We have to tell you something. Great Grandpa died.
It is the first time telling our kids that someone they are close to has died. I had ideas about how it would go. How they would react. I was wrong.
8yo son says, “I knew you were going to say that.” He curls up on my lap as I stroke his face…his hair…his back. 5yo daughter says with an uncomfortable smile, “Why did he die?” Then she added, “He’s the one who is with GG, right?” After her asking that, it seemed like since she wasn’t sure who he was, that she would be okay.
She grabs her stuffed, purple penguin, hugs it tight, and buries her head in “Big Giant Bunny.” I keep talking, not sure what she’s doing. I hear a sound coming from her that almost sounds like a laugh. I think she’s just being silly and pretending to sleep. Maybe bored of the conversation. My husband reaches over and pulls her closer, and I see it. The pain. The sorrow. The tears. The unabashed emotions pouring out of her little 5 year old body.
I bring her into a cradling hug, caressing her hair. Making gentle shushing sounds in her ear. Rocking her. With my free hand, I comfort my son by rubbing the soft skin of leg. He crawls over to my husband and nestles into his body.
My daughter’s body, wracked with mournful sobbing, is huddled in my arms. Her voice wails high and grief-stricken before tumbling down to low, sorrow filled moans. She struggles for breath. My mama nature feels helpless. I want to ease her pain. The only way I can is to let her continue to cry in my arms. Cry until she gets it all out.
My son begins to cry in my husbands arms. For his great grandpa but also at seeing his sister so upset. He comes to her side and smooths her hair. Whispers gentle, comforting words in her ear. Hugs her. Often, her big brother is who she asks for when she is sad or hurt. He can almost always calm her down. Not today. This is too big. Too much. He comes back to my side and cries again.
Halfway through her anguished weeping, she says again in a horrible sad little crying voice, “why did he die???” I have been crying this whole time on and off, but at this question, a flood of tears rolls down my face. My body feels a hurt, it doesn’t know what to do with. My husband sits next to us and we all cry together.
My son eventually leaves the room. He says he was afraid she would be sick from crying so much. I think he just couldn’t handle it anymore. My husband follows him, and I stay and rock my baby girl as she weeps and yells on.
After about 20 minutes, her sobbing slows. Her breathing evens. Then she says to me in small, sad, but fierce tone, “why did you tell me that?” OMG. I lost it. Again.
With tears still in her eyes and her voice, she asks if she can sleep in her brother’s room for the night. She doesn’t want to be alone. She needs her brother. So we drag our extra mattress into his room, bring all of her stuffed animals, and tuck them in, side by side.