Knee-deep experience

I was about six when my dad’s father passed away. Grampa Schedin had been living with us toward the end of his life and it was only recently that my mom said something to the effect of, “I had two kids under the age of seven, a baby, a new puppy—and a father-in-law in my home, dying of cancer.” Now that’s tough stuff. Honestly, I think my mother could write a better column about death and dying than I. She has said goodbye to a lot of people, including her father, taken far too early into her life, as well as two brothers. Death only seems to get more difficult to shoulder as the people we cherish leave us.

The only thing I remember about my grandfather’s funeral is that I was granted access to a ride in the hearse. I believe I was sitting next to my mother in that vehicle, and I began to get queasy. I tugged on my mother’s sleeve and told her I thought I was going to vomit. Something about the cramped quarters and the gas fumes (…is actually nothing new. I still get carsick on occasion). But anyway, I remember the look of dismay on her face. Now I understand it had to be something akin to, “if I thought this day was terrible, now I realize, it’s about to get worse.”  

Thankfully, I was able to keep my stomach in check and the processional rumbled on without further incident. But I always wondered—was I too young to be at that funeral? What about my even younger siblings? At what point is it beneficial to involve a child in the process of death, dying, and grief? How do we care for a child who is upset but can’t verbalize it well?

Thankfully, we have an article that will assist, should you
also have questions such as this. After losing her father suddenly, writer Kelly Jo McDonnell also had to contend with her son’s demeanor as related to that loss. She also called on other parents and experts to get opinions, and I think it’s a very interesting read.

One of my co-workers stopped by my office a few weeks ago and said, “I have an idea for a story!” Then she proceeded to tell me about a close call her own father-in-law had, how unprepared she felt about the possibility of losing him, and how it would impact her children. Wow. Are we all on the same wavelength here? As Kelly mentions in her article, “nothing prepares you for this experience until you are knee-deep in it.” Hopefully, this feature will help a little bit.