This winter break has brought a lot of downtime, movies, and sweets for us -- all things that make for two wonderful weeks of family time! We laughed, the kids fought, we played games and consumed so many yummy goodies. But with all those great things has come the news that two of our grandmas (my kid's great-grandmas) have fallen seriously ill. Though not completely unexpected, it can still be hard to navigate those final goodbyes.
My husband's grandma fell ill and found herself in a recovery center only to catch yet another illness. She is now at home receiving hospice care. We had the chance to be there to welcome her home and spend a few minutes wishing her well and telling her how much we love her. Even knowing that she was in the best of hands and very well taken care of, I still found myself tearing up and feeling so sad as I rested my hand on her very frail arm.
We had my 11-year-old son with us there that afternoon. I found myself watching him and wondering what he was thinking. He's never been particularly close to this grandma, and being around all the sophisticated medical equipment and oxygen tanks is enough to make anyone a little uncomfortable. I asked him after we'd left what he thought and felt. "I was sad," he said, "thinking I would never see her again." That can be a tough conversation to have with a young boy, yet I felt grateful for the opportunity to talk about life and death and what we think our purpose is.
First, I did acknowledge that death is a hard thing to understand and that no one really has all the answers. It's okay to feel sad for their loss, to feel relieved they're moving on, scared, unsure, overwhelmed, so many mixed emotions. It can be confusing and upsetting, especially for younger kids.
This leads me to the next step: listening. Listening to our kiddos as they express their feelings helps them feel validated and understood. Kids might not even know what it is they want to say. They may not even be willing to talk much at all. But when they do, it's important to know that, as their parents, we're here to listen. It's a simple thing, but being there for those big life changes is critical for our sweet kids.
Lastly, we've spent a lot of time the last few days reminiscing about our dear grandmas. Sharing memories of loved ones is truly the best way to honor them. We've pulled out pictures and told stories. We've laughed and smiled as we've thought about those precious memories we created. Even though we most likely won't see either grandma again, we will forever cherish their memories in our hearts.