodall’s site). I have two daughters, now 18 and 21, who I have seen for fewer than 10 hours over the last 5 years. Their alienation from me is severe and heartbreaking, similar to how your speak of your sons. Regarding this topic, being “jealous” of death – I have spent a lot of time there lately. One passage (again from KW) I thought summed this up very well:

    “Surviving parental alienation is about the toughest task facing any parent, it is in fact tougher in physical emotional, mental, psychological and spiritual terms, than facing the death of a child. At least when a child dies there is a grieving route which is predictable, a route in which the death is mourned and the living memory of the child can be returned to the heart of the parents who grieve. In parental alienation, the physical separation is the same as in death but the grieving cannot be completed and is complicated by the lack of support from others and the confusion and blame which is sowed by the alienating parents.

    One of the saddest things I have ever borne witness to, was a father who told me that he envied those whose children had died for at least they got the support from the community that was utterly lacking for him in his suffering of endless loss. For this healthy parent, the reality of his children being trapped in their mother’s mindset is, like so many others, an unbearable suffering which must be borne in order to provide his children with the possibility of a better future.

    Witnessing the entrapment of children in the mind of a parent is something which corrodes to the bone and hollows out the heart and mind of a parent. It causes immense confusion, endless self doubt and renders parents vulnerable to being preyed upon by those who peddle quick fixes and costly interventions. Conversely, the condition lends itself to the pretensions of those who see all parents in such circumstances as being in need of expert help, those who are able to confidently propose that family therapy is the way forward when in fact all that does is prolong the agony further.”

    Karen Woodall:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Walter Singleton Post author

      Hi Peter, thanks for commenting! I’m sorry you have been alienated from your daughters. I have been holding onto the hope that once my boys become adults, that they will reach out to me, even if it’s just in anger. I guess your daughters haven’t done that yet, but I hope they will soon.

      I have felt that losing my sons to alienation is harder than losing them to death, although I have avoided saying as much, because I would not want to minimize or dismiss the grief of those parents who must endure that loss. I would not trade my current situation for that one, even though it seems that it would be an easier burden to carry. I can’t stop holding onto hope, but sometimes I feel like that is as much a curse as the grief is. The hope seems to be the thing that keeps me from moving on. It keeps the grief fresh, and brings me around that grief cycle again and again and again.

      Please contact me if you would like. It’s rare to find other parents who can understand, and who want to talk about it.


  6. Peter

    Walter, is there any way for me to contact you directly? I don’t see an email listed on the site – am I missing it?

    Thank you. Your story is just too familiar…


    Liked by 1 person


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