Just one more day

Sometimes when I lay still, I’m seven again.

Laying in my bed at night, paralyzed with fear that my mother would die.

That my grandparents would die.

Because my father already had.

Death crept inside my chest and pulled in so tight that I could barely breathe.

“Mom… are you still awake?” I would call.

Sometimes once, more often five or six times, every five minutes or so until sleep finally settled over me and overpowered my fears.

Death and my anxiety have been lifelong partners.

When my grandmother passed away last month, I was on a plane within 23 hours of hearing the news.

We simply told Katie that I need to go to Maine… that I just needed to go home. No details. No grief. No death.

And I went home and grieved. My heart broke when I saw my grandmother and those old wounds reopened.

There have been nights since returning to California, when my mind won’t let me rest and I quiet my breathing enough to hear Craig’s.

And I get up and lay my hand on Katie’s chest, to feel the rise and fall. Then I go to Matthew.

This anxiety is mine and it’s as much a part of who I am as my smile, my blue eyes, my gratitude for the good in my life.

And I have been determined to keep that from Katie, my child who already carries the weight of the world.

Who worries about things she shouldn’t.

Who feels things too deeply.

No laying in bed at night for her, wracked with worry.

No.

But last night, one the most-loved teachers at her small school passed away.

Gone.

The letter I found in her backpack asks us to talk with our children to prepare them for next week, when the school will grieve as a whole.

This weekend, we will have the talk I’ve avoided for six years and six months.

The talk that I didn’t have, even as my whole fell apart last month.

We will tell her about death.

We will introduce her to the idea that it can come from nowhere and rob you of someone you love in an instant.

And my heart is breaking at the thought of it.

17 comments

  1. Sherri

    Oh, no…NO. No mother wants to have these conversations.

    Why can’t they just be babies? I am so very sorry…

  2. Danielle Pastana

    I know MrC will be missed by all the kids but as in life he will help to teach our children by his passing. They will learn that sometime those we care about can not be seen but their love will always be there. They are as a whole kind and supportive little souls. Katie will learn from this tragic loss, as will many others. She will gain strength in your loving arms.

  3. Katie

    Oh goodness, Nichole. I’m so sorry that loss is hitting your family again… in such a short time frame. I wanted to tell you that Janie’s little school lost a beloved teacher last year, unexpectedly, and there was so much comfort, for the students, being together and it truly bonded our community of families closer. In fact, looking back, I think that it was the children who helped the adults through THEIR grief and confusion over losing a friend, colleague and trusted teacher, more than the other way around. Sending love…

  4. erin margolin erinmargolin.com

    Nichole,
    Izzy’s kindergarten teacher passed away suddenly and unexpectedly during a pivotal time in Izzy’s development. This teacher was amazing with her…and it was very hard. But the school? Did an AMAZING job celebrating her life the following week. The teacher’s favorite color was pink. The PTA did a lot of the legwork, but gathered a pink latex, helium-filled balloon w/ pink ribbon attached, for every student at the school. School invited teacher’s husband, sisters, and family for the tribute, and all of the school’s families were invited. It was a CROWD. The principal gave a short speech, the teacher’s sister then spoke. And then, at the appointed time, there was a countdown and all the kids released their balloons in the same time. There were tears and laughter and squeals of joy all at once. I wish I knew what to tell you here…but it’s hard to hide all the bad things…and sometimes? we can make the bad things seem less….bad/scary by doing good things. Like the balloons. I’m thinking of you all and sending you love & peace.

  5. sherry thelifeofthepartyblog.com

    So sorry Nichole! This is one of the toughest discussions to have. It’s so difficult explaining to a child that death is inevitability a part of life its a truth that’s so unfair to hear at such a young age:( thoughts are with you.

  6. Sarah Kovac sarahkovac.com

    How awful. I’m sorry you’ve had those experiences, but don’t hide your grief from your children! Show them how to grieve. Show them grief is universal and nothing to be ashamed of. Show them they’re not alone when it hurts so badly. It’s very difficult to know what to do with grief as an adult if your parents didn’t model it for you, but the process is healing. I hope I don’t sound preachy, but learning to grieve has been very slow for me… but so necessary. So freeing.

  7. Jayme randomblogette.com

    I am so sorry Nichole. It is so hard to speak with children about death. A few years ago we had 4 relatives die within 6 months and it was awful trying to explain it to my kids. I think that the best thing that we did was focus on the special memories that we had with each person, but still let them know that it is ok to grieve in their own way. Unfortunately there really isn’t any right way to deal with it. Sending you lots of love and prayers.

  8. Peggy

    Your experience will not be Katie’s. Because she will have you and Craig as her rock, she will feel safe. Try not to stress over it, and she won’t. It will be okay. She may just floor you with a random question about death 6 months or a year down the road, as she learns to process and understand, but that doesn’t mean she is having the same awful experience with death as you.
    Sending you hugs*

  9. anymommy anymommyoutthere.com

    This broke my heart. I’m sorry. These are big, big conversations for little bitty people.

  10. Ann Imig

    I’m so sorry. So very sorry. Thankfully these children of ours are far and away more resilient than us.

  11. Ugh. I am so sorry. The mother of one of my 4yo daughter’s classmates died suddenly last month. Went out to walk the dog and was found in the street. The girl is one of my daugher’s closest friends at school. Having to talk to my child about the fact a parent can unexpectedly die (and so young) was awful. We desperately want to shield our children from these harsh realities and painful emotions. But we can’t. All we can do is help them learn how to face them. Sending you a big hug. I understand what you are feeling and facing. Be strong, my friend.

  12. Robyn

    Your Aunt Peggy is a wise lady! Your experience is unique to you, and very unlike what your children will have to process. Remember that our children take their cues from us, be honest, but celebrate the life of the teacher (and Grammy too!) Those who have left us aren’t gone as long as we remember them. Love you!

  13. Aleta fleurdealeta.blogspot.com

    What a heartbreaking post. I’m so sorry for your anxiety and for having to have this talk. Sending prayers and thoughts to you and your family.

  14. Kir thekircorner.com

    Oh Nichole, I am so sorry. But if Katie couldn’t have a better voice and heart to talk to her about this.
    Recently we lost a member of our extended family and needed to talk to the boys about it. I don’t know if it’s the comfort of having them in Catholic School or just our willingness to share it with them, but they did so well with it. Better than I did in some ways.

    Wishing you peace and comfort, I’ve been thinking of you quite a bit, I even asked Gio and Jacob to “bless mommy’s friend Nichole” during morning prayers and circle time.

  15. Playful Karen playfulplanet.com

    When my brother passed away 15 years ago, the pastor gave a copy of this book, The Next Place (http://www.warrenhanson.com/NXP.html) to every family member including his 8 year old daughter. It is a beautiful book for children and adults alike.
    My heart goes out to you and your daughter…

  16. Jessah dreamingifdimples.com

    I’m sorry for your difficult conversation and heart-wrenching month. My grandmother has cancer and I will loose her soon. Death is so very hard. Thinking of you.

  17. I am so sorry for your loss. It is difficult and heartbreaking to have those conversations when you are still grieving. She may surprise you though. My mom died two weeks ago–just 3 days before my 6 year son’s birthday.

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