My morning started with little Miss Maddi feeding our pet fish every toothpick we own.  The fishbowl looked like a cabana with a thatched roof; although our neon blue Beta fish didn’t seem impressed.  Toothpicks floating in a fish bowl is far from a vacation.  Returning from our fun getaway to Florida, I am reminded that although home is the most comfortable place for me to be, it is also the place where I am required to work the hardest.  This hard work does not only relate to maintaining a house and raising two toddlers, it also pertains to the labor involved with grieving and ultimately healing. 

I continue to study our grief.  I went on the internet a couple of weeks
ago and ordered every book I could find on loss relevant to children
and the grieving process.  I called my sister with the ridiculous
total:  $187.24 would buy every piece of literature available.  I made
the strange investment and called it my research.  It seems like a lot
of money to spend on exploration.  But, if this is truly all I can find
on the topic of what my children are walking through; then in
comparison it seems a bit scarce. 

The first book I picked up promised to help my children cope with the
loss of a loved one.  I was anxious to see what trends and traits the
book examined for young children including infants.  For Jordan’s age
group eight whole sentences are written to explain what he may be
dealing with or facing.  Maddi, being younger, gets an entire three
sentences in the book dedicated to her age category. 

I sank to realize that I may know more than these educated writers.  My
unforeseen education was born from unelected experience rather than a
sought out degree.  My learning curve was set at maximum when my
untraditional university course load was delivered to my doorstep in an
undesired package. 

And so I tried to savor the few sentences devoted to my children’s age
groups, until the book made me angry.  The paperback includes a
section with ideas of what one can do and say to kids about death.  It
encourages the adult to tell the child, “that people usually die when
they are very, very, very, very old.”
  The writers stress the
importance of "using multiple ‘very’s’ to imply that most humans have a
long life and live to an old age.
"  To talk about death "without the ‘very’s’ may be misleading."

Misleading?  Misleading who?  Misleading a child whose father was killed before either of his children turned two?  I understand that for any toddler, it would not be wise to create fear in them about death.  I can see the importance of stating that most people live long lives to bring a calming effect to the topic.  However, I believe there is also great validity in being honest. 

What about being honest?  What about saying that some people die
young?  What about telling my kids that although many live to an old
age, not all people do.  How do I tell them people usually die old,
except for their father?  What if the usual climate of our world was
turned upside down and now our new “usual” condition is to live a life
without dad? 

What if instead of being very, very, very, very old, Shawn was very,
very, very, very young
?  How can that be explained to a young child’s
heart?  How do I explain to them that “most” people live a long life when this wasn’t true for their dad?  And
furthermore how do I explain that the choice for life wasn’t granted
him it was taken?

I am going the honest route.  It may not be the usual scenario, but it
is our truth.  I find no other place to stand except in our story’s own
honesty. I wish I could agree with the book and tell my children that
people usually die very, very, very, very old.  But, I know more than I
wish I knew with this statement and its method of explanation isn’t
always the case.  This isn’t always usual.  Death brings varying
degrees.  Shawn died young.  This is the hurtful, honest truth.

I have not had this discussion with my children, yet.  They are too young to
even verbalize this type of extensive conversation.  But, in time, when
they ask me about death, I am not in a position to hide the truth from
them.  They will look at death one day from many angles and I realize that at their young ages they will know more about the reality of death far before many others.  And above all, they will expect my simple honesty.

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