I just wrapped up reading a post over at Her Bad Mother, If Prayers were Horses, Grievers would Ride. She’s talking about the recent death of her father and how to cope with her daughter’s questions about death. The post itself doesn’t have a thing to do with Postpartum Mood Disorders. But my reaction to it does.
When I first watched the video montage about Crystal that Joseph Raso sent me, I wept. My children were in the room. And here was mommy, huddled with her laptop, headphones on, tears sliding down my face, my body literally wracked with sobs. Did I know Crystal? No. Do I know Joseph? I do now but I did not then. But I DO know loss. I know the heartache it can bring. I know it all too well. And I suffered from it when I was a child. By the time I was 22, I had lost all four of my grandparents, two cousins, and several other relatives. Most of them succumbed to cancer.
The first death I remember was when my aunt died when I was five. I remember her only a little bit.
My first real brush with a strong emotional reaction was when my step-grandmother died on Thanksgiving in 1987. Imagine getting ready to go to your other grandparent’s house to celebrate and have fun only to have your parents sit you down in their bedroom to explain to you that your grandmother has gone to be with God. I wept. I’m starting to cry again now. Strangely, I just accepted this as part of life. But I had already been through a few other deaths prior to this one so for me, death WAS truly a part of life. We went to her memorial service as she had been cremated. I remember standing at the top of a spiral staircase staring out the windows at the rain. No one was around me, I wanted it that way. My heart hurt. My body hurt. I wanted my grandmother back but I knew she couldn’t come back.
Eleven years later, her husband, my maternal grandfather died. Just a few days before his death, I had a dream. I dreampt his death. I saw him gasping for air, not breathing, calling for help, no one coming to rescue him. A week later, he passed away due to congestive heart failure. This was the first time I had lost someone so suddenly. I became an empty vessel only capable of crying, moaning, thrashing. It was not a beautiful thing. A mere 19 days after this, my other grandfather died. I had nothing left to give. Nothing.
I share all of this to get to my point.
After I watched Crystal’s video, my daughter asked why I was crying. I gulped. Dear Lord, how do I explain this to a child? How do I tell her why this beautiful woman on my computer screen made mommy cry? How?
I grabbed her and held her close. I pointed at the pictures of Crystal sliding across my screen. And I talked to her about what I do. Why mommy is on the computer so much. We’ve talked before but this was different. I told her that this mommy, THIS MOMMY, got very very sad after she had a baby. And no one was there to help her. She didn’t know where to get help. And she made a decision that took her away from her family. That this Mommy’s decision had made her family very sad and now her children didn’t have a Mommy anymore because she’s in heaven. I started to cry again. My daughter looked at me. I looked her in the eyes and said rather emphatically:
“THIS MOMMY is why your Mommy does what she does. Your mommy doesn’t want other kids growing up without a Mommy. YOUR MOMMY wants women to have help and know where to turn.”
We hugged, and a few minutes later, she came back over to me.
“I’m sad the Mommy isn’t here anymore.”
“But it’s ok for you to be on your computer now.”
And you know what, since then, she’s really been okay with me being on my computer.
Kids are resilient like that. Yes, we need to guide them and be careful what they see and hear. But life happens. The more open we are with them about life, the better prepared they will be when they finally step out into that giant pool without us. And if they swim well, we’ve done our job right.