In general, our culture does not allow us to grieve well. We do not mourn and we don’t allow others to mourn. Maybe it’s because we are so invincible or at least desire to be. We don’t want to look death in the face, to sit with it, as generations past had done. We apologize for honest tears.
But children, (in my opinion)… they just get all things holy. They are so real and honest and not burdened by social expectation or appropriateness as we define it.
I lead an outdoor class for children. After it’s over, I take my time cleaning up and packing up, and I am often blessed by my children and the way they wander, around in the greenspace, imagining, creating, continuing to play. They almost become little sprites, or ghostlike fairy creatures in their time in nature….
But I digress. Today an inchworm named Mr. Stick was studied and observed, befriended, and then at some point, lost. My youngest went to wait in the van to tinker around until I was finished with cleanup. She became very busy working on something, and then finally came to me and said “Mommy, I want to show you something.”
It was an altar of sorts that she created. It consisted of a toy tea drink, a couple of leaves, a stick and a feather– all carefully placed. Intrigued I said, “tell me about this.”
She replied, “it represents all I have lost.”
“Oh? Explain that to me.”
“The first leaf is for Mr. Stick, and the second leaf represents all the other worms and caterpillars I have lost; the stick is for Darian,” (her friend who left her heartbroken by moving away during her kindergarten year), “…and the feather is for Charlie.” (her parakeet who had died).
“What is the tea for?”
“For me to sit here and raise the glass as I think about them.” (yes, she seriously said that)
“Wow sister. That’s powerful. That’s really special. Thank you for showing me that, can I take a picture?”
Losing the inchworm gave her an opportunity to:
1) Reflect. She didn’t rush past the pain of it. She took time to connect spiritually. To realize that she has encountered many losses, each one with their own meaning.
2) Name them. One of the most powerful things you can do in the loss of someone you love is continue to name them. We hesitate to do that for some reason, we are filled with fear or worried it will cause more hurt. No, to name the loved one brings honor, acknowledgement and memories.
3) Understand that grief can many many forms. She included the sense of loss in her friend moving away as well as the death of her beloved pet. I think we are often dealing with grief and we don’t even realize it, or name it for the loss that it is. Relationships sever, jobs go away, a move happens– so many more things that represent a “death”; and if we don’t take time to acknowledge this loss, we can carry with us a heavy unnamed weight that we don’t quite understand. It’s grief.
4) Celebrate and remember the good. The pause, the raising of the glass, the commemoration. How important to do this when we want to cherish the memory of those we hold dear. After all, maybe the greater the sadness we feel, the greater the love must have been? Or in other circumstances, maybe to take a moment and raise the glass for what was good about the relationships we now miss, the job that went away, or the gift was found in a time of upheaval, transition and change.
I’m telling you kids get it. We are never the same after a loss. The fabric of our story changes. I am grieving many many things at this time in my life. But you know what? In this season, now I think I will continue to find healing as I embrace the things I’ve lost, the people I miss, name them, reflect, and celebrate, remembering the good and precious memories.