Recently I was sent a picture of an assignment my grand daughter had to do at school. At first glance, it appears to be a pretty simple assignment, the kids needed to draw a picture of their family. Below is a picture of Paetyn’s drawing.
I looked at that picture and was extremely emotional at the heart and love that she shows. Then I really looked at it. I had never thought of it before but for a child who has lost a parent either before or after they were born, what is their definition of where that parent who has passed fits into their life.
Obviously, by looking at the picture she drew, you can see that she considers her family her, her mom, her dad here on earth and her dad in heaven. That is her family. I loved the fact that they are all holding hands and to me it shows the total love she has and that she considers him there and part of her family even though he is in heaven.
Devin passed before Paetyn was born but for Devin’s widow and for all of us including Paetyn’s dad here, it has been very important that she know who her daddy was, that he loved her very much and that he really really wanted to be here for her. She has been told about him and she knows him by his pictures. She is not at all scared to talk about him and we try and answer any questions she may have.
For her, she has been raised to not be scared to talk about him, to know where she comes from and to love him. She understands that her daddy got sick and the doctor couldn’t fix him and so he had to go to heaven before she was born. She feels special in that she has two daddy’s and that is amazing.
For so many children, when a parent passes, they are meant to feel it is a taboo subject to talk about them or ask questions. They are made to feel like they are bad to discuss it at all. Unfortunately, that old school way of thinking causes emotional scarring that these children take into the remainder of their lives.
Like adults, it is very important to allow children to be curious, to be able to grieve and ask questions. Now, depending upon the situation, it is also extremely important to give them age-appropriate answers. The child should have the right to be able to grieve and be inquisitive as to their parent. Sometimes the way a parent passed may not be appropriate to discuss with a young child but at the end of the day, the most important thing is that they know their parent went to heaven and that they loved their child.
That child should be able to talk openly in order to help them in their grieving process. Each time the child brings up that parent and an adult kind of freezes or cringes, this tells the child that what they are talking about is bad and over time they just bury the feelings. Unfortunately, feeling that are not dealt with will affect them the remainder of their lives. By allowing them the openness, we are reducing the long-term trauma on that child and allowing them to grow into healthy well balanced adults.
Paetyn’s picture is a clear visualization of how healthy it can be for a child who has been allowed to be inquisitive and to get the answers they are looking for. Yes, obviously I am biased because she is grandma’s little princess, but I also smile to see how normal it is for her to include him in her life and honor him so much by still considering him part of her family here on earth. That to me is complete success in helping a child understand the loss of a parent.