Tuesday, March 27, 2012

She hasn't cried--My daughter dealing with the death of her grandfather

Mija in her dress for the funeral
Last week on Monday afternoon, my step-father died. He was mija's only living grandfather and now he's gone. She actually was with us as we rushed to the hospital after being told he had stopped breathing, and witnessed my sister collapsing and sobbing in my arms as she told me he had died.
We explained to her that Papa was in heaven with Jesus now. His body is still here and will one day be raised, but what's most important is that the real him was in heaven.  She's heard this before since we've dealt with a few deaths but, of course, none this close to her. She didn't cry.

The next day, she had asked me why abuelita (grandma) had wanted to wear colorful clothing while one of her aunts insisted on black. I explained that was the two sides of death for a Christian. Abuelita wanted to focus on being happy that Papa was with Jesus and knowing that we would see him again. The other side of the death is a sadness that we don't get to see him now for awhile, so we'll miss him. It's the sad part that makes us wear dark colors. She didn't cry.

She also wanted to know about the kind of things I had to do with my mom and sisters at the funeral home. She's never been involved or aware of the "backstage" elements, so to speak. I explained how the casket goes in a vault which goes in the ground. I explained how the visitation and service was going to work. I explained how papa would buried in his Marine uniform (yes, it still fit from 1960) and have a color guard. She didn't cry.

On Wednesday, we worked on figuring out what clothes she was going to wear. Abuelita went with me to pick up a few things for her. I wanted her to be a little girl yet somewhat somber. I had a cute black tunic with white and pink dots with capris for the visitation. We picked up a cute dress that was also black with white and pink dots for the funeral. She liked everything when we got home. She helped me pick out the background and music for the video I made. She went to AWANA that evening. She didn't cry.

Thursday was visitation. I thought maybe seeing Papa's body in the casket might make it real for her. She came up with me and looked and was quickly ready to go play with her cousins. I did notice, however, whenever she walked past the casket, she would peek in. She had made a hand-print flower (still planning on blogging about making it) for Papa on Monday and since he passed before she could give it to him, we put it in the casket. She found out that some of her cousins were writing notes to put into the casket the next day. When we came home, she made it a priority to write a note and draw a picture of her and Papa. I will share it here just because I thought it was so precious, but please don't let her know that I shared it with you.
What is also so cute about it was how accurate she tried make the picture. Papa always had his hair "high and tight" and was mostly bald right on top. While he was tall, however, he didn't wear high-waters! She still didn't cry.

Friday was the funeral. We got dressed and I threatened reminded her several times about being solemn during the funeral. She's used to sitting through church, so it wasn't a foreign concept, but there's a different attitude during a funeral than during a regular church service. She was there while we watched them close the lid to the casket and there when mom let out a gut-wrenching sob upon seeing the Marines salute the arrival of the hearse. Mija relished in the food and fellowship after the funeral. She didn't cry.

The next day we had a tea party where we discussed important things like the dogs, art, my sister's house being clean (unlike ours), and the pros and cons of possibly living in one relative's basement vs. another's garage now that my husband is unemployed for the second time in less than a year. I also asked her which was her "favorite" part of the funeral and which was the least "favorite." Mija's favorite was the pastor telling stories about Papa liking buses. Her least favorite was watching them close the coffin. She still didn't cry.

Me? Yes, I've cried numerous times and in numerous ways. My least favorite part was some individuals not understanding the importance and significance of the pastor taking the time to share the Gospel during the funeral. It makes me concerned. Oh, and for future reference, share all the stories you want about me during the visitation, but I want my funeral to be about celebration and salvation. Sorry if you think it's boring.  In fact, if you think sharing salvation is boring, you probably need to hear it the most!

Mija still hasn't cried.

Should I be concerned?


Vanderhoof Family said...


I am not sure if you should be concerned. In some ways yes because she needs to grieve this loss. If she doesn't it will stay buried inside. That is the counselor in me talking.

Then I think about some of my own ways of dealing with things and they are often considered weird. I did not cry over my grandmothers death until six months after she was buried-- I wanted to but i couldn't seem to. That concerned some and did me until I looked back. When I see my history there have been so many times during emotional things I would hold together and make important decisions and do what had to be done while others around me were falling apart too much to make decisions. Then later when the incident would be over and others stopped being emotional my emotions would come out. I did this even as a child. There are down sides to this. Instead I have discovered it is a gift that God made me this way. I have been in situations where if I wasn't then others would have been hurt or my family would have been sunk.

I say that to say that maybe God has designed your daughter to handle emotions a little differently. So on the one hand she does need to cry, but on the other may be she is wired more like me for some reason that the Lord knows. So if she does not cry at some point be concerned, but maybe not just yet.

Melinda said...

No. Children deal with death in different ways than adults. You have explained the important part. He is no longer "here" but with Jesus. She accepts that with the faith of a child. I would be prepared to honestly answer any questions that arise, but I think you've done a good job. I am sorry for your loss. If you want more information, I lost my mom when my oldest was around your daughter's age. I can tell you how she handled it. Let me know.

Cheryl@OntheOldPath said...

No Betsy don't worry,

Keep the lines of communication open. I think her letter and picture expressed a lot of her emotion. She may never cry and I don't agree that that means she has bottled it up. For some people yes that might be the case but it doesn't mean it is for everyone. Continue to give her a chance to talk about it.

I am not sure of your daughters age but for some children the assurance that they will see them again is all they need.

I know this is not the same but similar. 2 years ago my 4 1/2 year old at the time was diagnosed with brain cancer, surgery was rather damaging. He had to learn to walk and talk again. He is still healing from surgery and expressing himself is difficult as speech is a challenge. He finished treatment the end of May 2011. About a month or so ago we were filling out a survey for a doctorate paper on children who have survived a brain tumour. Joel had a paper with 3 faces a happy face an indifferent and a sad face and he was to answer the question by pointing to the pictures. We got to a question that read, Do you worry what will happen to you and his eyes filled with tears and he pointed to the sad face and started to cry.

I asked him what he was worried about and he told me I go be with Jesus after a lengthy conversation I found out he was worried the cancer was not gone and that he thought he was going to die.

I had no idea he was carrying that around so once again we explained that he can talk to us about anything as well as how no one knows when they will join Jesus but there is nothing to be afraid of because when we go it will be the right time.

Just continue to talk to her. If you are really concerned you can ask her questions about how she feels but don't make her feel like she needs to cry, if the emotions aren't there at this time she may feel there is something wrong with her if she feels she should cry.

Hands down best advice take it to Jesus and leave it with Him.

Sorry for your loss praying for you!

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