You have all been so kind to ask: How are the kids doing? They miss their grandpa. They are struggling. They each have good days and bad days and good hours and bad hours and never at the same time. Sometimes, I know they are keeping things from me, holding it all in, maybe because they feel Grandma or Daddy or Auntie needs the attention more... Maybe to not make each other feel more sad... Maybe because they've gotten this idea they should be "over it"...
But, we know, the loss of someone you love is not something you "get over."
Our children know loss. It has not yet been a year since their Grandpa K. died. While his health had been erratic the final few years of his life, his massive stroke and fall caused him to lose and never regain consciousness and he died just a few days after we had last all seen him and celebrated a holiday together. The kids also pray for and mourn over baby cousins they never had the chance to meet. This sadness is part of our family's reality.
With Grandpa R., everyone in Krinkeland knew he was sick. They knew he had cancer. They knew he got treatment. They knew the cancer spread. They knew the treatment quit working. When talking with the kids, we were always honest and direct when answering their questions, but we never told the kids "the cold, hard truth" about Harlan's terminal diagnosis-- not until after he decided to go on hospice care and started ticking off visits on his bucket list. We kept them in the bubble for as long as possible, and, I am proud to put that in writing for the children to read someday, because it means we did our best to protect them. And it means we always had hope. Todd and I never stopped praying for healing and strength and peace. Harlan received all those graces, as our Lord deemed.
These days, we spend a lot of time with Grandma, telling stories and remembering Grandpa. Just today, the kids and Grandma tried to play a game that was missing some pieces. Where did the pieces go? Well, the last time the game was played, Madeline talked Grandpa into playing it on her bed, in her room, and the game pieces got lost in the covers.
The children also get cards and notes and calls and visits from the many people who love and support them. Just a few days ago, a package came in the mail addressed to "Grandpa R.'s Bees." Inside was the best book I've seen yet explaining grief to children. It was from my sister, who knows a bit about this subject.
In "Water Bugs and Dragonflies," author Doris Stickney tells a simple story of what happens when people who were in our lives no longer are. The story is sweet and simple and easily understood. Immediately upon opening the package, I asked the kids if they wanted to sit down and read it together. Three did, and the fourth declared she DEFINITELY DID NOT... And then lurked, just out of sight but not out of earshot.
And, so, we cope in our own ways. We work hard to give space and to come back together again. It's what Grandpa would do.