Nature of Grief, Part Two- Daddy and The Stars.

by Lori Dwyer on March 15, 2012 · 7 comments

Part One is here…

My little boy breaks my heart every day.

I love him to absolute pieces- I’ve never known anyone as completely as I know him. I know just about everything there is to know about him. He is his father in miniature. He’s my best mate, the tiny thorn in my side, and has been since the day he was born. In sharp, clear hindsight, having my son was much like losing my husband- it left me traumatized and grieved, it changed the colours and the boundaries of the world, it destroyed the person I used to be to replace her with someone new. And that regrowth took a long time.

I watch my son’s aggression levels rise and some days I wish I could peel back a few layers and see, clearly, what was happening in his head… there is a little voice telling me that he is a raging ball of anger at the moment, angry at the world, angry at his dad, angry at me.

Photo courtesy of FaerieSarie, who’s just had a brand new baby boy of her own- congratulations Sarie!

The questions he asks, the questions I have to answer… no four year old should have right to them. What four year old should need to test his knowledge of death? I don’t think I even knew what ‘dead’ was at that age.

I remember being very young, but I must have been older than my son- five or six, at least. I was playing with my brother, four years younger, and a plastic bowl full of tadpoles we’d just spend the morning catching.

One was huge- a toad-pole, most likely. I remember my brother moved the big bush rock that we’d placed in the middle of our red plastic wash tub full of pond water, and somehow squashed that one massive toad-pole- toady legs just poking out from behind it’s tail membrane- underneath the rock. I remember lacy pink guts peeling out from behind the toad-poles dark skin, a red spongy clump of tissue floating semi-detached next to it.

It was dead, obviously. I vaguely remember asking my grandmother what was wrong with it, what had happened, what had my brother done? It was dead, that was all, replied my gran; it was sad but just a tadpole (toad-pole), nothing to get upset over.

And that’s the first time I remember anything being dead, looking dead, playing dead… the first time the word ‘dead’ actually had a connection to any living things.

The Chop… he’s had a different childhood, it’s that simple. He knows ‘dead’, ‘died’ and ‘killed’. He knows about dogs and cars and fast roads; about hospitals and doctors who try very, very hard; he inquires as to the approximate distance between here and heaven, the moon and Heaven, Daddy and the stars.

He wants to know the intricate details- so, daddy died at the hospital and went to heaven, but how, exactly, did he get there?

I sit, jaw slack, as he produces that complex, thought-out chain of events, with a very serious frown on his serious little face. Wow, says my mind; think quick, mummy.

The best I’ve got is something lame involving a bright white light that Daddy went towards. Which is taken on face value, mulled over, then returned to me with insight that perhaps Daddy had broken the white light and needed to change the globe?

Which is, obviously, the sign of an unsatisfactory answer.

And it’s back to the theological chalk board. I try not to feel afraid of anything, most of the time… but when I think about the millions of very difficult, complex questions I have coming over the next ten, twenty, thirty years of my son’s life.

Thirty years, and my Chop will be 34- the same age his father was, by a day, when he took his own life.

I try not to think about that too much either.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna March 17, 2012 at 6:48 am

You are giving him the best answers you can dont ever doubt it. They are such inquisitive little things xx


Anonymous March 17, 2012 at 6:42 am

This a tough one! Having not been in your situation I really dont know what I would tell my 4 yo daughter. I understand your sadness and frustration with not knowing how to answer him with anything other than vague things. In my opinion I think it is best to be vague until you just cant anymore b/c it is such an ugly thing to tell him about his daddy. Even though its the hard truth. Maybe come up with a an answer like daddy got sick and the doctors couldn't help him? And use something like that until he is old enough to know the real stuff. Poor little guy, I feel SO badly for you and your kiddos. There is no good answer. xoxo- Lisa


louloulovesme March 16, 2012 at 6:43 am

I don't think there can be unsatisfactory answers. Talking is great. An engaged dialogue. Conversation. You are giving him all he needs…


Anonymous March 16, 2012 at 2:12 am

Kids smell bullshit. If you don't know the answer, it's okay to tell him, "I don't know." Or even, "What do you think?"
It's okay to not know everything.


Anonymous March 16, 2012 at 2:06 am

My son is four, too. He has crazy bursts of anger. I think it is the age. Remember that some of what you see isn't trauma. Some of it is just the age they are now.
My son asked me yesterday, "Why did God make skunks?" ( a quick google tells me you don't have skunks down under, so, um, substitute platypus or something)
The point is, tricky questions come with the territory. Although the questions sting you, he is just trying to understand his world. He probably doesn't feel the answer as deeply as you do. These are the realities of his life and they're different than your realities because you understand scope, context, and consequence much better than he does.


Melissa March 15, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Oh poor little guy. Poor mama. Don't be so hard on yourself – these are questions that people wrestle with their entire lives. It's no wonder you can't give him a perfect answer – there's isn't one. The fact that he's able to bring his questions to you shows a profound maturity, trust and love. Good job, mama.


Anon e Mouse March 15, 2012 at 11:21 pm

…and his whole destiny, is yours, to create.
The potential, in his little mind, in his being, in his experiences, will be all up to you, to mould.

What an awesome privilege!


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