Our family is dealing with something right now that will lead to the loss of a close family member. There are a lot of unknowns with which come a lot of conversations.
Lincoln knows what dying is. He knows who people are – grandpa, grandma, “my dad,” “your mom.” It’s been kind of a challenge to figure out how to talk about this situation with my husband without perking Linc’s interests. Since talking in another room frequently isn’t an option, we’ve started spelling things and code naming things.
My husband asked yesterday, “when the time comes, what do you think we should do with the kids? Should we bring them in for a visit?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not really sure.”
I know what I’d want for myself, but I’m not really sure how a four-year-old would react. Would he always remember his loved one like that? Would he talk years later about how he remembered that day and how negatively it affected him? Maybe it would be a positive thing? Not sure. Luckily, I’ve never had to deal with it.
The first close person I lost was my grandma in my early twenties. She had dementia for years and wasn’t the sassy lady I remember from when I was little. I mourned for that lady in my teens. The person I lost when I was older was just a poor lady with dementia who didn’t know me or my mom. My hardest hit (so far) was the loss of my grandfather a few years later. That one sucked. It came in twos for me – a few days after my grandma died, my step-grandma died and a few days after my grandfather died, my step-grandfather went. However, I never saw any other them suffer (except my grandma who was in hospice care for a little bit). They didn’t suffer. I’m lucky that I can remember them as smiling, active people who just died one day.
This situation will not be like that. It’ll probably be long. It’ll definitely be painful. There will probably be many goodbyes thinking the time has come only to have it pass by.
So, what do we do with Lincoln? Should he visit now when this person still looks and acts “normal”? Should we wait? Should we tell him anything when we ourselves don’t know much? How do you explain that he will lose someone soon, but you don’t really know if soon is next week or next year?
I worry this will take something from his childhood. I’m not ready for him to experience a death of someone this close to him and feel that loss. I’m not ready to explain death and dying and illness like this. He’s so little. I want his little head filled with rainbows and butterflies (OK, matchbox cars and baseballs) for as long as possible.