It’s kind of weird how the grieving process goes.
My daughter’s paternal grandfather died on the 21st. I had not really gotten to know this man, even though I’ve spent 16 years in and out of relationship with his son. However, I became immersed in the family during the time he was in the hospital leading up to his death and then subsequently during the planning and participation in the memorial service. I fully expected to witness and be affected by the grief of his immediate family members, but truly didn’t expect to experience any grief of my own.
However, before his body died, I was allowed to visit him in the ICU and spend a few moments alone with him. Standing beside him and holding his hand, I was filled with sadness and grief, for a few minutes. Some of it was just seeing his body in such a vulnerable and weakened state and the certainty that he was gone and not coming back, after seeing him up and around, smiling and laughing just a couple of days before that, and the realization that I would not have the opportunity to get to know him better. Some of it was more than likely the fact that I’ve been dealing with some intense relational issues with people I love and care about and am somewhat estranged from and the understanding that if we don’t somehow reconcile, then one day, without warning, the opportunity to reconcile would be gone, in an instant. Part of my sadness and grief can probably be attributed to the losses in my own life that I had not fully grieved or was being triggered to remember.
While all of that was in play, I think an even bigger piece was in play. I was starting to grieve on behalf of my daughter. Now, I’m not really sure that makes a whole lot of sense, but I honestly believe that at least was the biggest trigger. She’s only 3, so she can’t really understand why “poppa” is gone and not coming back. The concept of heaven isn’t really anything real to her at this time. Sadly, we (her parents) haven’t done a good job of living and showing our faith in Jesus, so the person of Jesus is also a concept that isn’t real to her. It saddens me to realize that at the age she currently is, her memories of her poppa will more than likely fade and that he’s not going to be around to make more.
At first, we told her he was sick. So, after he died, and someone said something about grandpa, she said in her chirping voice, “Poppa’s sick.” Later, when I had a moment alone with her, I tried to tell her, simply that poppa had been too sick to come home. I told her he died and was gone, that he had gone to be with Jesus. She seemed to accept that with the equanimity and complacence that only a child can have in these kinds of circumstances. Over the past few days, she’s referred to her poppa a few other times, and each time she does, my heart tugs a little harder.
She started running a fever yesterday, so, I had to take her to grandma’s today, so I could go to work. The logistics of having missed work last week due to “bereavement” and am scheduled to spend the entirety of Spring Break off with her since I don’t have regular childcare have made it difficult to take any unscheduled time of at this time. After I dropped her at grandma’s, I went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of items for them. When I returned, grandma told me that she had asked for her poppa. As she was describing what happened, I felt the tears starting to well up. My throat started closing and I just started to be overwhelmed with grief and sadness.
When I got out to the car, I cried for a little bit as I was driving, asking God why I was having this response. I didn’t get an overt answer. But, I think the answer is that grief & sadness, like all emotions, have a time, a place, and a purpose. Instead of fighting them, accepting them, allowing them to flow, and just sitting with them is what I need to do. I’ve heard it said that recovery is a process and not an event. So it is with grief.