Things my four year old has taught me about death and grief

1. Tell everyone. Right away.

When Z sees someone she hasn't seen since her Papa died, she immediately announces it: "Hi! My Papa died and we're all really sad.... Wanna play?"

2. Follow all declarations of sadness with fun activities.

(see above.)

3. Draw and paint and tell stories, every day, as long as you need to.

Z spent much of the week after her Papa died drawing pictures of him. Papa when he was alive. Papa and Z together. Papa after he died. She used different colors each time and kept up a running commentary about what she was remembering about Papa as she was drawing.
Papa (on the left, with rouge apparently) and Z.

I sat beside her as she drew and listened to her describe why she chose certain colors and just how long his hair should be.

A few times, I drew too.

4. Print out favorite photos and put them in frames next to your bed to keep you company.

5. We all live with the knowledge of death. It's okay to have questions, to wonder and worry just a bit.

I keep thinking that she needs us to have complete and perfect answers for her. We reassure her that he wasn't, and isn't, in any pain. We tell her he lives on in our memories. But when we admit that we just don't know exactly what it feels like when you die or where you actually go, I always feel a pang of inadequacy. But she doesn't seem surprised that we don't have all the answers. She seems fine to sit with uncertainty.

And so should we, I think.

6. It's okay to laugh and play and dance again. It doesn't mean you don't miss your loved one.

We're working on this one.


Hillary said...

I have the same feelings of inadequacy sometimes, when I can't answer The Boy's incessant questions. But it makes sense that the kiddos are more comfortable with the unknown than we are as adults. They still live in a world where magic happens. I remember being a little girl and truly believing in magic. I'm not sure when that disappears.
Glad you're all starting to heal.
Z looks a lot like you in the first picture of the girls in the clothes basket.

Marie Green said...

Aw, so perfectly wise to take direction from a child. I've often thought they are so much clearer- for lack of a better word- about these kinds of things.

Grieving and healing are such complicated and often horrible processes... I know this must be a very hard time for your family, but I'm glad to see such a sweet outlook, all guided by your girl! Hang in there!

Whimsy said...


Wishing you healing and painting and drawing and lots of fun activities with those sweet girls.

Kira said...

You've all been in my thoughts! Glad the girls are helping. These are great lessons. Love you.

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

I am so impressed with Z. She is a very wise and thoughtful girl. And she does look like you. Funny thing is, so does E - but in a completely different way. Hugs to you all.

Sarah said...

Art therapy is definitely one of the best ways to heal. For grown ups too!
Hugs to all of you.

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