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My grieving girlie

 
Posts: 89
Location: Chilean Patagonia
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Not sure how to begin this, I've never really put myself out there by asking for this type of advice in a public forum... Anyways. Well 2 days ago we buried my father-in-law. He died unexpectedly from a heart attack, it was his third heart attack but he hadn't had any trouble in about five years and he had told us lately that he was doing fine. He lived 2 hours away from us and we all had a close relationship with him. We hadn't been to see him for several months due to quarantines here, but my husband talked to him every single morning for a couple of hours on the phone, and my kids talked to him about twice a week for a couple of hours as well. I didn't talk to him quite as often as the others did, but we talked and  emailed on a regular basis and I was closer to him than I was with my own dad--we had many interests in common, and a sweet history of identifying plants together, sharing our studies of history and politics, and learning from each other about family and life in general.  I have been devastated, but since the rest of the family (my husband's brother, and my step-daughter who found her grandpa unexpectedly passed away) were too distraught, all of the funeral arrangements fell to me. Of course my husband was hit really hard by this loss, so much he couldn't steady himself to walk until the morning after hearing the news. But we will be okay, I am not here to ask for us--my concern is for my daughter (R) , who is 7. She was very close with her Grandpa, he helped lots with her homeschool and we all spent time together often before quarantine began. When quarantine happened we made a mutual agreement to not visit but keep up with phonecalls which as I mentioned was a lot. So I expected when we had to tell R that her grandpa had died, that there would just be rivers of tears and endless sobbing...but instead she went stoic, serious, not even a single tear...she hugged me and her dad, but didn't cry. Of course in the craziness of funeral planning and the wake, I was very busy and as I mentioned her dad was pretty sick, so R and her brother stayed the first nights with our best friends, a couple who she dearly loves and are very trusted by us. There were several occasions when my friend or I would find R staring off into space with this sadness on her face, but as soon as she knew anybody had seen her she would "snap out of it". We have all told her that crying and sadness is okay and normal in this situation, that it is even okay to feel angry or scared, but she just closes it off; we ask her, "do you miss Grandpa?" And she shrugs her shoulders and says, "a little bit". Or, "Are you sad?" is met with "Kind of, I guess." Then she changes the subject or leaves the room, pursing and compressing her lips as she goes. She is normally a very expressive little girl who is just as prone to laughing and dancing as she is to affection and declarations of undying love; but now she claims to hate her favorite cartoons, hate her favorite foods, to be disinterested in her favorite chores, and to be bored with her favorite babysitters (our best friends). She has been very clingy and attentive with our family circle, grabbing us for hugs and kisses, caressing faces, holding hands. All she wants to do is draw/color or crochet with me, which we have done lots today. She wants to be accompanied everywhere, which has never been the case...and just tonight she is telling me that she is scared, scared of everything and she doesn't know why. She dreamt twice during naps today that dinosaurs ate her dad and brother and me. I proposed that she is scared that we will go away like Grandpa did, without any warning, but she insists that "no, no that isn't it!" I said it would make sense if she were scared of that, it would be okay..."I know Mom, but that's just not it. I don't know why I'm scared." and turned away biting her lips.
So that is where we're at. 2 AM here and she just fell asleep finally. I don't even know what to hope for for her, and I don't know what to say to her. This is the first time I've ever been at a total loss with her...before I always knew what she needed, what path to put her on, what words would bring her through...but now I am just hurting for my girlie and don't know what to do for her. I would be so grateful to hear from anyone with experience here.
 
pioneer
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My grandpa was the single most important person to me my entire life. My fondest memories always involve him. I was his hunting and fishing buddy. He taught me life by example. I mimicked everything he did. To this day I can't think of him without a tear coming to my eye.
I just wanted to be left alone when I heard the news, but I was an adult. I could not imagine having to go through that at 7. Bless her young heart!
I would imagine that everything she's scared of grandpa was there for her. The things she now hates are things she did with him, or they remind her of him. She must have been the apple of grandpa's eye.
If I had to face this situation i think I would try to tell her that grandpa loved doing those things with her or loved hearing about the things she did. Maybe reinforce in her young mind that grandpa loved her. She may be mad at him for dying.
I hate suggesting counseling, but sometimes professional help is what is needed. Good luck with R. Please keep us posted on her progress. You got a whole community here ready to help you raise R! 🙂
 
pollinator
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I am so sorry for your loss.

My grandmother died suddenly when I was around your daughters age. My family was all really close to her, and it took my mom years to recover.

I don't tend to have sharp childhood memories, but I remember very clearly my dad coming to my bedroom door and telling me that grandma was dead. I had never known anyone to die before; I don't think I really felt grief, then; just a horrible sense of dislocation. I calmly acknowledged his statement, and asked if my sister was ok..

Grieving and recovery can be very slow. It seems likely your theories about her fear are accurate, but I see nothing to gain by pressing the matter..

I wish I had more concrete advice; it sounds like you're doing a good job. Perhaps in the following days, she'll be able to suggest ways to reduce her fear, even if she isn't able to identify it...


As far as counselling goes, I think this can be very valuable if you are able to find the right person, and if your daughters wishes are central. I interacted with a counsellor in my early teens who had a tremendous positive impact on my life, but this was after a long string of others that I would veto after a single visit... if I had been forced to keep seeing the people I found distasteful, it would have been highly counterproductive..
 
pollinator
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My great grandmother died when I was 8, she died in my bed as we had been caring for her from home for the past 18 months, I didn't cry I acted much like your daughter though I do not remember being scared, when my grandfather died when I was 15 I didn't cry nor did I cry at my grandmothers death, and we had lived with them for 5 years. everyone processes grief differently I am not qualified to give advice on how to "help" her, but one reason for her being clingy may also be that she got less attention while the whole thing was kicking off, and while she understands that it wasn't her time for attention that doesn't mean she didn't miss it, or feel that her loss hasn't been considered.
 
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        Howdy Marie,

          I won't offer advice on how to grieve for the passing of loved ones; it's too personal and too deep an experience and people do it differently, however I can, having experience in my own life about this offer a few thoughts about supporting ones who are grieving. You know the first two, continue to love them and support them in the ways they need it, which are probably different than the ways you did before. I believe this takes a measure of awareness.  Third, there is no "map" and no right way to grieve or respond to the passing of loved ones, but there are stages if you will and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' work The Five Stages of Grief may be helpful to navigate the present moment your family is in and future that will come.

      Best to you, your daughter and your family,

            Thomas


         
 
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Oh my goodness, my heart is breaking for you and your daughter.  I am so sorry for your loss!  

The things that you've already brought up to her and have asked her about, like is she afraid that you guys might go away without warning, are exactly what I would have asked as well.  

Grief is very hard and each person internalizes things and reacts differently. You're doing a great job at keeping the communication open with your daughter and being observant of her minute reactions.  You're a great mom and my heart goes out to you and your family. <3
 
master pollinator
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Hugs, Marie. Praying for you and your family as you deal with the loss of someone so important to you all.

Everyone grieves differently, but it sounds to me as if your daughter is in denial, a very natural first response. Nightmares and sleep difficulties and clinginess for the first little while are also normal.

Possibly best would be not to press her, let her grieve in her own way. But when it's natural to mention your FiL, do. Anniversaries, things he would have loved doing with her, be open about mentioning him to her. Let her know how much you love her and how much her grandfather loved her. As a loving mom, of course you want to make it better for her, and the most loving thing right now might be to respect her grieving process, let her be clingy, and surround her with your love. Exactly what you're doing.

Also, seeing how her dad is dealing with it might be encouraging her to bottle it up. Kids don't want to upset their parents more by openly showing how upset they are. So she's showing it in different ways.
 
Marie Abell
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Oh my, I am so overwhelmed you guys. Just read everyone's replies out loud to my husband, tears streaming down both our faces. We are so grateful to each one of you for sharing your beautiful personal memories and solid advice.

I think R is swirling through a load of emotions that are foreign to her; of course profound sadness, emptiness, a new loneliness, trying to be a strong heroine as she watches her parents struggle, dealing maybe with some anger that her beloved grandpa abandoned her. She has continued almost manically with drawing and crocheting and sewing...she fell asleep mid-project a while ago, then woke up with a nightmare and through her half-asleep, night-terror eyes, was begging me, "Mom, I want to make something." I laid in bed with her and held her until she fell back to sleep. I guess, as someone said, she is telling us in her own way how she needs to deal with this.

So far as how we are handling the loss, I think that is a big deal for her. She has always been our big helper and her grandpa was so proud of her for being so mature and capable--so I think she feels the duty to continue carrying that.  

Our decision tonight has been to withdraw ourselves from the distribution of the inheritance, since it has created a huge stress and distraction in our lives and we are going to let the vultures take what they will while we focus on our sweet babies and grieving a giant loss in our lives. Isn't it crazy how people who don't give a shit about someone while they are alive can show up and be so very concerned about their worldly belongings once they are dead. So we are nixing that energy from our life and focusing on carrying our daughter and ourselves through this time.

I have heard of the five stages of grief but never read about it. I plan on looking it up now after posting this.

I appreciate the suggestion of trying therapy as well, I don't know how much of an option that is since we are in South America and though R speaks great spanish, I think thag therapy for her would still need to be in her mother tongue. I think we will give her some time and space now and if she is not able to release her emotions at some point then we will look at options.

Again, thank you SO SO MUCH to each one of you who took time out of your busy schedules to write thoughtful and valuable responses. You all have given a huge steroid injection (or should I say a healthy dose of comfrey tea??) into our faith in humanity. What a beautiful community for us and for R. Love and good vibes to everyone ❤️
 
pollinator
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Your daughter sounds like a very intelligent child; she may not understand where her feelings are coming from, OR that grief is driving her inability to "enjoy" all the things she previously loved. I work with kids, below are some of the tools I have used both personally and to aid others in processing a loss.

To me, now is the time for direct, open ended questions. As she is home schooled, this may be the easiest route; perhaps an assignment on Favorite Memories with Grandpa; or a story about a girl who's has suffered loss (a pet, favorite toy...).  

She may be stuck on some well meaning phrases often used when talking to about death: "called home to God", "God needed him", "died in his sleep"...perhaps she is afraid that she too (or other family members) may also be "taken" or even that she WANTS to die so she can be with him... I would simply ask, or through an assignment, determine WHAT death and dying actually means to her. She may not understand that EVERYTHING that is born, will die; not as punishment or reward, but simply as a matter of course. She may feel her "neglect" of him (not seeing him) caused his death; or they had an argument prior to his passing. Or, simply, that she is just plain angry that he "left" her.

Based on the info gleaned from these "assignments" move into formulating a personal grieving or remembrance plan: a picnic at their favorite spot, a meal of his favorites foods, a movie they shared a love for. Perhaps a visit to the burial site to "speak" with him, inclusion in spreading some of the ashes (if cremated), place some in small packets inside balloons filled with helium and "sent to heaven" or she could send him letters or pictures in helium balloons, so she still feels connected and can "share" with him.

I suspect she feels it is NOT okay to enjoy life,  as if to do so would be disrespectful or trivialize the loss. She may need permission to CELEBRATE his life, to have pleasure in her memories, and to simply be happy, even though he is gone.

Please, do NOT push her to acknowledge her inability to "love" all her favorite things is related to the loss.  I feel she needs to find that on her own, reconcile her feelings, and give herself permission to still enjoy life, through her own process. If, as I suspect, this is the first significant loss she has experienced, the way this is handled will become how she handles loss for the rest of her life.  

For now, she needs to know how cherished, valued, wanted and loved she is, while she is supported in her journey of grief. Time to "think out of the box" to provide alternative tools to process this, without directly acknowledging what you are doing. Hugs to you, your girlie and the whole family.
 
master steward
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My nieces just lost their older brother. All of them of them are kids. Each has been dealing with the grief differently. One wouldn't stop crying, another is more stoic, and the other burying herself in media to distract herself. Everyone grieves differently. When my 7-year-old son lost his beloved rooster, he was devastated and could not stop being sad. He wanted us color pictures of roosters, have us draw roosters, write down the story of his rooster, was always talking about how sad he was about Goldie, kept wanting to watch videos of Goldie and see pictures of Goldie, etc. We were worried that he was so fixated and that by encouraging it, he'd get stuck there. But, it's been months now, and he can talk about Goldie without tears, and he doesn't need to draw pictures, and he's a happy boy who loves his other animals.

I think every kid will process grief differently, and the best we can do is be there for them in whatever manner they need us to. If your daughter doesn't want to do certain activities, that's okay. If she doesn't break down crying, that's okay, too. (I often will go a day of feeling horribly sad but unable to cry, before I finally unleash the floodgates. Everyone is different). If she needs to distract herself by burying herself in crafts, that's okay. I spent the day after my nephew died just doing mindless crafting because I felt I was still being productive, and it wasn't something that required emotional/mental energy.

You're doing great in being there for her, in holding her in her sleep, and helping her process it however she needs to. It'll probably take time for her fears to subside, for the nightmares to go away, for her to enjoy things that remind her of her grandpa. She's going to need a lot of reassurance that you and Dad are there for her and she's safe. I think you're doing a great job of helping her through her grief so she can come out the other side having processed it and healed, while being supported by her loving, listening Mama. ♥
 
Jane Mulberry
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You're doing great in being there for her, in holding her in her sleep, and helping her process it however she needs to. It'll probably take time for her fears to subside, for the nightmares to go away, for her to enjoy things that remind her of her grandpa. She's going to need a lot of reassurance that you and Dad are there for her and she's safe. I think you're doing a great job of helping her through her grief so she can come out the other side having processed it and healed, while being supported by her loving, listening Mama. ♥



This, that Nicole said. Exactly! Lorinne raised a good point, too, about the well-meaning platitudes others might try to tell your daughter about what happened to her granddad, that often only confuse and worry kids more.  

Marie, you are doing the right thing. Don't feel concerned you are somehow "doing it wrong". You aren't. Your reply made me cry, but in a good way. You're making wise choices to step back from the conflicts in the extended family and focus on nurturing yourself and those closest to you. <3 Praying for you.
 
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I was almost seven when my grandpa died. We were close, I thought he hung the moon, he delighted in having a grandchild old enough to talk and follow him around.

I was really confused at first. The adults around me would use euphemisms like "He is lost to us" and "He has passed." They were trying to protect me and didn't take me to the viewing or burial. I was really worried for him, I thought he'd gotten lost. Being lost was scary, so I kept looking for him. Finally someone mentioned that he'd died. And I could make sense of that, I'd seen dead animals and buried a pet with his help.

Let her watch you all grieve in your ways, and keep reminding her that she's loved.
 
pollinator
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I'm a massive believer in a good therapist. My kids have been to see them and I've been. You have to make sure you are seeing the right one, but we've had fully positive experiences. They've helped us and our kids greatly. So, if you're at a loss I'd get a therapist for her. A neutral, safe third party might be exactly what you need to figure out how to help her cope with her emotions.

Otherwise it sounds like she's suppressing her emotions. I'm an expert at that. When you suppress emotion it will either come out as anger or depression. Like a volcano boiling below the surface that finally erupts. She sounds like me honestly. I'd not let her get away with it. I suppressed my emotions since childhood and as an adult it got the point where I couldn't feel anything, good or bad. I went to counseling for years to help break me of it.
 
Marie Abell
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Again, thank you so much to each of you. I wish I had the time and energy to respond to each individual, to express the value that I find in every anecdote and story and experience. I knew in coming here that I would receive the best of hard-won life advice, and I have not been disappointed. I am overwhelmed to receive such love and understanding from complete strangers.

Lorinne, so many great practical ideas, things I hadn't thought of in my muddled exhausted state. The kids who you work with are very lucky to have a person so empathetic and passionate about advocating for their feelings. You may well be right about R feeling guilty about enjoying life without her grandpa, but I haven't quite seen that--she referred to his wake as "the party" and had a blast playing with her niece and nephew as well as an uncle who had been estranged and many other friends who showed up to support us. The tradition (and law) here is an open-casket viewing held for a minimum of 24 hours; we took R and her brother H with us the whole time, mostly just because we always do everything together and it would really have been traumatic for us to suddenly ditch them for any reason. It was only nights that they stayed with friends simply because there was nowhere to sleep at the hall where the event was held. We also took the kids to the funeral and they watched as their dad helped bury the casket (direct immediate burial here, unlike the U.S.) However, like you said, R may not understand her feelings fully and may be feeling emotions that she wavers on or that she tries to deny, as someone else said.

So far as the euphemisms that a couple of people have mentioned, we have really avoided those for the most part. We are not religious and my FiL was an ardent atheist (or rather "pure naturalist" as he loved to say) so there has been no talk of heaven or God or "we'll see him again someday". I've come to believe, as you all have said, that those phrases ultimately impede and confuse the grieving process even for adults, so we have tried to be as real as possible yet gentle. R and H understand death as they always help me tend sick animals and bury dead ones. I think maybe they didn't realize that it could happen to people, but I guess as we continue to talk about things they will put the puzzle pieces together.

Nicole, what a tragedy, I am so sorry for the loss of your nephew. I can't imagine the trauma for everyone to lose a person so young...at least with my FiL we knew that he was older (78), he had lived a full life that he was proud of, and he had stated many times that he was ready to go. At the wake everyone commented how remarkably peaceful his face was. Those things are all comforts to us now, but I just can't imagine processing or accepting the death of a child. My heart goes out to you all and I deeply appreciate your sharing the different processes you all have been through, I guess it makes all of this more understandable and normal. Btw, my kids' favorite goat is named Goldie! She is a black nubian with a shock of gold hair on her neck. It is beautiful how animals can be such a significant part of our lives.

Jane, thanks for your encouragement. It is easy to feel inadequate and lost in these moments and your reassurance just means everything to me.

K, really beautiful thoughts thank you so much for sharing. R's relationship with her grandpa was very similar to yours with your grandpa--they were buddies.

At the moment we are headed out to Grandpa's house and R is going to paint a butterfly on his wellhouse. It was a project he had always asked her to do, something we just never got around to...well not anymore, we're going to get it done now. She is excited, found the paints and brushes herself and is humming/singing like she normally does.

Again, love and thanks and all my good vibes to everyone, ❤️
 
Violet Jones
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Oh Marie!  I think that allowing your daughter to complete the butterfly project that she and her grandpa had planned and hoped that she would do is a wonderful idea! That lets her both create something beautiful (especially since crafting/creating seem to be her natural way to help her cope) and lets her feel like she could still fulfil her grandpa's wishes by finishing that project for him.  

It also sounds like she's feeling great about being able to do this today!  I'll continue to pray for you and your family!  <3
 
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marie--
  i was close to your daughter's age when i experienced my first death in my family.  then they just rolled on through the years.  i am like your daughter...busy hands are happy (sometimes manic) hands.  i've quilted, crocheted, redecorated and beaded my way through many times of intense grief...father, sister, mother, brother, aunts, uncles, nephew, grandparents, friends.  it keeps me going until i can get to a place where i can process all the feels.  you are a wise and gentle mama who cares deeply for the heart of her daughter.  she knows this.  she experiences safety and security in that awareness.  that being the case, there will come a time when she will fully share her heart with you.  in the meantime, she trusts you to love her and walk through the darkness until the light begins to dawn again, for all of your family.  that sunrise will come at different times for each of you, but you're still walking that path together.  that is her greatest strength.

i think one of the most difficult parts of parenting for me was figuring out who my kids were...how they were wired, and how they were going to process the world as they discovered their place in it.  you are giving her the freedom of discovery about how she's going to forge her way in this world.  you're respecting her process, even as you strive to understand and help her through it.

you've gotten some beautiful encouragement and advice here, to which i heartily say "AMEN!!!"

for my part, i'd just add a few tidbits, hopefully not echoing, but adding to your "bag of tricks."

first and foremost trust your heart and your daughter's heart.  (as well as others in your tribe you know are trustworthy.)  listen, watch, learn, and then act appropriately.

live authentically in front of her.  let her see your process.  share with her (in appropriate ways) the sadness you feel, the things you are doing to self-comfort, and move forward in the face of loss.  again, if you have tribe members who can do the same, she'll learn more.  she'll be able to see the variety of ways people deal with loss, and incorporate the ways that fit who she is.

go to the library, or find books online or purchase books that are on the subject of death.  keep them available for her to read as often as she likes.  if you get a variety of them, they may clue you in to what her process is unfolding to become (and the rest of you, as well).

personally, i find rituals to be very helpful.  not the public kind, but just a way to acknowledge in my soul, that was, this is now. i planted a tree when my nephew died.  honestly that was not one of my best ideas...when we sold that house, one of my biggest losses was that tree.  (it's still sad for me 15 years later)  i haven't done that again, but it might work for you or your family. sometimes it involved throwing rocks, sometimes a trip to the beach to let the sand be a visual to represent the reality that life keeps moving, and sometimes things disappear from our lives....a way of saying goodbye.  i've written reams of grief.

i made quilts and/or pillows for my family when my sister died,  in coffee fabrics, because she loved her coffee.  14 years later, my daughters and i are often comforted to see them.  i also crocheted a scarf for myself in an open mesh pattern, woven with silk ribbons in colors she would have loved, and wore that for years.  i "pretended" it was a hug from her.  i made a quilt from costumes my in-laws wore in their dancing days for my mother in law.  i helped a friend make quilts from her father-in-law's shirts for her family members.  i made an apron from the shirt of a friend's dad for her to wear.  there are t-shirt quilts, or even just making old t shirts into jammies or backpacks.  ties or handkerchiefs are great things to repurpose into clothes or accessories.  creating with things that belonged to the loved one, or creating something they would have loved are equally cathartic and comforting.  creative, personal honorariums, i guess is what i'd call them.  since your daughter has that creative gene, perhaps one of those ideas will spark....maybe putting together a shadow box of memories?  planting a perennial garden (keeping in mind, if moving is a distinct possibility, you could be opening your future selves up for a lot of grief when that happens)  if scrapbooking is your jam, that's a great outlet.  you know your sweet baby's talents, and if this feels like something that may be useful, you'll know what to do.

one refrain that keeps me going is, "it's going to be ok.  i have NO idea what ok will look like, but it will be ok."  finding a phrase to cling to to remind myself of the truth when life is beating the crap out of me gives me the strength to keep going.  maybe decide on a family motto, or each of you find you own.

and some stronger words...

please don't push her.  trust her, and trust your love for her.  

please don't let her brother get lost in the shuffle.  or your husband, or yourself.  you all need equal love and grace and encouragement to work this through.  the squeaky wheel does get the grease, but that doesn't mean the other wheels on your wagon don't need greasing too.  take time to explore how each of you need to process, and what things you would wish to do to mark this "end" in your life.  doing different things to process, and being equally accepting of each individual person's process is a lovely way to grow together as you accept the variety of possibilities.  and it may fortify each of you in ways you didn't expect as you're given different outlets to process your loss.

the sense of loss may go on for years.  though the first year is the hardest, as you face holidays and birthdays and anniversaries without them, it usually gets a little easier after that, with the passing of time.  take time on those special days to give voice to the loss you feel without grandpa there.  as the decades fly by, any of you may be blindsided occasionally by waves of grief.  you may be facing something wonderful, but feel like something is just wrong and be clueless about what it is.  the highlights of our lives, the times we celebrate with our loved ones are the times when grief sneaks up to bite us in the rear.  graduations, weddings, life accomplishments, even life's failures...the times when those we love would huddle around...there's an empty chair at the table.  acknowledge the loss, acknowledge the love, and put another foot in front of the other.  be on the lookout for reverberations in your lives....the anniversary of the death of grandpa may bring about regression, aggression, fits and depression.  it may be a non-issue, it may be a big issue.  just be aware of the date, and watch for behaviors that indicate a new wave of grief.  talk openly about it. it will help your children identify why there's an unnamed darkness unaccountably hovering over them.

do set boundaries.  while i believe in self-discovery and allowing children to be who they are, i must acknowledge kids (like ALL people) can sometimes be manipulators.  being held hostage by a child's emotions isn't fun for you, and it won't be fun for them if they become captive to their emotions.  this is where it gets really tricky, and it's a great time to seek the wisdom of your tribe.  

and lastly, laugh.  never AT, but always WITH one another.  as much as you can, as often as you can, for any reason.  we used laughter to keep our family sane through wretchedly challenging times.  laughing is just as healing as tears, and it's a lot more fun.  it feels wrong to laugh in the face of loss, but it's one of the most powerful tools you can put in your kids' toolboxes for life.  intentionally make time for it.  play silly games.  do goofy things.  find funny books, joke books or just plain humorous books.  the absurdities of this world are myriad.  point them out to one another whenever and wherever you see them.  in that, you will not merely find release, you'll also be teaching them what real humor looks like.  it will also open endless possibilities of learning and growing and relating to people as you model healthy humor that doesn't demean, degrade or mock.

i was going to leave you with, "you can do this, mama."  but the truth is, you already ARE doing this.  i could probably say, "keep on loving your baby," but you're doing that, and that doesn't answer the cry of your heart to know more about how to do that effectively.  from one stranger's heart to another....sift everything i've said to separate what fits for your family, and keep whatever wheat you find, while the chaff is blown away in the wind.



 
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Marie, I'm sorry for your loss.
A few ideas-
Developmentally, 7 is an age where children are generally first aware of death and (even when it is not present in their lives) often ask a lot of odd questions about it. Prior to that it is usually not really on their radar. It could just be the timing that is making it more intense (along with her love for her grandparent), but as an educator I'd say it's age appropriate.
For example, you may also want to have a peep at this, check out the side bar on the left that says "what to expect" for different ages to get an idea about changes right at this age 7 watershed where they are aware of death https://childmind.org/guide/helping-children-cope-grief/ )

I do consular outreach for expats in my region and have heard various people mention doing online counseling in English, which might be an option for you if you feel additional resources are necessary. Obviously it would be best to find someone specialized in working with children her age; still, language might not be a big barrier (vocab at age 7 is not super developed, even in maternal language) and if there is a school psychologist available that might be the easiest resource to access (not sure if that is available in your community, I'm thinking of what we have in Brazil for communities and school is probably the easiest entry point, your mileage may vary).

A South American big hug to you, amid all that's happening in the region right now. We moved down when my own daughter was 7, it'll be 15 years in January. Good for you on withdrawing from the inheritance circus, we have gone through something similar and.... no money can pay for the mental health losses incurred.
 
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Grieving.
It is going to take a lot of time to level back out. You expected an outburst of emotion and a bit of thunder - understandable.
To get 'over' a death (it never is over, it will come back again and again - unexpectedly) but leveled back out to where you have your 7 year old approaching what 'normal
was, will (likely) require a long term commitment to listening to her stories about her grandpa. To get there, you might want to figure out a commemorative project that "you" are going to do - and just need a bit of help in accomplishing - or planning, or "I had these ideas, which one would be better?" to get the stories started. Until she can tell HER stories of her grandpa, then it won't be 'over'.
You might try something like Story Core on PBS, you want to start a tradition of a verbal archive of memories with family members for future family members to have.

RileyG
Outside Carney, OK
 
Marie Abell
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Well she painted the butterfly. I think it made her happier. She has been a bit more herself since the trip. Even though she didn't want to go into the house, she was very excited to go around Grandpa's property and visit their old trails and favorite hangouts. We also got a coaster of his, just a slice of a log with heavy chainsaw marks on it--but she took it on herself to sand it a bit, and we're going to varnish it so that it will stay with her forever.

The trip seemed to trigger H to have his first realizations of the loss, which really broke my heart. I guess I had hoped that he would coast on through without much understanding of it, but he definitely does miss Grandpa and is trying to process what death means. It makes me so sad to see, because I was his age (3-1/2) when my grandmother died, and it left a hole that I felt every day of my young life. I guess I made the mistake of initially mentioning to H that Grandpa is resting now, so he took that to mean that Grandpa would come back sometime--and he was crushed when I told him that death means that a person rests forever. So may I just emphasize again, as several others have, euphemisms are NOT helpful--the only one I have used in this whole ordeal came back to bite me pretty hard.

Violet, thank you so much for your words and encouragement! Made me smile and feel better.

Zelda, I love your name and I am ever so grateful for your words. It is so touching to me that you took the time to write all of those words and share your obviously hard-won experience and truths.
I like what you said about not allowing children to become tyrants in their grief. It is an easy trap to fall into as a mom, one that my husband also was pointing out to me just yesterday. So I have taken the message and I am seeing the kids be happier as they are held to more of a normal standard, mostly going back to their usual chores and customary bedtime. In my quest to soften the blow here, I had actually taken away part of their normalcy and security.
Your words about humor are important and very true as well. We were so happy this evening when R started giggling uncontrollably for a minute at a silly thing that happened. Laughter seems to be an unexpected yet essential ingredient in this journey, and I think sometimes the kids need a break and distraction from their grief as much as we do. Fortunately humor has always been a big part of our family communication, and it is another "normal" thing that has been a steadying factor for all of us. Again, thank you Zelda--so many beautiful thoughts and ideas you shared.

Tereza, thanks a million for that link. To be honest, after reading I think that my children are processing the grief at an age level older, which makes sense given that they have lots of adults in their lives and we have never sheltered them from hard things. In any case the article was very useful to me since it is difficult to determine in this situation, what is normal and what is worrisome.
And may I say, YAY for South America!! We love it here in Chile.

William Grotts wrote:
To get 'over' a death (it never is over, it will come back again and again - unexpectedly) but leveled back out to where you have your 7 year old approaching what 'normal
was, will (likely) require a long term commitment to listening to her stories about her grandpa. To get there, you might want to figure out a commemorative project that "you" are going to do - and just need a bit of help in accomplishing - or planning, or "I had these ideas, which one would be better?" to get the stories started. Until she can tell HER stories of her grandpa, then it won't be 'over'.


I liked this, Riley. Thank you.

I know that all of the messages that have been posted here will be things that I come back to days and weeks and maybe years from now. I feel like I have a guidebook or at the very least a reference of normalcy, balance, good ideas, lifelines. I hope that each one of you feels the depth of my gratitude. We are slowly processing and grasping what has happened, returning to some things being the same while in a way they will never be the same. I know that most of you know what it feels like to have a pillar of your existence suddenly disappear...it's strange, empty, and so much sadness. I just hope you all know that each one of you has been a bright light during a dark and difficult time.
 
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It sounds like your daughter is in denial. She is squashing her emotions and keeping them stuck inside. If she were my daughter, I would help her through this by making sure she feels my presence, love and support, and by talking about her grandfather often, about good times you had with him, about things you did together, about things he did for you, about things he told you, and especially things you didn’t get to say to each other, things you missed out on, the pain of being separated from him in his last months of life, and all the painful experiences connected with that. I wouldn’t directly push her to grieve properly, however.
 
Marie Abell
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An update of sorts, for all of you who took your precious time to offer such incredibly valuable insights and advice.

It has been nearly 2 months since we lost my FiL, and gosh it's been rough. Such grief and sadness, loneliness we never imagined, days when our hearts break all over again as we see our sweet children mourning as well.

R has made many milestones, like laughing again, sleeping without nightmares, even mentioning her grandpa for the first time and asking for specific things that belonged to him as we go through his belongings. I have made a big point of spending one-on-one time with her, something she seemed to be asking for as she made me gift after gift and drawings with her name and mine written together. She and I have become much closer, as I have slowly regained her trust and she has been able to tell me things that she never was given time or space to tell me before. I guess despite our children being homeschooled and (until covid) going everywhere with us even in our work, life just gets away with you sometimes and you lose touch. So in a way this has been a gift, but it has been painful to realize that my girlie was using her incredible inner strength to cover wounds and traumas that we were too busy to notice. She has told me things like that once when we all got food poisoning she thought she was going to die...that she watched one of my friends be abusive to her daughter (R's friend)...that she knew her grandpa was going to die, she was expecting it...that she has been proud that we didn't notice her problems, since that meant she was already grown up. Such daggers to my heart. So slowly we are healing together. Of course R's dad has also done so much through all of this, even in his grief, telling allll the stories about grandpa, showing pictures of the good ol' days in Texas, being open about his process and available to talk to even more than I have been since these days he stays home with the kids while I go to work.

She still crochets and draws a lot, and does crazy things like making her brother a sombrero with cardboard and masking tape. Something that seems to be an important part of her healing is using movies/TV to process. She insisted, once we were sane enough to return to a bit of normalcy, on becoming part of our (me and my husband's) nightly ritual of watching a murder mystery. It sounds morbid, but despite all of our explanations and alternative plans she made it clear that she wanted to watch with us. Of course they aren't horror films, we just watch an episode of Matlock or Diagnosis Murder or something like that, but still obviously full of meaning so close to the loss of her grandpa. So we listened to her and at first, she would watch calmly through it all, never showing any emotion...but I have noticed recently that now she wants to hide her eyes during the scary parts, or will request halfway through that we watch something else. My theory is that she used the drama of the shows to live through her own feelings and open them up, and now she is feeling more and processing through deeper levels of grief as she is able. I also watched (a partly censored version of) The Holiday with her lastnight, a movie that tells the story of a woman who couldn't cry and then learns to cry. R watched ever so attentively and said later that she really loved the film.

Something that R and H have both done since my FiL's death, is watching us and examining us for signs of grief. For example, if there is a sad moment during a movie, one or both of them will immediately turn to us and look intensely into our eyes to see how we are responding. Of course lots of times we are in tears, but that doesn't seem to garner any reactions from the kids; it's just like they need to know. Just interesting and another reason that we have tried our best to remain authentic and open about everything through all of this.

H is grieving in a seemingly more adult way, he adores grandpa's tools and watch, carries them to bed with him sometimes, and talks about grandpa every day. Sometimes I find him sad and quiet (NOT his normal) and he says, "I am just thinking about Grandpa." Ayyy. So lots of sadness. But lots of love and hugs too. We're getting through it together.

Again, I just want to thank each one of you from the bottom of my heart. Each post was a light and strength for me during such a dark time. I noticed reading back through the thread just now that I didn't even have the presence of mind to like all of the posts, but rest assured I did like and love them all and I send all my best energy and gratitude to each one of you lovely people. ❤️

 
Thomas Agresti
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       Howdy Marie,

                  All the best to you and your children and your family. I love the fact you are crying in front of your children; who better to show them how to grieve and how to be healthy. The tender, open heart is the bravest heart; it's the heart which feels the most even if it's sad. And that too will pass.

               All the best to you and your family,


                      Thomas
 
Lorinne Anderson
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Thank you for sharing your family's journey dealing with this loss. Your honesty has shown there is no "right" or "wrong" when it comes to dealing with death; that everyone's path is unique and must be respected and supported.

To chronicle this from the raw first days, to now has been, I am sure, heart wrenching for you.  I just want you to know how much I appreciate your sharing this with us, and I am sure this thread will be helpful to countless others as time goes by.

Hugs, rainbows, flowers and unicorns to you and your family.
 
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