The Smiles You’ll Give the Tears You’ll Cry

I have said before how my children all have dealt with the loss of their mother in different ways.  How could they not? 
They are different people, all with differing personalities.  My oldest, Abbi, has her moments.  She tends to be a little introspective, but will say when she needs a hug, to talk or to ask questions.  Hannah is comfortable to let me know when she isn’t happy and crying about missing her Mom.  The boys are completely different.  Noah tends to be philosophical, quiet, and questioning.  He has complete certainty that his Mom is happy and resting in a place in his heart and up there somewhere.  Sam is crazy quiet.  He cried the day it happened but spent the next two days upstairs wanting nothing more than to be alone.  He talked when he needed it, but he never collapsed in grief.  He was what he was: he was Sam.

The thing to remember about all this is that my kids are all comfortable and know that they have people they can talk to.  If they need me I’m there.  I have never, ever pushed them away or told them to wait if they had an issue with grief or loss.  The boys ask why their Mom had to die.  Hannah asks why we ended up the way we did.  I answer the best I can, telling them that sometimes bad things happen.  We can’t change them, but we can live with them.  We made it a year and as hard as every single moment is, every new holiday, we know we did it once before, we can do it again.  No, we haven’t faced proms, graduations, weddings, but that’s not something we have to face at the moment.

So given that, nothing frustrates me more than when people, thinking they are perfectly meaning well, decide they have to “help” us.  I got home yesterday and Noah, the oldest of the twins (he likes that he’s :15 older than his brother) was sitting on the steps to the upstairs alone, trying to be away from everyone.  His sister informed me he’d been sad and down all day because he was taken to the grief counsellors at school and pushed to talk about his situation.  Some background: another Mom in my boys’ class passed away on Friday.  It is tragic, sad, and just four days after the anniversary of Andrea’s death.  The Mom had an infection, pneumonia, looked like she was recovering and then gone.  Yes, the circumstances – though simplistic in my description here – were similar.  But all of us were fine.  I had told the boys what was going on when I saw them on Friday.  Hannah was aware as well.  We talked and they were even saying they wanted to make a card for the family if the school hadn’t thought of something to do for the family.

Yet somehow, someone at the school decided that my sons needed to see the grief counsellor that the diocese sent to the school for the day.  I’m upset for a couple reasons: first, it’s the fact they took my son to this counsellor without telling me.  I have talked with doctors before, as has Noah.  I’ve been told we’ve managed very well, the kids are OK and there seems to be no visible acting out in grief.  If there was he would have had issues at home, school, all of it.  Yes, Noah had behavior problems, but even the doctors say he’d had those before his mother passed away.  Sure, it’s a factor, but not the deciding factor in his behavior.  The counsellor made my son recount what happened on the day his Mom died.  They made him talk about his Mom, everything that happened and pushed him until he started to lose it and cry.  In an effort to make him “deal with his grief” they actually pulled him two steps backward.  That’s the second issue I have with this.  He has talked about this.  He has told us all when he was sad or grieving more. 

It never ceases to amaze me how many people want to imprint their grief and confusion on everyone else.  They think there’s no possible way we can not be affected by this so they push us to be affected.  The boys were happy and playing and while they were empathetic like nobody else can be to this child who lost their Mom, in no way were they breaking apart because it made them see some cosmic plan to take down Moms and throw the kids into an abyss of sadness. 
They are so sure that we are going to be upset and hurt they push us to be upset and hurt.  Noah and Sam weren’t crying and sad so they had to be suppressing it and needed to be crying and sad.

They didn’t. 

I have said on multiple occasions: we are surrounded by people who have helped us stand on our own two feet.  My parents lived with us and were in Nebraska with us last week, happy to see us and talking about Andrea when we wanted to talk about her.  My sister-in-law takes care of the kids and talks to me when she needs it and I to her.  I have a friend who lost her husband who has been amazingly comforting to me.  I have friends in other cities.  I have families in our parish.  I have great friends here in our town that help me pick up the kids, whose kids are friends with my kids.  Who are amazing friends and as close to family as you can get without being blood relatives.  We made it.  We got past a year.  No, we’re not healed all the way yet.  There’s no healing a wound of this size.  But we’re learning to live with it.

So why do we have to act like we’re faltering with every test that hits us?  The smiles we give, the tears we cry, all of them are part of the process.  We are on a path we have paved.  We started writing on the empty page.  We don’t need another editor re-writing to book for us.

I don’t mean to be upset or too angry, but when it comes to my kids I refuse to back down.  Other people feel bad and in an effort to make sense of the awful thing that has happened they want others – people who have suffered something like this already – to come down with them.  At some point we have to keep walking forward.  It’s hard to run a race while looking over your shoulder.  You can’t stay in the lines on the page while looking away from the paper.

We smile, we cry, and we live.  We’re balanced on the biggest wave.  Please, don’t try to pull us off and make us dwell in the quagmire.

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3 thoughts on “The Smiles You’ll Give the Tears You’ll Cry”

  1. That counselor did something that no properly trained counselor would ever do. That is not counseling anymore. Many years ago the thought was that you had to force people to talk about things (lay down on the couch and tell me about your mother… ) in order to “get it out”. All that does is re-traumatize the individual and anyone with the proper training and education would know that and respect that. You have every right to be angry. I would be furious to be perfectly honest. You’re doing a good job taking care of your kids and helping them deal with the circumstances life gave them. You’re also allowing them to move on which is something many people struggle with. Is it possible to tell the school that they have to ask your permission before doing something like that again? When it comes down to it, you know your kids and what they need better than any counselor and it’s okay to trust that judgment.

    1. I actually sent a note to the principal. I said exactly that as well a lot of what is in this post. I had not planned on making the day o this Mom’s memorial a big deal just moving on. But with this an so many other factors I am keeping them home for the day. Somehow it is just healthier.

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