Monday, January 21, 2013

How Henry Helps

Life is hard right now. And finding the balance for Henry has been one of the hardest parts. He has no idea what is going on, so in the middle of our grief there is an air of normalcy that we try to maintain for him.

In a lot of ways, it is good for us all. Like when he made me laugh on Friday night by doing this:
Or when he got me outside on a beautiful day by wanting to do this:

Or when he wanted to play playdoh, so we had a fun hour as a family making things like this:
(Nick totally made all of that. I am playdoh helpless and made things like an exciting ball)
Or after a long day of trying to be normal, he falls asleep like this, and warms my heart and allows me to feel like we might, somehow, be doing okay.

If anybody has any advice on talking to three year olds about grief and the potential loss of a close loved one, I am happy to take any advice you have to offer.


  1. Praying for your family! I wish it wasn't a conversation you were having to have with him :( I can't imagine having to explain it to such a little one. Praying for peace and guidance!

  2. I've been thinking about you a lot, Sarah. Lots of hugs.

    We had a cat who died from cancer nearly a year ago, and we had to explain it to Lucky. (And yes, I know, this is SO not the same situation, but if you can ignore that the conversation we had is about a cat, it's similar. It's explaining death to a three year old. Which is hard.)

    Anyway, I read a lot about it, and everything I read was to be as direct and open as you could. We told Lucky that our cat was sick, and it was a kind of sick that the doctors couldn't fix - and we told him that it was called cancer. We told him that we didn't know when it was going to happen, but that Puck was going to die.

    We did't really spend a lot of time explaining death, all we told him was that when we die we don't need to eat or sleep anymore, and it meant that our cat wouldn't be there anymore. And that I was sad about it, which is why I might cry sometimes.

    It was harder on other people than him, it seemed to me - he'd announce to people that he had a cat, but he died, very matter of factly. He did ask a lot of questions about why living things die, and would he die someday, and he'd talk about missing Puck, but it was all very matter of fact. Could just be his personality.

    But for a few weeks as he grappled with the trying to process the idea of death, we talked about it a lot.

    I don't know if any of this is helpful, but I'm hoping you can take something from it.

    And I am giving you a warm hug through the internets right now. Lots of love to all of you.


  3. Praying for you guys. I can't imagine how hard that will be telling Henry...just keep taking lots of pictures so he will always remember how much his Missy loved him!

  4. I don't know how to help, I know there are books that can give you some suggestions, I really liked Serenity's comment. Sometimes children are in fact very matter of fact and don't really get the "never" concept (as in "you won't be able to see Missy again") . They also seem to be able to let go easier than adults. I'm sending you love and peaceful thoughts, Fran

  5. The local Hospice has programs specificaly for children. We found them really helpful when my MIL died. I think they'd be a great resource for you in trying to figure out how to best support Henry right now and ongoing. Lmk if you're interested and I can dig out the social worker's name/contact info. She was wonderful and my kiddo really took to her. She helped us find the words to use with him, in addition to giving us names of books and other resources.

    That said, simple, honest words are often best. The kid seemed to understand MIL's death. He'd bring it up periodically (still does a year and a half later) and process it in his own way, little bits at a time. At first, that was hard for us, but we try to remember that that's where he is and what he needs.

    ((hugs)) None of it is easy. But remember, even in the normal, that it's okay, and healthy even, for Henry to see you all be upset. Because seeing you grieve and be sad, it gives him permission to do so as well (in his own 3yo way).

  6. I hope you read old comments, I was a bookseller for years. The very best book I ever saw for helping children deal with death is "Dinosaurs Die" by Marc Brown( the Arthur guy)

    There is also The Fall of Freddie The Leaf. Which is good in a different way, more zen-ish.

    I am so terribly sorry for your loss.