Life is messy, we would all probably agree. Add children and it is a bit messier. Most messes can be cleaned up, even rather quickly. Maybe an apology, a hug, a kiss and assurance that all will be right. Other life messes, however, are much like trying to re-finish an old bookcase that has been layered with paint. Each time you scrap away a layer, you get a whole new mess staring right back at you.
That is how I feel about loss and grief. As I have said before, my misery I can handle, not that it is easy, but I have no choice but to get out of bed in the morning. Even with the constant dull ache that makes me swear there is something heavy standing on my chest, onward I go. In the two years since Madeline’s death, I have developed a few coping skills to get through these days. I can recognize a day that requires a good long run and those even harder days that require a good cry and nothing more strenuous then folding laundry.
My children’s grief. A different story. That is where the real mess is. It is the bookcase with many layers of paint that need to be tenderly scraped away to return to a fresh surface. Except in this case, there is quite possibly no fresh surface underneath. Because the surface has been forever marred with the pain of a Little Boy that lost his baby sister. A Little Boy who was called from his classroom one November morning when he was in first grade to go with his teacher to the Principal’s office. There his Daddy was waiting to tell him that his beautiful baby sister died suddenly that morning. I believe at that moment he lost his freshness, his innocence.
His innocence was now replaced with the pain of loss, an adult, grown up size pain, smack in the middle of a Little Boy heart. What is a Little Boy to do? He doesn’t know, so he hides, he runs, he cries, he crumples papers, and he smacks his head and calls himself “stupid.” And what do us big grown ups do to help? Tell him he is 10, he can’t do this anymore, that he is a smart Little Boy (an understatement) Why? Because we don’t know what to do. Because this layered mess is just that…A MESS.
We talk about his lack of maturity. Funny that we say this when, in fact, he is dealing with all this grown up mess. Perhaps he is acting out what all of us grown-ups stuff deep inside. I am right there with him. Since Madeline’s death I to want to run, cry, and throw things but I’m supposed to be more mature than that, so I suck it all in while I tell my Little Boy to let it out and tell us what is bothering him so we can help him. But how can you help what cannot be fixed.
The Little Brother told me last week, “Mommy, sometimes I think what life would be like if Madeline hadn’t died.” I said, “do you like to think about her?” “Yes,” he said. “Me to”, I said.
No one likes to see the messiest part of themselves in someone else. I think that is what I see in this Little Boy. Trying to keep all this pain stuffed down until the frustration becomes so great you run and cry….or write.
The teacher sent me a message one day to look in Little Brother’s folder. That he had written something she thought I would really like. And he did.
He was to write about “If you could spend the afternoon with any member of your extended family, who would it be?” His Little Boy heart chose Madeline.
“I would spend it with Madeline because I really miss her. We would play games like peek a boo and enjoy being with each other again. We would hug each other for the whole time and probably relax. It would be the best day of my life.”
Me to, Little Brother, me to. My hearts greatest desire, just one more day with our sweet, precious Madeline. Perhaps, Little Boy, we are more alike than not and just maybe maturity is over-rated and wisdom is less messy.