Forever Family: grief triggers

January and February really threw us for a loop this year.  Within the space of six weeks the kids experienced their grandmother’s sudden illness, hospice stay, death, and memorial service; learned that the parents of a very close friend were separating; and then found out another couple we know are splitting up.

That’s an awful lot to digest in such a short period of time.

It felt like being one of those milk bottles at the fair – perched on a shelf, balanced precariously in a pyramid, while life threw ball after ball at us.  And I stood at high alert, waiting to see if anyone would go crashing to the ground under the onslaught.

I was struggling to deal with my own roller coaster of emotions so I can only imagine what it must have felt like for our kids.  Losing their first grandparent led to handling a new and unchartered level of grief.  Barely making it through mom’s service before facing another loss – the idea that couples who look fine to them might be anything but fine, and watching their friend learn to navigate a drastically changed life.  Learning of the second couple’s separation was really the final straw.

It must have seemed like the world had turned upside down.

When these clusters happen I find myself watching carefully for the avalanche effect.  One thing they can handle, but that first thing was awfully big.  The next shock piles on, adding to the struggle, so when the third comes along they’re primed for a fall.

Emotions started bleeding through at unpredictable moments, taking all of us by surprise from time to time.  The kids were just raw, stretched to their limits but still carrying on with life…it was impossible not to feel the cumulative effect of so much change in the world.

It was a difficult time.  T-man and Bear are usually quite open with me, but when it came to my mom they were…quiet.  Oddly quiet.  I had to read between the lines when they’d act out, but even when I specifically asked them how they were feeling they would barely discuss it with me. I’d learn they were sad, though, which meant they were working hard to hide that sadness from me.

They showed an empathy beyond their years, watching my face for signs of sadness and reaching out to comfort me.  I suppose we helped each other through it in the end.

I do worry when so many things come crashing down on them, though.  I know T-man and Bear only learn by living but the mama in me longs to mete out those experiences, allowing them space to handle each one in its own time.  Too bad mamas don’t get some sort of universal remote control.

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