Sunday, January 22, 2012

I wasn't ready, but I'm glad it's over.


Caleb: "Mom? What did you do with Joshua's body after he died? Did you bury him in the ground in the parks with the statues?"

Crap.

I have dreaded that question for over a year.

Caleb has been thinking a lot about death and sickness lately, and I knew that it was just a matter of time before that question came up.

Crap. Crap. Crap.

We have always been open and honest with our children about Joshua. They have seen us grieve and they know that they are always free to grieve however they need to. They know that it's ok to cry or to ask questions. They also know that we will always tell them the truth about life and death.

Today was no exception.

"Well. When people die, sometimes they get buried in the ground. After a long time, their bodies start to rot, like a piece of fruit that has been sitting on the counter for too long. After their bodies rot for a while, they turn back into dust. We were made from dust, and after we die, we turn back into dust."

"But Mom? Did you bury Joshua? Is he dust in the ground now?"

"No sweetie. We didn't bury Joshua. We cremated him. When you cremate someone, it means that their body goes into an oven and that makes them turn into dust much quicker than when they get buried in the ground."

"Joshua went into an oven? Did it hurt him?"

"No, remember? What was inside him, his soul, is in Heaven. His body is dead. He couldn't feel anything because when someone dies, their body doesn't work or feel or breathe any more. He didn't feel the heat in the oven at all. Joshua's dust is right there on that shelf. Do you want to see it?"

We pulled the box down off the shelf and showed him Joshua's ashes.

Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.

Why does this stuff have to be so hard?

I know life isn't fair, but I struggle to find the fairness in having to explain death to a 5 year old and 3 year old.

This pealed back a whole new layer of grief for Caleb. He's starting to be old enough to understand and he is asking some tough questions. It would be so easy to lie to him and fluff over these questions, but Shane and I both feel strongly that it's important to be truthful and to help him learn how to deal with the truth. I wish there was a manual explaining the best way to deal with this stuff.

I wasn't ready for that question. But, whew...I'm glad it's over.


16 comments:

Mandie Hamrick said...

I cannot get over how incredible brave you are. Caleb is so much wiser because he has a mommy like you. I admire you for your honesty with your children and the world.

The Real Life of a Red Head said...

I'm not so sure it's bravery. It's more just doing what we have to do. Believe me, we wouldn't be having these conversations with the kids if we didn't experience it.

Thank you for your encouragement though!

stardustdawn said...

I'm not sure if this has been mentioned before, but many churches and schools offer a program called "Rainbows" to help children deal with grief, especially in cases of death or divorce. My children really loved it.

Auntie Mip said...

Jill,

This might seem an odd choice of words. But your conversation with your little boy was beautiful. It is wrong and awful and painful to ever have to discuss death with a 5 year old. But it is your family's reality. Your ability to be truthful. To show your pain at Joshua's death. To grieve openly and honestly about his death, your dad's cancer...all of this will shape the way Caleb grieves as a child, a teen and an adult. It was hard. It was painful. It was beautiful. I am so very sorry for your continued pain. I am awed at the grace you show. My guess is you don't always see the grace, feel the grace, believe the grace. I pray that when the pain is most acute that this same grace washes over you like a warm, soothing waterfall of relief. God Bless you Jill for having the grace to tell your son the truth so that he might always know the life beyond this life and that one day his family will be whole again. That there is no fear in death. There is pain, oh my yes there is pain for those left behind. But there is grace and hope and eternity.

McEngland like the McCountry said...

You handled that beautifully, Friend. I'm not sure that you would have ever felt ready to answer that question. It's so important for kids to feel comfortable to ask the questions that come to mind. I think it speaks very highly of your and Shane's gift for parenting that he feels ok in asking these tough questions instead of being afraid that they will add more pain to your already overburdened hearts. This is such an incredibly tough time in your lives. I'm still praying and I'm still sending all of my love

The Real Life of a Red Head said...

You are very right. I don't always see or feel the grace because the pain is too much. But even in the midst of the pain, there is always peace. Sometimes I don't understand the peace, but it's there.

I have been dreading that conversation for a while, and I have been praying that the Holy Spirit would give me the words when the question came. I continue to pray for the right words as we are sure to get more questions as dad faces his cancer.

It's not an easy concept to teach and talk about for sure.

The Real Life of a Red Head said...

I've not heard of Rainbows. We have a group here at a local church that offers a program called GriefShare. It's been a good program for all of us. :o)

I'll have to try to research Rainbows and see what it's all about! Thanks for the suggestion!

The Real Life of a Red Head said...

xoxoxo

Auntie Mip said...

There is a wonderful book called Tear Soup by Pat Schweibert. She is a hospice RN. It is intended for children but I have given it to countless families who lost children and parents alike. It is a beautiful analogy for death. Caleb is the perfect age. I highly recommend it. And as for the hard questions regarding your dear daddy, you will know the right answers JIll. You will because you know what is true. And as you have already identified, with truth comes a peace that passes all understanding. I have prayed for you a thousand times since your precious Joshua died. I will say a thousand more prayers for you.

Stephanie, Daughter of the Risen King said...

I can't pretend to know what your family has been through and is going through. I would never insult you by trying. But, I KNOW this, I LOVE you.

Ausmerican Housewife said...

Oh boy... I'm not really looking forward to that discussion with Erina when she asks about Julia and Evan!

She's a social butterfly and loves smiling at people. I showed her the book I was looking at (Nana's book of Evan's life, had a big picture of Evan on the cover) and she smiled this big huge toothy 16mo grin as I said "that's your big cousin baby Evan!"

Oh boy.... I'm glad Caleb is asking about Joshua.

JEN said...

great job, mama. the hardest part of the grief journey for me has been mairi's reprocessing of grief at each new cognitive stage. it's like she has to remourn/regrieve/reprocess, which meant for a long time (from probably 3-5) that we had to enter into that with her too. it was so painful, and so hard to be unable to protect her from that, and made me so angry that this was her reality. like even if *I* somehow deserved this, SHE was so innocent, SHE did not deserve to feel and know such pain and loss at such an early age. that was and kind of continues to be one of the hardest things for me to "forgive" God for, about the whole situation, if you will. Mairi's loss. I am a grown up, I can deal (Barely...at first) but her, she was only 25 months! catti was supposed to be her best friend, close in age, two peas in a pod...etc etc. but our ways our not His, obviously, so I had to trust esp in this part of His plan, that His will for M's life included this loss, this pain, this depth of feeling and knowing God in a way many don't their whole lives for a reason. Even if I hate every minute of it. But anyway, I too believe in being real and honest and she has looked at catti's ashes and talked about cremation vs burial (she wants to be "burned up" too...ugh) and all that...it's so real, it's so hard, but it's so important. so for honoring your child, and what God wants to do in HIS life and his future through this, you will be blessed, I just know it. <3

JEN

Auntie M said...

Whoa! Wow! I agree with Auntie Mip (above)...how you handled this was beautiful. I also agree with you: crap. Cannot imagine having to have this conversation!!! But I know God's grace was not just on you as you chose your words but also on Caleb and Hannah as they listened, helping their little minds understand in their own way.
Praying for that continued grace upon you all.
xo~Mary

tahnie said...

What incredible and brave parents you are for EVERYTHING you have been through but for not glossing over anything and being honest. I studied to become a Child Life Specialist in college and I think it is so important to be truthful with kids, they feel deeply and are so much more intuitive with these things than we realize. You are doing a WONDERFUL job explaining things to him.

Sending love and light your way.

A Daft Scots Lass said...

Way to Go!!!

Bumper said...

I think you did the right thing explaining it the way you did.

 
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