day 3: myths

I may need another month, because I can think of at least 31 myths about grief that I have discovered since becoming Ava Faith's mommy. Many of these are being discussed by other grieving parents from around the world today through the Capture Your Grief event on Facebook. If you get a chance to peruse some of these, please do.

Yesterday, as I was driving home from school with my almost 5-year-old son Jackson, I thought of the one myth that I would like to share most today. We were talking about what a great brother he is to his little sister Katelyn. We started listing all the things he does that makes him a really great big brother to her. It quickly occurred to me that we were leaving someone out.

I said, "You are a really great big brother to Ava, too." He said, "Yeah. I know I am." {Don't you just love a little kid's confidence?} Then he started talking about all the ways he shows her love. Some of the things he listed were thinking about her, talking about her, asking God to tell her we love and miss her, picking wildflowers for her, making pictures for her, and playing games with her.

Ava always has her own game piece in Candyland and Snakes & Ladders per my sweet boy's request. She drives a grain truck when he plays farm, and she is often playing goalie as he shoots the puck down our hardwood floors. Yes, Ava leads quite an active imaginary life here on earth.

He has said before that he wishes Ava was here to REALLY play with him. My heart swelled when he said, "One day we will play, play, play all day."

The myth that I would like to debunk today is that children should be excluded from conversations about death and dying. 


I think it is a common myth that children are too young to understand, too young to grieve, too young to be included in a "graphic" topic like death. Death is part of life for all of us, so why would we avoid this subject with our children? In my opinion, we do a disservice to our kids if we shield them too much from the realities of life and death.

After all, isn't it our job as parents to prepare our children for a courageous and compassionate life?

I have met many adults who are so afraid to accept the reality of death that they will block out any conversations about it, they will inflict silence on hurting friends and family members and they will avoid contact with the dying or the grieving. Some may refuse to pay a visit to a hospital bed, a nursing home or a funeral because they would rather "remember them as they were."

To shut out the reality of dying and death is to shut out an important part of a relationship with that person and the people who mourn that person. It also closes off a part of our hearts that I believe is meant to grow deeper in love and gratitude. Can we really fully appreciate life without fully embracing the realities of death?

I don't mean to be judgmental toward people who find these scenarios too painful to even attempt to undertake. But, I do believe that part of the answer to dealing with pain, death and dying in a courageous and compassionate way begins with how we are exposed to these subjects from a young age.

My husband and I speak openly and honestly with our living children about death. {I hope to share more about how we specifically have approached this subject with them later this month.} My son is probably the single person I have spoken about Ava with the most. He speaks of her, of heaven, of dying, in a very simple, honest, matter-of-fact and beautiful way. I likely have learned as much from his outlook on life and death as he has from me during our conversations.

I read somewhere that a person's capacity for grief is equal to their capacity to love. If you have had the good fortune to spend much time with children, you know they certainly have a great capacity to love. I have learned through my experiences that, if they are allowed to do so in an open and honest space, kids also have a great capacity to express grief in a healthy way and embrace life and death. In doing so, I believe they will grow in courage to face life's painful realities, in compassion for others who are hurting and in appreciation for the beautiful parts of life.

I think this will be one of many legacies that will be revealed in my living children's lives because of their sister Ava.

*   intro   *   day 1   *   day 2   *   day 3.1   *   day 4   *   day 5   *   day 6   *
*   day 7   *   day 8   *   day 9   *   day 10   *
day 15



4 comments


Marilena said...

I agree with you, Laura, children do need to be exposed to grieving in a natural and honest way. I was just a bit older than J when my sister passed away, and I remember always being involved, even throughout her illness, that there would be a place where she would live forever, pain free and happy, and I will get to join her there one day. I still believe that, and that is the core of my faith.

Ironically, I can also fit myself as one of those who find hard to embrace the dying part of living... I tend to think I'd like to remember people as they were, just as you said. I don't really know why and I don't want to over analyse this, just find it interesting.

Hugs!

M

Laura Monchuk said...

Thank you for your response, Marilena. I value very much your sharing your experience of having your sibling pass away at a young age. Losing such a significant person in your life cannot help but shape you and your faith. I am glad that you are still able to find comfort in knowing your family will be restored one day.

We all want to remember people as they were before they were sick or passed away. And we should. Being by their side while they are passing or are grieving does not make that fact change. It is never easy to walk that road with someone; it is incredibly sad. And, I know from experience that you are not afraid to walk that walk with those you care about. And, I have experienced firsthand the courage and compassion that you have extended to my family during our time of grief.

Hugs back to you!

Belle said...

You are so right, Laura, about the capacity of children to teach us as much as we teach them. Thank you for sharing this post, and the others you have written and are writing about your family. They affirm the power of love beyond grief and loss.

Laura Monchuk said...

Thank you, Belle.

I also want to stress my understanding that all families are different and grief is unique to each person. How we approach it with our kids is a personal decision and we have to do the best we can with what we can muster during sorrowful times in our families. These are only my observations and experiences with the children in my life.

I am learning so much from others from around the world in this Capture Your Grief Project. Thank you for reading and sharing!

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