It’s not an easy thing to have your kids look at you after bad news and tell you “well…it’s okay, we’ve been through this before.”
It’s true, we have, and I can’t change that. The worst for them was the fact that their mother passed away in 2011, not even 3 years ago as of this writing. But my son looked at me and recounted how many things have happened in the last 2 1/2 to 3 years and even though he says it’s okay, I have to wonder. The fact that he can recount so easily the number of people we have lost in our family tells me that we’ve not just done this before but that the weight of grief just keeps getting harder to carry for them, not easier.
Over the course of about 3 years, my family has seen my grandfather die; then my wife, Andrea; At the beginning of this year my grandmother died, and I took that one rather hard; then Andrea’s father, unexpectedly, passed just within weeks of my grandmother. The last of them was just a couple days ago, Andrea’s Mom, the kids’ grandmother. That’s more than a person a year on average. I didn’t take the kids to every funeral, and the fact remains that they didn’t really know my grandparents all that well. However, Abbi, my oldest, knew my grandpa and grandma very well. I saw my grandparents every day growing up, I ate lunch at their house. While my boys and middle daughter didn’t know them that well, they certainly knew how affected I was by the loss which in turn affects them.
For my kids, however, their grandparents – Andrea’s parents – were almost as big an influence. We lived in their house when we moved to California, at least for about six or eight months. Being honest, we couldn’t handle it much longer than that because Andrea’s father couldn’t handle the kids much more than that. Regardless, Andrea took the boys a lot with her to visit her parents and they went every day. Their grandma wasn’t just a flamboyant and strong personality, she did love them a lot and always spoiled them rotten.
But to my point . . . Noah, my son, knows every person who’s passed away and seems to make the comment that dealing with the loss is almost old hat for us now. It shouldn’t be, and it’s really not. It’s a good mask for him to wear, the stable, philosophical child who doesn’t worry so much. He makes a good point: Grandma Laurie was sad and hurting and now she’s with Mom and Grandpa. I hope she’s happier. Maybe so, I don’t know what happens after we leave here. I wish we did sometimes. But I can also see that grief, while we don’t realize it sometimes, is a lot like a virus. It creeps in when you least expect it and hits hardest when you most want it to go away. It’s not something you easily remove from your life, in fact it’s there and you then live with it forever. Sometimes it turns to melancholy or others it turns to fondness and nostalgia. Other times you remember only the nicest of things and others you are reminded of only what’s missing.
No kids should face that much loss in that short of time . . . not my kids, not my nieces and nephew . . . none of them. Still . . . we face it anyway. That’s just how life hands you things. Grief gets heavier, and sometimes you realize that you strengthen your shoulders and back by carrying them. One thing is certain: I will certainly try my best to help them shoulder the burden.