Last Sunday morning I had to take my ex-husband and my daughter Brianna to the airport for an emergency trip to New Hampshire. My daughter’s grandma had a stroke and was in the hospital. She was only 70 years old, but had lived primarily off of Pepsi and cigarettes most of her life. The doctors suggested that all family get there asap, because while she was in the hospital, she suffered another stroke.
I was very unsure if my 12 year old daughter could handle this type of situation. I wanted to be there to hold her hand to get her through it. But, with the relationship my ex-mother-in-law had, she probably would have died instantly if she knew I was there, so I stayed home. I couldn’t afford time off work anyway.
Friday afternoon, I received the call that Linda had died. Wow! It felt like such a shocker! I really thought that woman was going to live forever, just to make my life hell. Regardless of our relationship, I felt this deep sorrow. I have only had to deal with death once in my life so far, when my grandfather died about 7 years ago. At that time, Brianna was very young and I thought it might be highly disturbing and upsetting to her to attend the funeral, so I didn’t let her. She has held that against me ever since!
Do kids really know what they can handle emotionally and what they can’t? Was I wrong for not letting her be there? As a mother, naturally I want to protect her. We hadn’t really discussed the topic of death much up until this point, and I felt kind of clueless about how in-depth it should be discussed. Anyway, she returned home late Saturday night, and was fine. She appears to be handling this in a very grown-up manner.
Sunday morning Brianna and I were having a discussion about her trip, and discussed that Linda will be cremated because that’s what she wanted. Then Brianna says to me “Mom, don’t cremate me, I think that’s disgusting.” I looked at her with a very puzzled look on my face and said “Brianna honey, if everything goes at it should, I will be dead before you are, so I won’t be making that choice.” She just sat there looking so confused when the realization of that all came together for her. She didn’t speak for several minutes and then said, “Well that really sucks that you won’t be there. Who is going to take care of me when I die?” The conversation had taken such an unexpected turn for the both of us, and it was very awkward. I told her she will probably have a husband and/or kids by then and they will be responsible for all of that. My poor child just sat there looking so surprised and disappointed! I guess she isn’t as grown-up as she appears.
Kids obviously do not process things completely and need parents to inform them of so much. It makes me sad to know and see many parents who leave their children in the dark about so many topics because they are too afraid or embarrassed, or just haven’t taken the time to discuss them. Death is inevitable, and I believe it should be discussed openly and honestly with children. I am pleased to see that Brianna learned many lessons and gathered much more knowledge from this experience than she previously had, as did I. It has helped prepare us for whatever is yet to come.
Brianna will return to New Hampshire next year when all of the family meets there again, to spread Linda’s ashes over Kearsarge Mountain and add another experience to her life!