Family Relationships: First Death of a Loved One
Dealing with that pain and loss is one thing. Dealing with that pain and loss AND helping your children understand is quite another thing.
As odd a twist of fate as it sounds, the week before my father died, my daughter's friend's grandmother died after a long illness. When that happened, the girls had a few questions: Why did she die? Where did she go? When will she be back? Will I die? Does everyone who gets sick die? Only old people die? Can kids die? Etc.
It was their first experience with death, and I have to admit, it was fairly easy to answer the questions when they were about someone else's loved one. I could calmly answer in my best explain-it-all voice and they would walk away to think about the answer. I'd know that they would be OK with it.
Then, suddenly, it wasn't so easy. When my father died, the questions would come at the worst times: Why are you crying? When will Grampy be back? What is it like in Heaven? Does he miss us? You don't have a daddy now, right?
I would have to stop myself from gasping every time they surprised me with their questions. Even now, a month later, they still pop out a question or comment that hits me in the chest and I wonder if I'm still breathing: Should I go to Heaven and tell you what it is like? I don't want you to cry, but I miss Grampy. Is Grampy with my friend's grandmother?
I'm getting better at accepting my loss. I'm getting better at accepting the girls' view of death. I want to feel better. I'm getting better at accepting that I want to feel better.
If you haven't experienced loss with your children, I hope you can wrap your head around it when the time comes. Be prepared for the strangest and hardest conversations!
One of the moments that I knew it would get better is a moment when it hurt, but I had to laugh. The phone rang and most often it would have been my father. My 7-year-old was about to say, "Its Grampy," but she stopped. She thought for a second and said, "At least we know it's not Grampy." Yeah. That was hard, but he would have laughed.