As the weeks went on, the impasse continued. They all came to weekly sessions for three weeks. Each of the children grieved in his or her own way. The middle child, a 30 year-old son, was almost completely disengaged from the family, and was unwilling to come to therapy after the third session. The youngest, a 25-year-old daughter, began drinking heavily again, and I referred her back to Alcoholics Anonymous. I then began to meet with the eldest son, Geoff, and John, individually and together, every two weeks. At this stage, they'd become fixated on Tracy's favorite grandson, Geoff's son Bobby, telling me that he was having a particularly difficult time grieving.
When I met with Bobby, however, it was clear that he was grieving in a reasonably normal manner. Certainly, he was doing better than some of his older relatives, despite his father and grandfather's concerns. When I asked him what the hardest part of Tracy's death was for him, he replied, I miss having a grandparent. This one comment seemed to provide a clear therapeutic goal for both John and Bobby. Since Bobby had been so close to Tracy, he really hadn't developed a relationship with John.
Turning Toward Life
Rather than seek to unify the family by bringing in John's other daughter, it seemed much more attainable to nurture a relationship between John and Bobby. In meeting individually with John at the end of my session with Bobby, I gave him homework to spend more time with his grandson, perhaps even doing some of the same things, in his own way, that Tracy had done for the boy.
Two weeks later, when we all met together again, I found that John had plunged into this homework with genuine dedication. He'd attended several of Bobby's baseball games, something he hadn't done when Tracy was alive. They'd even managed to carve out some quality time alone together, going fishing in one of the many canals that crisscross south Florida. Bobby loved this particular activity, commenting to me that Tracy was loath to fish and his father never seemed to have the time. In many ways, it seemed, John was now caring for his grandson, just as he'd cared for his wife.