Daddy Chronicles: The Grief of a Child

Daddy Chronicles: The Grief of a Child

This past Thursday my family experienced a loss. My mom's dear friend and housemate of 10 years passed away. She was like an aunt to me and a grandma like figure to our kids; the pain is real, even for my son MJ.

This was the first time I think my son could fully understand the finality of death. Before when we mentioned someone's passing it was not a concrete idea for him, but this death surely was.

Thursday morning, when MJ crawled into bed with us, I told him the bad news. I said: "MJ, Auntie Pam died today." He then replied: "When is she coming back Daddy?" I then had to sadly share: "Buddy, she's not ever coming back. She's going to stay in Heaven until we see her again."

What happened next broke my heart completely. His face melted into sadness and he began to cry. He was heart broken and was feeling real loss and outwardly grieving it. He had no desire to hold back his pain, he had no desire to cover up the wound his heart was feeling, he just let go and let it out. In the middle of his sobs, he made a true and honest declaration. He said: "Daddy, that is SO SAD!" and continued to cry in the pain of his loss.

I'll be honest in the fact that I was jealous of his ability to let it go and get it out right away. When I heard the news, I was of course stunned and very saddened but the tidal wave of emotion didn't hit as I expected. I felt almost numb and guilty in my numbness to this sad, sad reality. I was worried about the next steps, thinking "what now" types of thoughts that distracted me from properly grieving. My son had none of this. The idea hit home and it pierced his heart. He didn't allow himself time to get distracted; he simply grieved the loss right there. I'll also admit that I was broken for my son in this moment. This was his first cry over legitimate loss. He was able to understand the reality and the severity of this tragic situation and encapsulate it in mourning. It was hard to watch my son be broken by this. I wish I will never have to witness his brokenness in the same way again...but I also know that is an impossibility. He will know pain again, some lighter and some heavier than the pain he just experienced but he will know pain.

No matter how hard I may try he will be wounded again and I will teach him it is a part of life. I will also teach him that we are not alone in our grief or our suffering. I will share with him the depth of the Abba's love which is much greater than mine. Yet, I know that through his pain he will also be teaching me.

Through watching this scene of anguish my son went through he's taught me a few things. I realize that as an adult I've forgotten some key components of grieving well. Here's what I'm learning through this:

  1. Feel the feeling, don't try and distract yourself from the moment
  2. Share with others how this pain is making you feel
  3. Be free to cry and let your emotions go where they go
  4. Stop worrying what others may think, let go

I think I try and make grief simple, quick and easy but it's not. I try to distract my mind and I go into "what next mode" instead of sitting and feeling it right away. I hide it sometimes and don't express how I'm really feeling. I worry if I cry what people will think and when I share I worry how I'm perceived, so I may shorten my sharing.

I didn't really feel it until Monday when I had to speak about Pam in front of the people gathered for her memorial. It was tough for sure, but I grieved it and processed it in public (not my way of choice).

I think next time, I will take a cue from my Son and grieve it right away!

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Written By Marv Nelson

Marv Nelson

Marv is a husband and father who writes our Daddy Chronicles articles about the sometimes crazy life of a father.