My daughter is the typical 7 year-old in that she asks a lot of questions. And
there is a lot in her life to question. We had a baby last year and she wants
to know how that happens. She saw me go through pregnancy, the changes in my
body, and had the waiting experience. She heard his heartbeat more than once
and felt him move inside me. Still, at 6 years-old, I imagine it's strange to
go through all that only to be brought to the hospital one day and told,
"Okay, he's here and have this tiny person just appear. She adores him.
He's her best friend. She still has questions about not so much where he came
from, but how he got in there. Not a conversation I'm ready to have with a 7
year-old. I told her that God helped her father and I make them. She did see an animal planet special on the
subject. It included talk about the egg and sperm. I did let her know that
people made babies the same way. That's as far as I've gone.
Then we weren't settled into life with her little brother when her father, whom
she loved dearly, and who was sick most of her life died one day while she was
at school. He wasn't terminal. I didn't tell her he was dying. I didn't tell
her he wasn't. She asked. I just told her that she'd be taken care of no matter
|She was always concerned for his comfort and that has not changed since he
died. I think she worries just as much about him as she does about me. I
remember taking a significant amount of time letting her know how soft the
pillows inside the casket were and how he was wearing his favorite suit. Still
death is a huge mystery to anyone who hasn't been there no matter what their
age. At the age of 7, there's another whole level as far as an inability to
understand the concept. ||I sit in wonder as to the inner workings of a child's mind.|
"Doesn't he need food?” "No.”
"Is he okay?” "Yes because he's not sick
She made him a get well card after he died similar to how she would
periodically during his life. I told her
he wasn’t sick anymore, but unfortunately that also meant he wasn’t coming
back. I asked if she’d like to put the
card in the casket, but she declined.
Instead we gave the funeral home a bracelet to put on him that she’d
given him for Christmas. It was a gold
ID bracelet with "DADDY” on it. They put
it on his right wrist along with a gold bracelet I had given him for a previous
was able to see him the day before the funeral and checked him over thoroughly
while standing guard as others came and went.
I looked at her in between greeting visitors and shook my head at the
thought of the confusion she must have been feeling. She asked me whatever she wanted to ask
though. Mostly she wanted to know why he
wasn’t doing various things. "Why isn’t
he breathing?” "Why isn’t he
talking?” "Why isn’t he moving?” I had to keep saying "People don’t (insert
activity) after they die.”
it was on to the concept of burial. How
do you explain to a 6 year-old that beyond being put in a box, we also have to
put her father in a hole in the ground?
However a person finds the words that will work is all I can
conclude. I found though that explaining
it once doesn’t mean the conversation won’t take place again. For Ariana this was hard to accept because
her father really valued being clean. He
worked and the first thing he always did after work was take a shower. He hated being dirty, and his daily shower
was very important to him, especially during the summer months. She looked at him and knew he would never get
a bath again. I told her we could not keep
him at home anymore because after a person dies they have to be kept in a
special place. They need that special
bed and the bed has to go into a special box.
I explained it was all being done to keep her father safe and clean and
that once it was done he would not need another bath. That explanation satisfied her and
fortunately for me, it satisfied her all four times we had the conversation
since we buried him.
still took her a while to realize it was permanent. After about 6 months she began to ask me
continuously for weeks if he really was going to be gone forever. But I didn't
mind. I still look at the door and can’t believe he won’t be back so I can’t
imagine how difficult it is for her, so I don’t hesitate to answer her. I mean I hate for her to have to deal with the
reality, but I imagine it is better for her than expecting that after a certain
length of time he's going to come bouncing through the front door like he did
before he died.
I have a friend who lost her husband when their daughter was the same age as my
daughter is now. She found out later that the little girl just thought he was
going away for a while to get better, that she didn't know when, but thought
he'd eventually come home. It was 3 years later she said when the reality set
in, and it hit her so hard she started lashing out at friends she'd had since
preschool because they still had both of their parents. She said it was so bad
she had to change schools. And I've read this is normal, that children grieve
in cycles, so I'm still on guard. But with counseling that little girl has
blossomed into a beautiful teenager who has helped other girls who have
experienced the loss of a parent. I expect she'll help my daughter at some
point. And I expect at some point my daughter will be helping others.
As recently as last month, she voiced some concerns. Some were repeats, but
still I sit in wonder as to the inner workings of a child's mind.
"Doesn't he need food?” "No.”
"Is he okay?” "Yes because he's not sick
"Is he our angel now?” "I'm not sure, but I believe you have always had one or
more. (that’s another story). If he's not one of them, I'm sure all the praying
he did for us has sent us some.”
"Can he see us?” "If he's one of our angels he can. If not, no.” (And on my
angry days I hope not. I get so
angry. And I’ve made some changes in my
life I know he wouldn’t be happy with and I’ve invested in things he wouldn’t
have. But I’ve done what I felt I needed
to do to survive and since he died, he doesn’t get a vote).
Then, the conversation got even more interesting.
"Does he still snore in that bed?” To explain the concept of a casket on her
level I called it a special bed.
"Absolutely not. He isn’t
"Oh, is that because he doesn't breathe?” "That’s right.”
"So, is he bored?” "No.”
"Mommy, why did you marry an old man?” "Huh? He was 45. That's not old.”
"Well, only old people die right?” "Um…no honey. Anyone can. It's sad, but
anyone can no matter how old they are.”
I shake my head at her having to deal with such harsh realities at this age. I
worry it will make her grow up too quickly. I remember the day it happened. I
remember thinking of telling everyone I had to tell, how it was going to hurt
them. For her I felt I was going to take part of her innocence. My heart began
to beat faster when Ariana's Godmother left our house to bring her back home.
And it progressed to racing when they returned and Ariana came bounding up the
steps to our front door. I was about to turn her world upside down. How could I
I didn’t wait. As soon as she was inside
the door, I took her hand and walked to her father’s chair. I sat and held her close to me. We had talked about death when she asked
about my grandfather. He died when she
was two years-old, but his picture is up in our house. So, I went from that. "Ariana, do you remember when I told you that
sometimes people are hurt or they get sick and the doctors can’t fix them? "Yes.”
"We talked about how when that happens the person goes away to be with
Jesus if they believe in Him right?”
"Yes.” "Well, honey, daddy went to be with Jesus today.”
was the calmest person I talked to that day.
But her quiet tears tore through my heart in those moments and still do.
And I'll never forget her words...
"So, now we don't have a father?”
But I continue to be inspired by how she handles not having a father. And I
pray that God continues to equip me as He has been faithful to all the way to
now, to handle my children not having a father.
It isn’t easy. The truth is I
have never been more tired in my life.
But I’ve also never been more grateful.
My children are beautiful and the greatest things my husband and I
accomplished together. I’m sorry he
doesn’t get to see it, but my appreciation to him for giving them to me,
outweighs the sorrow enough that I keep putting one foot in front of the other
for him, for our children and for me.
Jones Dawson is a Clinical Data Analyst in North Carolina. Thomas and
Sonya were married for 10 years. During that time Sonya cared for
Thomas as he courageously battled the effects of Lung disease. He had
bouts with lung infections, heart disease, steroid induced osteoporosis
and diabetes that resulted in intermittent periods of incapacitation ranging from two weeks to 7 months long. Sonya joined the Well Spouse Association in January 2008 shortly after Thomas' diabetes diagnosis.
and Thomas had two children from their marriage, and two children from
Thomas' previous marriage. On March 9, 2010, two months after the birth
of their second child, Sonya returned home to find Thomas had died in
his sleep while she was at work. Sonya and their two young children
continue to live in the family home in North Carolina. Their daughter
Ariana is now eight years-old and their son Elijah is now two
years-old. She continues to be an active supporting member of the Well Spouse Association.This post was
re-printed with permission from the Wellspouse Association, which "advocates
for and addresses the needs of individuals caring for a chronically ill and/or
disabled spouse/partner.” Please follow this link to learn about this