Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Giant Step.

Confronted regularly now, and consumed by Lily's persistent inquiries after her dad I summoned up the emotional strength to meet with a professional who has extensive experience with children who have endured loss. It was a challenging yet empowering moment - I have been anticipating these conversations with Lily for some time and thus far, have handled them thoughtfully; but I wanted to make sure the language, and concepts, were appropriate for a two year old.

A precocious two year old with a huge heart, and insatiable curiosity.

The therapist's thoughts were comforting and blunt, truthful and bold.
Honesty, she said was the best, even at an early age.

I just say he died? I asked.
Dada died. He got very very sick, not a sickness like what you or I get when we go to the doctor, but a different kind of sickness. One where medicine doesn't work, and his body stopped working.

His body stopped working - the note I wrote down.

His body stopped working.

Note to self, his body stopped working.

Deep breath.

Okaaaay... So that's what I say? Just like that?

Yes. This will be a long process for her and over the years she'll begin to understand more and more and you can elaborate appropriately. For now she'll take in only what she can handle and she may ask over and over again. She won't understand much of it, but it's a beginning. Some day you'll say he had a disease called cancer, but you'll reassure her that most people die when they're very, very old.

A beginning.
I created her dad for her and now I must take him away.
And her Papi too, who passed away last summer.
Who she knew and paints for frequently.
I have never misled her and always told her we can't and won't see them, but "died" took it to a whole new level. Perhaps more so, for me.

I wonder if I should have mailed Lily's valentine to Alan.
She made him one, I mailed it.
I did.
The address just said Dada.
And I put it in the box on my way to work.

Sure enough, 6:34 the next morning, from the crib, she asked.
Wanna see Dada.
Wanna see Dada on Sunday. (Weekdays now a large part of our vocabulary, in no particular order)

Sitting up in bed, with a cheery voice I said, He died, Pumpkin.
Dada died.
And I gave her the scripted explanation.
She gazed toward the window, processing the information.
Dada died, she said.
And then she asked again.
I repeated myself.
She asked about Papi.
Same thing.

Two deaths, one morning.

But it went OK. I said we can look at pictures of them and talk about them.
That is always a nice idea to her. We do that a lot. A comfort to me too.

And it was OK.

On to talk about the day ahead.

I had told the therapist re. heaven that I believe in a more Buddhist approach - that Alan is everywhere - in our hearts, in the nature all around us, in the fiber of her being.

That his spirit is everywhere.
Can I say that?

Sure she said.
Dada's spirit is still with us. Within us. Around us.
She'll take in what she can.

And so she did.
One large step forward, with Alan by our sides.

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