Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Big Stuff: Talking With My Kid About Death and Loss

There are a dozen things swirling in my mind tonight. 

We had a really great meeting with our social worker this morning and gained some great insight into foster adoption. 
My Sweet J comes home in just 21 hours. I can't express how excited we all are for her to be back under our roof! 
I've been working my tail off to create a structured bedtime routine- for myself and the kiddos- in preparation for the school year.

But what I'm thinking about most is my sweet Noah and how happy and sad I am to see him processing through losing his great-grandma. 

On Thursday, the kids and I were going with my mom to the cemetery to take wildflowers to Grandma's grave. When it came time to leave, Noah didn't want to go. He said simply, "No one else died. Why do I need to go?"  I had a feeling he was nervous about being there again, so we let him stay at work with Daddy...

...We made a run to the farm store this evening. We decided to grab pizza on the way home so dinner would not postpone our bedtime routine. While waiting for pizza, we let the kids walk on the walking path across the street. 

The plan: start from opposite ends of the path, high five when they met on the "road," and meet back at the car. 

Miriam walked about ten feet, then took off jogging in her little Old Navy flip flops. She tripped. Amos and I watched as her big brother hurried over, put his arm around her and helped her back to Mom and Dad. Her lip, knee, and hand were scraped and bleeding. There was a little crying, but the injuries were barely worth a band-aid.  Cuddles were given, pizza was purchased, and we were on our way home.

In the middle of teasing his little sister (or being scolded for it), poor Noah burst into sobbing tears, saying over and over that he was scared of dying. He didn't want to ever die.  It would be dark when he died. The five minutes we drove to get home seemed like twenty. Trying to talk Noah through his fear from the front seat of the car was less than ideal. 

I never would have guessed an event like would bring my son's grief to the surface.

When we got home, I snuggled my son on our couch until he stopped shuddering. I was glad to have the time to collect my thoughts. We have talked about Jesus, death, and Heaven many times, but this needed to be a whole different conversation. Noah and my grandma were thick as thieves. Any generous person with candy on hand is a person Noah loves, and Grandma loved Noah's silly nature and the way he'd grin and ask for "cookies for the road" when we visited. They spent lots of time visiting together. 

When you're seven and you have to bury someone so close to you, it brings up a lot of emotions and questions. 

Noah was mostly concerned with the feeling of death. He was afraid it would hurt. Scared he would die soon in his life. He couldn't imagine how he'd be able to see in Heaven without his eyes. Tough questions with no easy, logical answer. He was afraid he would be scared when he died.

We shared about our trust in God and how we know he'll be with us always and through everything. We talked about how blessed we are by Jesus' death and resurrection. How because of Him, it won't be dark after our time on Earth is over. And I told Noah Heaven is greater than anything our simple human minds can imagine. I was able to tell him how Grandma told me not so long ago that she wasn't scared of death. She'd lived a good life, and she knew where she was headed next. 

As sad as I was for Noah tonight, I was so blessed to be able to share such precious time with him! Talking to Noah about the tough stuff is when he and I connect the most. We talk honestly, share our hearts, and build trust in each other. I am so honored and thankful to be trusted with his heart it's the most difficult for him to share it.


Bethany Haid said...

Thank you for blogging this. I've had a few talks with Daniel about death and heaven and looking forward to seeing loved ones and our babies, and also talking about the importance of having Jesus in our hearts. Reading your writing helps solidify the fact that I'll have harder and harder conversations with my kids. I am glad that we haven't had to yet, but death is inevitable. I think you handled that really well, and I think he set a good example for M to process her thoughts with you, too.

Nel said...

Sigh... this is such a hard thing. I have and still struggle with it all. The girls wish Grandpa had just stayed home and that he was still here. Abby wanted to take a helicopter up to Heaven and get grandpa... and she was worried about him getting hungry up there. Libby was old enough... I really struggled. Should she go to the visitation or not?? Hard decision when you are grieving over the loss of your dad, but still trying to think about what would be best for her. She really knew what was going on... and I wanted her to have that closier too, but yet not scar her for life. But thought she needed to see that grandpa really was gone, for it to all make sense. The girls often now want to go by the cemetery and we do - they are short stops. The girls still get sad and cry about missing grandpa. Losing a family member is so hard for all. It sounds like you have done an amazing job talking to Noah.... it's almost been 6 months that my dad has been gone and we still get questions or random crying spells... It's not easy....

Kelley said...

Thanks! As always, your thoughts give me confidence and a little more peace.

Kelley said...

It's definitely a huge gray area... walking kids through grief. I think there's a different answer for every kid for sure. The cemetery is a great place for Miriam, but definitely not helpful for Noah. You're doing great with your girls. Sounds like you're letting them process in their own ways and that you're there for each of them. It just stinks that they have to learn about loss at such a young age.