The sad, sudden death of James Gandolfini is mourned across the world, but no one will grieve quite the way his family will. This tough time has to be especially hard for James’ young 13-year-old son, Michael, and experts gave HollywoodLife.com their thoughts on how he can cope.
James Gandolfini was known as a family man who had a loving adoration for his two children, Michael, 13, and Liliana Ruth, 9 months. It’s never easy to lose a parent, but it is especially hard for young children who have to grow up without a father. HollywoodLife.com asked some experts about what they can do to deal with the grief.
How James Gandolfini’s Son Can Cope With Trauma Of Finding His Dad Dead
Michael was with James at the time of his heart attack, and he was the one who found his father on the floor of their hotel bathroom after it happened. Dr. Gilda Carle, 30-second therapist for the Today show, told HollywoodLife.com exclusively that the trauma of what he witnessed has the possibility of resulting in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and counseling is highly recommended for Michael.
She tells HollywoodLife.com:
This will be a very difficult picture for him to erase. He’ll worry that he did not do enough. He’ll keep repeating, ‘If only…I had acted sooner, called my mom, called the right person…’ He’ll benefit from grief counseling, so he can understand the stages of grief and can recognize each stage as it evolves.
How Michael Gandolfini Can Grow Up Without A Father
It’s not going to be easy for Michael to grow up without his dad, but there’s ways for him to be able to cope with it as he grows up, said Dr. Mary Lamia.
Generally speaking, nothing can bring back the person you lost. There’s nothing anybody can do to make it easier, except to try to connect with him because it’s such a massive disconnection when you lose a parent. There’s nothing harder than losing a parent except losing a child. There’s no way to make it better, but there’s ways to distract oneself or ease the pain. Life goes on and you make other connections and that eases the pain a bit.
Those connections can be made with the help of family members, Dr. Lawrence Balter, Ph.D., said:
It depends on the person, but he needs the support and help from his family. They should do as much as they can to commemorate his father’s life. They should talk about his father a lot so he becomes part of his own memory.
Dr. Lamia also thinks it is important for Michael to pay homage to his father as he grows up. She adds:
“It’s important to remember what the lost person taught you, who they were and that they’re still inside of you. To remember what his father taught him and use that as guidance during his teenage life, as an adult and as he’s a parent. The main thing to watch out for is that when they become a parent and their child is the age they were when the parent died, they’ll remember how young and innocent they were and the grief will come up again.
How James Gandolfini’s 9-Month-Old Daughter Can Remember Him
It’s hard enough for a 13-year-old boy to cope with the loss of a father, but 9-month-old Liliana Ruth isn’t even old enough to realize what happened. The experts gave some advice about what Liliana Ruth’s mother, Deborah Lin, can do to make sure her daughter learns about the man James truly was. Dr. Gilda says:
Certainly, a 9-month-old child has no ability to comprehend this tragedy. But as she begins to ask questions at age 3, 4 and thereabouts, answer as truthfully as possible, without generating fear in the child. Statements like ‘Daddy’s in heaven, and protecting you from far away’ is a common rationale that children accept.
Dr. Balter said it’s imperative that Deborah doesn’t keep any details about James’ death from Liliana Ruth. He adds:
[Deborah] has to tell her the truth about how he died, whatever the medical facts are about what happened to him. She should talk about some of the nice memories that she has about her husband and how much he loved his daughter; develop a very nice narrative so that she can appreciate who her father was.
James is remembered as one of the nicest and most genuine actors in Hollywood, and we can only hope his children can remember and celebrate how great of a father they had.
— Taylor Weatherby