… She Misses Her Momma
I just realized.
When Dad died, I lost not only a father but also a mother.
Mom is an incredible woman and I respect and admire her more and more every day.
But she is not the same woman I used to know.
She has to pay the bills, fix the leaky pipes, monitor the hearts of her children, invest in relationships of other family members, do laundry…. The list continues. I have no idea how she does it all.
Without dad, mom is stretched thin. I feel bad talking to her about what’s going on in my life. I’m a big girl now. She needs to emotionally invest in my other siblings. Not me.
But I still miss our relationship.
I don’t like feeling distant from her.
That was written by my oldest daughter on her blog about a year after John died. I read it for the first time this week. It makes me sad that she felt that way, and it makes me doubly sad I didn’t know it until now.
When a child loses a parent, the losses and pain are complex and far-reaching. The fact is that the living parent must absorb all the roles that used to comfortably belong to two: bills and finances; lawn work; car repairs; appliances that break; stopped up shower drains; parenting and nurturing children; endless purchases from shoes for kids to Christmas gifts to replacing weed eaters…all of life now belongs to one.
I am still stunned (& frequently exhausted) by it all.
I really miss just being their mom. They miss it too.
Today is Children’s Grief Awareness Day. Don’t those four words make you cringe? Children and grief don’t go together. Shouldn’t go together.
Yet, thousands of children live with the loss of a parent or sibling. They are dealing with the hardest reality of life too soon, too young.
After walking alongside my children and grief for almost three years, I have learned a few things that I think every grieving child needs to hear from people who love them:
Yes, your loved one did die, and it is terrible and painful and unfair but…
- you didn’t die and their death does not define who you are or your future. You are not a member of the “my- life-will-always-be-awful” club. You have life to live and the person you’ve lost wants you to embrace life.
- beauty is still in this world and you will see it. Sooner than you can imagine.
- joy will surprise you and return one day, and your heart will feel light and hopeful and optimistic and colorful.
- laughter will bubble out of you again, and it will be real, not forced. You don’t have to feel guilty when you do feel happy. It doesn’t dishonor your mom or dad or sibling. They always loved the music of your laughter and would want you to feel it and the world to hear it.
- healing will happen without you even trying. Like when you get stitches or break your arm, your body heals over time. Your heart will heal too, slowly but surely.
- memories of time with them are precious treasures. Don’t be afraid to remember. You will never forget your loved one. Sometimes those memories are shy at first, but you can let them come out. They are gifts to you now because they take you back to being with your loved one. Go there often in your mind and ask people to keep remembering with you. These stories are a precious possession.
- Peace will come. Grief won’t be scary forever. You will be able to be still and quiet with your grief and not be afraid of it.
- God loves you, but you might not love Him right now. You might be mad at Him. You might not even know what you think about Him. It’s okay to tell Him how you really, truly feel. He loves you, whether you love Him or not. He also understands what a terrible robber death is, and it makes Him mad. So mad He sent Someone to end it. That someone is Jesus.
- God comforts the brokenhearted and He is a Father to the Fatherless. He loves orphans- whether they have lost one parent or both- and He cares for them in special ways. You will see and experience it in your life.
Another essential way to help grieving children is to encourage their hurting parents. Whether they have lost a spouse or a child, the temptation to stop caring about life is real. As a grieving adult it is very easy to be swallowed up by your own loss. To let it pull you under.
But, at my lowest moments, I couldn’t shake the truth that our four children needed me to care. They didn’t need for me to make things worse. They needed me to make nutritious meals. Do laundry. Cuddle up on the sofa. Tuck them in. Keep loving them the way they had always been loved.
They had already lost their dad. The last thing they needed was for grief to rob them of their mom too. On March 8, only one person died, not two, not six. John would want me to live and love them with every fiber of my being (and his), not burden them with more sorrows.
There is so much more to say. But, if you are close to a child or family that is reeling from loss, gently encourage and support them to love one another well and embrace life. Give them reasons to smile and laugh and hope and see beauty again. It is the greatest gift you can give to a grieving child.
May the Lord tuck all of them in tonight (your grieving children too) and wipe away their tears,