Motherhood has brought on a whole new component to my grief journey as I am faced with the loss and grief my children experience as a result of my parents being gone.
My oldest daughter, almost 6, is very insightful and emotional, and at around the age of 4 started making the connection between mommy’s parents being in heaven and the fact that mommy will someday die too. When you’re driving down the road with your 4 year old and 1 year old singing music class songs, the last question you expect is…”mommy, since your mom and dad died before you were a mommy, does that mean that you will die before I am a mommy?”
Wow! Talk about the question that felt like somebody just punched me in the stomach. My eyes immediately welled up with tears and my heart burned for what my daughter was realizing. I remember being 5, 6, 7 years old after my mom died and waking up in the middle of the night petrified that my dad, my sister or I was going to die too. The last thing I want for my children is for them to experience that same fear and here I was, facing that reality.
And then the tough part comes…reassuring my 4 year old that mommy will be with her for a very long time, even though I know there is no certainty to that statement. That initial question was the benchmark for many conversations between my daughter and I about why Grandma Tina and Grandpa Larry died, how it is not fair that she never got to meet them, and her needing reassurance that mommy and daddy aren’t going anywhere.
These are the questions that wake up the most unexpected emotions and remind me how important it is to remember that grief is a journey and not a task with an end date because at the age of 4, I was a grieving child and at the age of 36, I am a greiving mother trying to help my children understand the complex emotions of their own grief.