In a recent episode of Dr. Oh’s Golden Clinic (also known as Oh Eun Young’s Golden Counseling Center), Korean actress Song Sun Mi guested and talked about the difficulties of raising her seven-year-old daughter by herself as a widow and single mother.
Song Sun Mi asked Dr. Oh Eun Young, a renowned pediatric psychologist, how she should explain to her daughter the truth behind the death of her husband. She teared up as she opened up about her deepest fears.
I have a daughter who is seven years old. She’ll be going to elementary school soon and that makes me worried… Because I’m a celebrity, the whole world knows about what has happened to my family. And the details of how I lost my husband remain published all over the internet. It’s only a matter of time before my daughter finds out, but I would like to be able to help cushion the shock. How do I help her cope with the truth?
— Song Sun Mi
In August 2017, Song Sun Mi’s late husband Go Woo Seok was found dead in a law office located in Seoul. At the time, the police revealed that following an inheritance battle, he was murdered by a hitman hired by his cousin for ₩2.00 billion KRW (about $1.67 million USD). The shocking homicide case headlined the Korean news for months as the investigation continued.
Eventually, both the cousin and the hitman got arrested and sentenced to prison—life for the cousin who hired the hitman and 18 years for the murderer who stabbed Go Woo Seok. Song Sun Mi also won her lawsuit against the cousin, with the South Korean court ruling in favor of the actress and her daughter to receive ₩1.30 billion KRW (about $1.09 million USD) in compensation for their loss.
Song Sun Mi explained that initially—when her daughter, Arri, was only three years old and didn’t understand the concept of death or homicide—the actress told her daughter that “Daddy went on a space trip.” By the time Arri turned five years old, however, she started having questions about when her father would return.
The actress burst into tears as she shared that only recently, Arri seemed to have wrapped her head around the absence of her father and possibly understood that her father has passed away.
Just a few days ago actually, Arri asked if she should writer a letter to her father and leave it at the playground. She said then the wind might pick it up and deliver it to him in heaven. And I realized she misses him so very dearly.
Yet when Arri goes, ‘Mom, I really miss dad.’ I don’t know what to tell her. I can relate with her and say I miss him too… but I literally don’t have anything else I can tell her. This is… This is something she has to live with for the rest of her life and every time I come to that realization, I feel like I’m standing in front of a wall. It has been incredibly hard to deal with the fact that there is nothing I can do for her when it comes to why we no longer have him with us.
— Song Sun Mi
When Song Sun Mi admitted to feeling helpless when Arri expresses that she misses her father, Dr. Oh offered the troubled actress some words of comfort and, more importantly, suggested that she and Arri start sharing the longing together.
It sounds like you two have come a long way. You have, as a person, become so strong over the years that made you deal with everything you dealt with. You deserve all the praise for making it this far. I don’t doubt for a second that you know exactly what to do when it comes to Arri.
— Dr. Oh Eun Young
Looking over Arri’s family portrait, Dr. Oh pointed out that her father still plays a huge part in how she perceives family. So finding peace with his absence is something that Arri will need to, sooner or later, accomplish on her own. Dr. Oh recommended that the mother and daughter team up in this effort and, rather than keeping the truth and emotions locked away, that they share all of it—out open on the table.
You two should share this longing for him together. And to share that emotion, you two would need to share a lot of information too. Don’t make any family secrets. Everyone around her already knows about this one piece of information that she does not yet know. So she’s already excluded. You shouldn’t keep her out of the loop too long.
When the time comes and she finds out, she needs to be able to take all of her emotions to her closest support system. What if she wants to ask you about how you two met? What if she wants to know if you got to say goodbye? You need to be there for her to answer these questions. But if you keep family secrets and/or don’t have open discussions, it will confuse Arri. She’ll think, ‘Am I not supposed to talk about him because it hurts us?’ Do not go this route. Instead, give her the truth. You’ll need to soften it to suit her age, but she can most definitely handle the truth.
— Dr. Oh Eun Young
By the end of the counseling session, Song Sun Mi agreed with Dr. Oh’s solution that an age-appropriate version of the truth needs to be told so that Arri can start coping. Song Sun Mi thanked the program for helping her find the light at the end of the tunnel and promised to continue being a good mother and actress.
[My husband and I] had been together for 15 years. I know what my husband would have wanted from me and Arri. He would not have wanted us to grieve too long. So I don’t want to be sad anymore. Arri and I are going to be free and we’re going to carry on.
— Song Sun Mi
All the best to Song Sun Mi and her precious Arri!