My husband’s grandfather recently passed away at the grand age of 94. Along with other members of the family residing overseas, we rushed home for the funeral. As we prepared with the packing and arrangements, my husband and I wondered how we should tell our daughter. Would the loss of a loved one would be too complex for my three year old to understand?
How would we explain this? What might she feel? How could we help her to deal with these feelings? Would she be confused and scared if she saw others expressing sadness over their loss? Previous parenting challenges diminished in the light of this gargantuan one; it seemed so daunting that we shelved the topic temporarily.
When she asked why we were packing, I said we were going back to Singapore. She asked innocently, “For a holiday?” After a long pause, I explained that Grand-Papa had gone to heaven and we needed to tell him goodbye. “He’s in heaven, like Nanny?” (Nanny is her great-grandmother who passed away the year before she was born.) After that, she carried on playing with her toys. While I was glad we had this conversation, had she really understood?
In Singapore, the wake is usually held before the funeral. The open coffin is displayed for friends and family to pay their respects and say their farewells. With the coffin on a raised platform, I was relieved that my daughter was not tall enough to see. However, sometime that afternoon her grandmother walked up to the coffin with my daughter in her arms. I suddenly realised that my daughter was looking at her Grand-Papa’s body and my heart leapt. But contrary to showing any fear or confusion, she just looked at his peaceful face and commented, “Grand-Papa is sleeping.”
On the day of the funeral, she amazed us with her good behaviour. I had been worried she’d want to walk around during the service, but she seemed to sense the gravity of what was happening and knew she had to sit quietly. She asked me a few questions but was quite content to sit on my lap or next to her grandmother. When it came time to say our farewells, I gave her a rose to lay on her Grand-Papa and whispered into her ear that she had to say goodbye. After looking around at her family, she turned back and said, “bye Grand-Papa.” It was such a sweet send-off to her great-grandfather of whom she has such loving memories and whom she had the privilege to know. I tried to hide my tears as I hugged her tightly.
As a parent, I worry about my daughter all the time. Each time we move to a different county, I worry about how she will adjust. I fret about her relationship with her family whom she sees maybe once a year. I agonize about how she’s eating and sleeping, and if she’s growing well. Most of all I worry about the world she lives in, for it can be such a scary and hostile place. And while I want to protect her from every single danger, I know that she has to face disappointment, sadness and most recently, loss.
In trying to protect her, I underestimated my child and how mature she can be. She might be very young, but she surprisingly taught me something in her own experience. She had shown no signs of being upset or afraid, even when looking at her resting great-grandfather. It wasn’t because she did not understand, because we recently had a conversation about Grand-Papa and Nanny being in heaven, and she exclaimed that it was unfair as she missed them very much. She really does understand that they are gone and she can’t see them anymore.
Even though she has not experienced loss to the same depths and understanding that we have, she has comprehended it in her own way. When she saw her great-grandfather, she had recognised his face, and remembered him playing games like “tweet tweet, where’s the birdy” and “meow, where’s the kitty cat.” She had remembered going to his house in Singapore and sitting on his lap while he talked to her in his ever-gentle voice. All she had seen in that face was love. And if that is her strongest or only memory of her Grand-Papa, she is truly blessed.
I can’t shield my child from everything, nor would I want to. I strongly believe that she has to go through pain, mistakes, struggles, and loss in order to fully appreciate people and what she has in her life. It will make her a stronger person, it will give her perspective and hopefully it will motivate her to bigger goals. She will eventually learn from experience that the world isn’t the utopia of her childhood, but I deeply hope that she will never fail to see love in the faces around her.
How do you help your children to understand and deal with difficult life experiences, like the loss of a loved one?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Karen in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Photo credit to the author.
62,000 people. That is the estimated number of Haitians who are still displaced from the 7.0 earthquake that shook Haiti in January 2010; a heartbreaking disaster that claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced as many as 3 million people.
Elouse’s four cousins
….this is only 1% of the 900 people who lost their lives in Haiti to Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
900 lives…fathers, mothers, teachers, grandmas, little brothers, babies…lost in the waters of a sea that came on land and washed it out. A land crushed under debris created by a 145mph wind that knocked down concrete walls and tore down palm trees as if they were saplings just transplanted from a kindergarten classroom the day before.
To say that we feel for our sisters and brothers in Haiti is an understatement. My heart is heavy and it wants to scream because although it believes that we, together, will make things better, it is hard to see the road ahead when there is such a harsh wind blowing in one’s face.
To look at the state of Haiti now, with the lack of food and access, and the abundance of poverty, one may not remember how powerful a nation Haiti actually is.
In the 18th century, Toussaint-Louverture, Henri Christophe and Dessalines revolted in an effective guerilla war against the French colony. All three had been enslaved: they successfully ended slavery and regained freedom for the nation. They did this in 1791 against the French, in 1801 against the Spanish conquest, and in 1802 against an invasion ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte. They renamed Saint-Dominique after its original Arawak name, Haiti, which became the second independent nation in the Americas.
Such history should not go unnoticed because it is a significant example of the perseverance, love, and determination that courses through the veins of Haitians.
If I could say anything to my sisters and brothers in Haiti right now, if I could speak at all, I would say this:
“In the midst of the chaos; the heartbreak; the loss of life; the search for lives; the feeling that rebuilding will simply take too much energy…again; the pain; the tears that will run dry; the anguish, and all the feelings that weigh down your soul and may make you doubt your abilities, please remember who you are, what you have accomplished, and what you are capable of doing. You do not stand alone, because we stand with you. You do not sit alone, you do not swim alone, you do not cry alone, you do not hug your loved ones alone, you do not cry alone.
You do not cry alone, and you will not rebuild alone.
We are with you.
We are with you and we will laugh together again and you will see that we can get out of this. Please believe with me. I know it’s hard right now, and I do not pretend to understand what you’re going through, but please believe with me”.
To anyone who would like to assist, you may consider contacting any and all of these organizations:
Food For The Poor
Save the Children
Please remember that there is also a cholera outbreak because of lack of clean water, and it is also claiming lives. Help is needed most urgently! Please lets do what we can.
My heart goes out to everyone affected by this hurricane, not only in Haiti but in neighboring countries including the southern US states. Sending you all love and happiness in the hopes that you keep believing and looking forward to another sunrise.
Have you ever been directly affected by a devastating storm? What would you say to those who are trying to rebuild their lives?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia at ThinkSayBe. Photo credit: Ricardo’s Photography. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
I believe that everyone, in some way or another, has a second (or more) set of “parents”. This is a broad definition of parents I am using here – they may be people who cared for you when your biological parents were having problems, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles, or even godparents as is the custom in some places. They could be people who took you to the movies or to fancy restaurants if the money in your family was tight. They could be people close to you whom to others might seem commonplace but to you were heroes. They could be teachers, formally or not. The common characteristic among these people is that they were role models for you and had a big (positive) impact on your life in one or more ways.
I was lucky enough to have several such wonderful people in my life during childhood and adolescence, but one couple stands out.
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian war. Five years of fighting, death, destruction. Heartbreaking stories, loss and questions. How much longer can this go on for? How is this going to end? (more…)
I have a story about being a mother and a refugee.
It was 1949, in the middle of Chinese civil war. A mother trying to escape from the war-torn China got on a refugee boat in Guangzhou with her 3-year-old and 1-year-old.
The boat was sailing to Kaohsiung. Soon after they left the port, the two children started to cry. People on the boat were afraid that the kids crying would attract the communist navy searching for refugees on the sea, and were going to throw the kids into the sea.
The mother fought against those people with all her strength, promising that she would stop the children crying. She took off her blouse, put the two kids under her arms, one on each side, and then put her nipples into the kids’ mouths. Comforted by their mother’s breasts, the children calmed down. The mother kept nursing her children until they arrived in Kaohsiung safely two days later.
The mother in the story was my grandmother. Those two children were my father and my uncle.
I heard the story from my grandmother when I was a little girl. It’s been such a long time that I almost forgot about it, or I never really paid attention to it. I was too young to understand what being a mom, or being a refugee is really like.
Then the #HumanityWashedAshore image of a 3-year-old Syrian boy lay dead on the beach shocked the world. It is reported the boy, Aylan, drowned with his mother and 5-year-old brother on a short run from Turkey to the Greek Island of Kos.
The image shocked me, too. I thought of my 2-year-old, more than that I thought of my grandma. For the first time, I tried to imagine what it really was like for a 20-year-old young mother to get on an over-loaded refugee boat with two toddlers and to continue to breastfeed them for two days in the middle of the sea to flee from violence, oppression and poverty. How hard, or how dangerous it could be? My grandma said, “we could have died.” Now I knew she was serious.
Aylan was not one person. Three more children died last night trying to cross that TWO MILES to safety.
Aylan could be my dad, or my uncle, or any of us. War was never very far away from us. It’s often just one generation or two miles away.
Aylan’s father told The Telegraph, “let this be the last.” I hope so but highly doubt it. History repeats itself. When will we ever learn?
Read more: Things we can do to help. Now.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by To-wen Tseng of California, USA.
Photo credit to Europe Says OXI.