Living Life Parenting

Processing Death as a Child

I think one death is too much. Two deaths in less than a month has been far too much for both me and FireDad and we’re adults. Or at least we portray adults on this blog. At any rate, I’ve been worried about how all of this loss has been affecting the boys. LittleBrother has the grace of not really understanding. Being just barely over the age of two, he only understands that sometimes Mommy and Daddy are sad and that he’s seen a lot of his relatives in the past month.

BigBrother, on the other hand, is a different story.

At four, he’s understanding much more of what is going on that some people want to give young children credit. When I explained last Tuesday that Daddy, Mommy and Nana were sad because Uncle died, he brought up the fact that Big Papau died. We then launched into a lengthy discussion over our grilled cheese sandwiches about death, Heaven and other concepts that still confuse me. Sometimes it stings, how bluntly he talks about it.

“Uncle died. Like Big Papau is dead. They’re both dead.”

As adults, we tiptoe around the concept. We use words and phrases that are supposed to somehow make it seem less in-your-face, less real. He passed away. He’s no longer with us. He’s gone on to Heaven. He’s no longer suffering. No, for BigBrother, the two men who have left us are simply dead. No sugar coating. No easing into the concept. Just dead. He doesn’t cringe when he says it, like I do. His stomach doesn’t churn like mine does. He accepts it. Oh, to be four years old.

At the funeral on Friday, we waited our turn to pay our last respects while the rest of the non-related mourners made their way to the casket, down the family line and out the door to their waiting cars. Our turn arrived and I walked toward the casket with my mother-in-law, sister-and-brother-in-law, husband and two sons. I stood back. My grief from last month still so raw, I didn’t want to push myself. BigBrother walked right up to the casket, put his hands on the side and peered at Uncle. There was no fear of seeing someone you love looking like someone else in a big box. There was no fear of death at all, like the rest of us have when faced with the death of a loved one. His acceptance is somewhat inspiring. But still very heartbreaking.

I debated not taking them to Uncle’s funeral. They’re kind of noisy, being my children. Sitting still is not their strongest suit. But, after doing some reading and soul searching, I decided that they would come with us, just as they came with us to Big Papau’s funeral. Why? I found this quote.

If the child is old enough to walk, let them walk with you into the funeral home. If not old enough to walk, carry them with you.

Point taken.

In the week or so after Big Papau’s funeral, BigBrother would ask me if I was still sad. One day he told me to try harder. I love being challenged by my children. I also love their innocence, their acceptance of life… and death. I wish I could be more like them in these ways. I’m working on not being sad. It would help if I could have one full month off. Right? Someone work on that one, please.

Because, while the flowers are pretty, they’re killing my monthly budget. And, you know, grief is emotionally taxing when you’re not four. So, really, one month off, at the very least, okay? Okay.


Another Loss, More Grief and Seasons

Since every death diminishes us a little, we grieve – not so much for the death as for ourselves.
-Lynn Caine

Shoveling the snow from the recent and on-going snow storm, I was aware of the silence. I heard nothing except for the sound snowflakes falling and the occasional sound of a shovel scrape from a house a few blocks over. I didn’t want to cry as I knew the tears would freeze to my cheeks but, still they came, in the calm, quiet of the aftermath of yet another phone call that changed our lives as we know them.

Tomorrow will mark one month since my Grandfather suddenly left our lives forever. Today the phone call came that FireDad’s Uncle passed away after a long battle with cancer. The news wasn’t unexpected. He left James Cancer Center a couple of weeks ago with the news that his kidneys were now failing. If I know anything about organs, I know kidneys. I knew it would be soon. And yet, I wasn’t ready. The grief from my Grandfather hasn’t yet settled and I found myself in tears on Saturday night. Not calm, happy tears but the kind that make you heave and choke. It’s still raw. And now this.

The quote above, found as I was desperately seeking solace this morning, speaks well to what I’m feeling. My heart is broken for my husband’s family, a family that I am proud to call my own as well. His uncle leaves behind a wife, three sons and their wives, six grandchildren with one more due to arrive in two weeks, two siblings (one of whom is my mother-in-law), nephews and their families (us), a niece (my sister-in-law) and her husband and, of course, his Mother, our beloved Granna. The grief for each of these different people is different. I stand on what some might consider the outside of a family circle and I feel a complete and overwhelming sense of loss for each of them, for all of us.

I am aware that the grief I am feeling currently is compounded by my recent loss. I am also aware that my husband feels the same, as he views my family as his own and, as such, he lost a Grandfather not even a month ago. I am not saying that we don’t miss his Uncle and that we don’t miss my Grandpa. But I’m aware, today, how much grief is more about those of us left behind than the one we have just lost. Living life without those that are such a part of us is difficult. At best. Making a new reality for ourselves is a long process.

My heart is broken for all of these people in my family right now. As the snow continued to fall while I was outside, I allowed myself to be lost in thought, in the swirly white winds cutting through my jacket, my soul. Life seems fragile lately and, really, I don’t quite like that feeling. As I battled with those tears freezing to my face, a friend landed on a branch and chirped at me. I turned and took in the beauty of his red feathers against the white snow. He chirped again. I listened.

He Chirps, I Listen

Life continues on even in spite of our grief. On the day of my Grandfather’s funeral, FireDad’s best man and his wife welcomed their first daughter. Today, as the news of yet another loss in our family washes over us in tears and heartache, we received word that one of my dear local friends is in active labor with her first son after two girls. Their births soften the blow a bit, remind me that life really does continue on even in the moments when we wish we could rewind time, ask for a do-over or just press the pause button for a day or two.

I know that we will survive this loss and the surrounding grief just as, one day, it really will stop snowing. Like the seasons and both the joys and sorrows they bring with them, we enter this next season of grief hoping that some joy comes. And soon.