The Grieving Nearly Nine Year Old

IMG_1053.JPGAnd so after all these months, it takes the death of a hamster and a baby squirrel to get my son to finally grieve and cry for his grandma.  November 25th, my mother passed away and heaven gained an incredibly bright and vivacious angel.  She had a stroke 5 weeks earlier and was doing better, initially beating the odds as she so often did, but then something happened and that changed the course of her life and ours irrevocably.Most of us have accepted this but my nearly 9 year old son, not so much.

Liam wouldn’t cry in front of anyone.  It’s not to say that he didn’t cry, but he wouldn’t cry in front of anyone.  It’s as though in that quick blink of an eye, my little boy was trying so hard to be strong for me.  He hated to see me sad and crying, and I was sad and crying a lot.  She was my mom and learning how to live life without my mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I’m still learning.  But for Liam, without anyone telling him, he wanted to be strong for me.

There were things he would suddenly not do.  He didn’t want me to look at the cemetery as we passed by every hockey day.  He said, “mom, don’t look over there, please.  I don’t want you to be sad or cry.” He knows exactly where mom is buried. Once he saw that I didn’t cry or make us trot over there, he felt more comfortable with me driving him to hockey. Thank God for the small miracles.

He didn’t want me to watch sad things in case I would be sad and cry.  Instead, he wanted to play video games where he could fight and do damage to things, or drive super fast and have cool cars, or just play the mind-numbing Mine Craft that all the kids his age play.

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I felt like I had lost my sweet, caring, concerned little boy.  Apparently, I didn’t.  Of this, I am so grateful.  He still snuggles with me.  He still has a big heart.  How big I didn’t know until we got the sickly hamster and the sickly baby squirrel, Bandit and Felix.  We lost both of these little creatures within a day of each other and Liam was distraught.

He talked about his grandma for the very first time since losing her.  The very first time!  He told me how he still hurts so much and it’s just so hard to go to her house to see grandpa because she isn’t there.  He told me it’s hard to go to church because she was always there  He cried without abandon.  Tears streaming and face buried deep in my lap, the tears kept coming.  We cuddled and talked for a very long time.  We talked about grandma, about grief, about the animals, about why God takes grandmas and baby animals home to heaven.  We talked about everything.

I reminded him that God has a plan for all of us and a lot of the time, we don’t understand what that plan is for any of us.  That it is okay not to understand because it’s God’s plan and He knows best.  It does make us very sad, but in heaven, no one is sick.  Our animal friends will be healthy and happy.  They will be greeted by grandma who will feed them and care for them like she always did with all the little creatures here.  As for Grandma, it was her time to go to the glory of heaven and be young and free and healthy.  Here, she was sick and wasn’t going to be the healthy, independent grandma she had always been before her stroke.  God knew that in her heart, she didn’t want to have to be dependent so he ushered her through to heaven, where she can be with all the angels and saints.  She can watch over us and pray for us to keep us safe.  Now, she always with us.

This long chat seemed to help, but every time we talked about grandma, he cried.  Oh, he cried. I reminded him of all the good things we have here.  I reminded him how much grandpa misses his favorite boy.  My poor, sweet, little boy got up from cuddling, looked at his dad and said, “let’s go lay down, dad”. Within minutes, this little boy, in the throes of grief, was fast asleep.

20150722_122453It’s taken all these months for him to acknowledge his grandma’s death but I’m proud of him for doing it at last, in his own time.  I wish, ever so much that I could take away his pain, that the hamster and the baby squirrel didn’t have to die to bring this about.  Whatever the case, you can’t change the past, you can’t change the future, but you can hold the present tightly in your arms and tell him how much you love him and how sorry you are that he has to know pain.