Children grieve too, often in different ways

Grandad

My father in law, John Osburn, passed away recently after a two-year battle with cancer. My kids watched him endure surgery, chemo and radiation therapy. They watched him go from a happy, energetic grandfather who visited often with his trusty guitar and lyric stand in tow (often he’d bring the tambourine for the kids) to a tired and pale grandfather who required a nap in one of their beds while visiting us.

My kids had two totally different reactions to the news of his passing. My son simply said, “oh” and looked out the window. Then he said he isn’t sad because he knows that Granddad is in a better place. Simple as that. My daughter, on the other hand, has been extremely emotional. She cried the moment I told her and has cried everyday, multiple times, for the past week. She is, from the deepest part of her heart, so incredibly sad.

So, what are parents to do when a loved one passes on? We’ve talked a lot. We’ve read articles on how to help children cope with death. We sat the kids down and asked them to write a letter to their Granddad. We started them off with prompts like: How are you feeling? What is a memory of Granddad that you have? What did you learn from him? How are you going to use what he taught you in your life? We let them stay home from school and spend time with us during the process of planning the events that would take place in the days to come. They came to the funeral home for both visitations and also attended the funeral and celebration afterwards. They shared stories with us at dinner.

All in all they handled themselves extremely well, and Granddad, a traditional “proper” British man, would be proud. But he wouldn’t just be proud of their good behaviour at the church; he would be proud of their two very different personalities and coping mechanisms. He would be proud of Ben’s strength, yet also proud of Lily’s pure emotion.

It has been a week since they lost their beloved Granddad and they are doing ok. Yesterday they went back to school. Today, they are each having a sleepover with a friend. We are all slowly getting back into a routine, and I think that’s what is best. Kids need normalcy. They like knowing what’s going to happen. Although we knew Granddad was sick and his death was expected, it was still a shock when it occurred. Now, one week later, things are somewhat back to normal. A new normal, without Granddad.

We will miss his honesty, compassion, grace, patience, wisdom, charm, vigour and love. Rest in peace Granddad. We love you.

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