I lost my grandma just after Christmas. New Year’s Day I was flying back to Michigan to attend her funeral. Because of the new year holiday, tickets home we’re outrageously expensive. There was no way we would be able to afford tickets for all of us. The decision was made that I would fly back with Camille (who flies free) and my husband would stay home with Eli.
One thing I’ve learned about Eli, is he’s not too big on surprises (unless it’s something cool like popcorn or a new toy). As soon as I booked my ticket I explained where I would be going and why.
Disclaimer: I spoke based on my beliefs and the beliefs I want my family to follow. Everyone is free to choose to have this conversation any way they feel fit.
“You know your GG? The one with the kitties?” Nods head. “Well the other night GG was really sick and in the hospital and she died. So she won’t be around anymore. Do you understand? Does that make you sad?” Yeah. Mommy, I was happy when I came to mommy and daddy’s house but this makes me a little bit sad. “Do you know what happens when people die?” Um, no? “If you’re a good person you go to heaven. It’s this really cool place and everyone’s happy and nobody gets sick anymore. If you’re not a good person you go to another place, a bad place. Nobody wants to go there.” Oh yeah. Ok. “So after someone dies they have a funeral. You go and say bye to them because we won’t see them anymore. So mommy is going to fly to nana’s house to say bye to GG”
Everyone has they’re own way of explaining these things to their young ones and this is the way I handled Eli. Do I think he totally understood? Of course not; he’s only four. Do I think he understood as much as he could for his age? Probably. Every time I brought up me leaving that week he would start crying. My husband, during a breakdown, took Eli into his room and went over it again. And tried to make it a little more personal. (I wasn’t in the room so I’m just giving the gist of it).
“Mommy is really sad because GG died. What if daddy died? Wouldn’t you be sad? You wouldn’t see me anymore.” Yeah…. “so that’s why mommy needs to go back to nana’s house. So we need to be there for mommy” the boys came back into the room after a bit and Eli (still crying) said: I’m really upset you’re leaving. But everything is going to be ok. (Eli’s crying. I’m crying. My husbands crying.)
So New Year’s Day sister and I took off for Michigan. We stayed about 6 days. I said goodbye to my grandma and spent time with the family. Eli texted me everyday from the Ipad and we occasionally would video chat. He made it through the week unscathed. It was the longest I have been away from him ever in his almost-5 years of life.
This certainly won’t be the last time Eli and I will experience a loss like this. So for our first time, I think we did pretty good. And when we have to go through this again (hopefully a long time from now) we can get through it just as easily.
We love you GG!