When Children Grieve

We grieve in our own ways and in our own time. Some of us push the losses into the dusty recesses of our mind and refuse to go there. Some of us cannot and remain in the immediacy of the loss, continually bombarded with it so that we are sucker punched throughout the day.

I've struggled with our latest loss, Frankie, and was only able to make a joke this week, regarding freeze-drying him an attack position. My struggle, my pain, though, has not been nearly as heart-rending as Rosie's grief over both Frankie and Ib the last five weeks. She cries nearly every day, and while she doesn't stay mired in it constantly, the keen edge of grief doesn't go far. As long as she's busy, she does pretty well, but in the evenings, when it begins to quiet down, the tears come. 

Honoring her grief, her need to cry and to, thankfully, share her sadness with us is an important part of her and our journey through loss. So often as a culture, we are in a hurry to get people over their loss, to get them okay again, or to at least not keep bringing it up. We don't want to deal with sadness over a prolonged period, and so we push people who are hurting to get over it.

It can be difficult to stifle this need to just get her to stop crying and hugging her picture of Frankie. Finding a balance of respecting her need to grieve, to share in the mourning of the loss, while not letting her go too far overboard so that she wallows in that abyss is a difficult task. I hope we strike the right balance of validating her loss, of loving on her, hugging her, sharing stories of Frankie and Ibit, and then bringing her to a place where she refocuses on the present and the cats we still have.

Last evening, Rick and I held her in our laps and hugged her, and we talked of Frankie, Ib, Cookie, and Scooter all up in heaven playing poker for fish, and she laughed through her tears. Then we had Bobby bring Lucy out and into my lap, and Rosie and I focused on giving her love and attention, until the tears had dried and Rosie was focused in the present.

It's what we'll continue to do until she's assimilated the loss and is able to think fondly of Frankie and Ib without a fresh curtain of tears. Why? Because it's the same way I am handling my grief, honoring my right to cry and miss him before I go find a cat to hug.


melbo said...

You are very wise. I agree with you that our culture pushes people to "get over" things way too quickly. We are not comfortable with death and it shows.

In reality, there is no "closure" and you don't "get over it". If the grieving process is allowed to take its course, you eventually get to a place where you can live around the absence. How long that takes is so variable for each person.

He was part of your lives for so long and he was also a member of your family. He will always have his place.

I joked about Pusster too but it's been nearly 7 years and I still miss him every day. I will never know that kind of love again such as I had with him. That is how I feel.

Anonymous said...

I am blessed with wonderful parents. Yet when we lost my favorite dog, they did not understand my odd grieving process (I am autistic).

It was very painful for everyone. No one had ill wishes, but my lack of response until weeks later confused my folks.

Bless you for being so compassionate and understanding. the loss of a pet is heartbreaking.

Barbara said...

"the right balance of validating her loss, of loving on her, hugging her, sharing stories of Frankie and Ibit, and then bringing her to a place where she refocuses on the present and the cats we still have."

I have no doubt you have found the right balance. Please remind me how old Rosie is (approx if you prefer). Our catworshipingchild had me most worried when she was 13 after the first cat pet loss. I sincerely believe important learning comes from these losses and have hope that she will translate that learning for other losses that life will inevitably bring her.

At the same time, I think nothing prepared me for the loss of my parents.

K Wombles said...

Melbo, thank you. Yes, he will! I can finally look at photos of him and feel joy first, sadness second.

aquietweek, thank you. I've learned with my oldest two that though they don't show it, they still feel the loss; they are just processing it differently. Giving people the room to grieve in their own way in their own time is so important.

Barbara, thank you. Rosie is 8. No, I don't think any loss can prepare someone for the loss of her parents. My husband was six when he lost his father and forty-one when lost his mother. Although he doesn't bring it up often, I know that he still feels the loss.