It’s coming up for a year after my mum died. I can’t believe it’s been a year, and yet in some ways it feels like a lot longer. She’d been suffering for the best part of a year with an inoperable brain tumour (secondary breast cancer), which then spread to the lung as well. In a way, my brother and I felt like we’d grieved earlier, although it was still hard when she died.
N was always very matter of fact about it. I was surprised by how he took it on. When my dad died I was 3 (a bit older than N at the time), but I’d not want to talk about it and would walk out of the room for years if anyone tried to talk to me about him. So I wasn’t sure what N would be like.
Luckily I think being just that little bit younger helped as although he asked after Grandma (especially as we’d seen even more than normal of her over the year), it became the new norm that he only had Granny and Gramp left and that Grandma was gone.
Even now he’ll suddenly come out with something about her, being prompted by something he’s seen, or we’ve driven past her old road and he points out the way that she lived.
Last week at nursery they had soldiers visit on Remembrance Day to talk about the significance of poppies, look at the poppy artwork the children had done and talk about what Remembrance Day is about. Quite deep and meaningful for under 5s, but by all accounts the visit seemed to go well, and there weren’t any sad children. Afterwards I asked N what the soldiers talked about, and he told me that ‘Grandma didn’t have a poppy, like the soldiers did, because she just died’. He’d obviously understood that soldiers died hence the poppies and linked that with others he knew had died.
Another day he asked me where Grandma was.
‘She died, so her soul went up and is all around us, checking we’re ok’.
‘Yes, but where did she go?’ Hmm. When she initially died, he came out with her having gone to heaven. I’m not sure where he got that from as I’d not said it, and the OH isn’t religious so I’d been surprised if it had come from him.
‘She was cremated, so her soul went up and the rest was cremated, and then her ashes were sprinkled in a nice garden so they could fly away’.
‘Oh. She went up to the stars’, and that was the end of the conversation, although the OH wasn’t impressed as he thinks cremation is too confusing for children and so burial’s better. Not sure personally whether he’d want to be told someone had been buried, I’m sure N would want to get his spade out and start digging. Obviously N has no idea what cremation is, but I’d rather have told him exactly what happened, and it satisfied his curiousity for the moment.
The classic comment about Grandma was in the Doctor’s waiting room. We were in for his flu spray vaccination and my INR test, and bumped into a farming family friend. N usually chatters away to her, so she came and sat with us and started trying to get N to converse.
‘Have you been to see Grandma today before coming here?’
‘No, Grandma’s dead’…silence fell in the waiting room. I think she was mortified at getting the wrong terminology and not wanting to upset me.
‘N, we’re talking about Granny, not Grandma sweetheart’ I clarified, for the friend (and the rest of the waiting room).
That’s the great thing about children this age, they seem to take everything in their stride, but are still old enough to remember and have good memories of the person who’s died.
How have your children coped with the loss of Grandparents or others? Have you been surprised at the resilience of children?