Friday, January 22, 2010

explaining heaven to kids and other kid grief issues

The most difficult challenge associated with Brian's death is undoubtedly handling the boyz' fears, frustrations and curiosity.

The frustrations come and go. When I notice that Grant seems to be "in a mood" and slightly destructive, it may take me a few days, but eventually, I come to my senses and realize maybe he is missing Daddy a bit more than I had assumed. We talk about Brian some to see if this is the underlying cause. Honestly, it never surfaces that it is or isn't the cause with Grant. He simply doesn't talk about it too much. He also doesn't like to see my cry anymore, which I rarely do anyway. He walks away to his room and hides under his covers. I have to sweet talk him out of his retreat explaining that it is okay for Mommy to cry some because I loved Daddy so much and some things just remind me of him.

This happened when we watched UP a couple weeks ago. Thank you so much to my friends for recommending I NOT see that movie over the summer when it was released. Still, it felt quite refreshing to have a full-throttle sob as I watched Carl, (spoiler alert) the main grumpy crotchety character, release those cumbersome house-toting balloons knowing that was his PAST and realize that acknowledging the present was WAY more honoring to his late wife. I identify with sad widows overcoming their grief opening a path to a new FREE self all too well, even in cartoon form.

But, I digress.

Grant, for the first time, had issues with my tears rather than smothering me with kisses and offering me tissues. The thing is, Grant doesn't miss Brian too much. He was relieved to see, what he perceived to be, Brian's suffering gone. If you ask Grant if he misses Daddy, he will tell you no. I think he does and I think he misses having a Daddy PERIOD, but his frustrations are hard to identify because of his lack of verbal communication.

Gavin, on the other hand, is a whole other challenge. Gavin is VERBAL. Always has been. He will debate a topic to no end convincing me that some day he will be a lawyer or a politician. Since Brian died, Gavin will occasionally bring up the subject of Daddy coming alive again. The conversations usually go something like this one did last week:

Gavin: Mom, what if Dad could move?
Me: What do you mean move?
Gavin: What if Jesus made Daddy's body move again?
Me: Why would Jesus want Daddy's body to move again? We buried Daddy, remember?
Gavin: No, what if Jesus made Daddy's body move and made him alive again?
Me: Jesus wouldn't do that, Sweetie.
Gavin: No, he could. Jesus can do anything.
Me: Yes, He can, but Jesus is glad Daddy is in heaven with Him.
Gavin: Yeah, but Jesus could let Dad come back and be with us.
Me: Daddy wouldn't want to leave heaven, Bud.
Gavin: Daddy wouldn't WANT to come back and be with us? I think he would.
Me: Gavin, once you are in heaven, there isn't anymore sadness or things that make you feel bad. Daddy can't miss us in heaven because feelings like that don't exist there. You don't miss anything in heaven. It is perfect. We can't understand it. I don't understand it. But that is why we all want to get there some day.
Gavin: I think Dad wants to come back to play with us.
Me: I can see why you would think that. If heaven wasn't perfect, he would. The best thing we can do is to keep trusting Jesus to take care of us now and to get to heaven some day ourselves.

It breaks my heart into 10,000 pieces to know Gavin holds tight to the idea that Daddy could come back to life. Do you have any idea how hard it is to explain the concept of heaven to a little boy that just wants his Daddy? How do you explain to a little, literal-interpreting mind the concept of something that NO earthly mind can comprehend, trying to make heaven sound so great when I don't get it myself? Try explaining my little boyz that heaven is so great their daddy wouldn't want to come back and they, too, want to get there someday, but just NOT RIGHT NOW. It is impossible.

Or, at the very least, it is challenging.

I do my best.



  1. Wow that is a challenge. Sounds like you are doing great and they will understand more as they get older.

  2. I think that, in the end, your best will be good enough.

  3. You're right. You can't explain something to him that he can't understand (it's something that even adults can't). But what you can do, and what you are doing, is listening to him, comforting him, and loving him. That's way better anyway.

    I think of you often.


  4. After my mother passed, I had a very hard time reasoning with myself on the whys. She had been so ill and I found myself not missing her the way I thought I should. All I could hear and see in my mind was all the suffering she had gone thru the last days. (I wanted to rip that little cook-coo birds tongue right out of his head). Everytime he went off she would jump and moan in pain.) It took me years to really cry and miss her and get a bit of healing.
    We can't explain why we feel the way we do. How much less a child has a lot harder time dealing with their pain.
    Keep listening, and slowly it will get better and as they grow their understanding will also grow.
    Praying for you.
    Love you.
    Verna@ Coleman2

  5. Angie,
    I don't know you but I have been crying over your blog since before you lost Brian. I just wanted to tell you that I think your boys are so amazingly lucky to have such a strong, honest, loving mom. I know it must feel impossible some days even to get out of bed, and I can't imagine trying to hold back tears for your kids. Sending you good thoughts and support and admiration from afar.

  6. You know, when we had our niece & nephew in 06-07, their mom had been killed by their dad & we got custody less than a week after her death. We walked them through all these same sort of conversations. Sometimes I found it best to say "Yeah, it would be great if she could come back, wouldn't it? What would you like to do with her if she could come back to life?" We'd play the "what if she did..." game a lot. Most of the time they just wanted to talk out those memories & verbalize their desire to have her back. In the end of the conversation, we could say "that would be great...but I'm glad she's waiting for us in Heaven" and usually they'd be OK with it. It's hard to figure out the right way to handle things like this & I think you're doing great!

  7. No, I cannot imagine having to do that.


  8. You are doing an amazing job, Angie. Dealing with both boys, whose needs are so different. And, trying to take care of your own emotions...

    Sending hugs.

  9. Holy cow. That's deep stuff. You are doing great.

    I like what the woman above said.. try the "what if" scenereo. It may even be a fun way to remember and talk about Brian more with Gavin. Maybe that's what he's needing. ???

    I love you. You are doing a remarkable job with those little guys.


  10. Angie, I wonder what Grant does (or would do) during those exchanges between you and Gavin. Keep speaking truth, for "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Romans 10:7) Obviously, Gavin expresses faith, and he asks quetions and makes statements that further explore truth. Your having to answer makes you do the same. Be encouraged. Love, Aunt Jane

  11. You are the perfect mom for those boys. You are doing such a great job.

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  13. I'de say you're handling it all beautifully. I'm sure sometimes it doesn't feel that way, but from over here I can tell you it all sounds..right.

    Hard road, but you are traveling it with grace...and humor!.. a must to get through this life, as you know.

  14. Ouch. You are doing well explaining things that don't have any explanation.

  15. Yes, Bossy agrees with the wisdom of your other commenters -- and your best is considerably more focused and love-filled and understanding than the garden-variety "best".