It’s nearly impossible to grieve with a toddler around. That is both a good and a bad thing. The first nights were rough. He woke up a lot, and when he woke I thought and once I started thinking I couldn’t stop. Coupled with the emotional exhaustion of mourning, I was barely recognizable to myself. If this was the new normal, it was pretty ugly. But still, he doesn’t know. He has no idea what’s happened. He’s all about Go Go Go and he smiles the way only an unburdened human can smile. It’s refreshing, mostly, and sometimes just too much to take. For example, I just looked over and caught him eating Play-Doh. Can you exercise a little self preservation for just a minute while Mommy processes!? No. Of course not.
Trickier still is dealing with my daughter, now a 3rd grader. Poor thing has been dealing with death all her life. She’s lost three great-grandparents, two grandparents, a great uncle and a cat. She was afraid to take a bath for months after her grandpa “Pops” died. We couldn’t figure out why. One day she said, “Meema said Pops is watching me now, so he can see me in the bathroom!” So much for heaven being a comfort. Thanks, mother in law.
My daughter has told me many times that she doesn’t think believes in God. I’ve told her she’s very young still and she might change her mind about that and that’s okay. The kids at school bring up the subject often. God stuff. Sunday school, Jesus, bible camp and all that. She’s often conflicted. I’ve told her she doesn’t have to answer their questions, that she can simply say, “My beliefs are personal. I don’t talk about them.” But she wants to. She wants to tell people she’s not religious. I do understand the feeling, obviously, but I keep trying to tell her it’s not worth it, not at this age. She told me she wants to talk about Grandma’s death with the school counselor but she says the counselor wears a cross and she just won’t understand. “She’s like Meema,” she says. “She’ll tell me she’s in heaven and I’ll see her again.” I don’t know if that’s true, but this is a very religious area, so who knows. I’ve told her it might be better to discuss these things with her aunt instead.
The day after her grandma died, my daughter asked me what happens to all that energy. She said Mom was like a lightbulb and when she was happy her soul would make it brighter and shine on everyone. She asked where the light goes. I told her she’s exactly right, that all of that light was stored up in Grandma, but her body couldn’t hold it anymore so when she left it all went inside us, and that the heavy feeling in her chest is all that extra light and love that we now have to carry for her, which hurts right now, but means we’ll always have her with us. It’s the best I could do. She liked that idea, even if it didn’t really make her feel better.