Sunday, June 16, 2013
A Little One's First Meeting With Death
These past two weeks have been a hard one for my son.
He has loved spending time with his biological dad, going to ball games with him, going fishing at a family member's farm pond, doing fun things with cousins he's grown up with, etc. Each summer I make sure he gets to spend extended time with dad and stepmom and enjoy activities with them that he normally doesn't get to do during the school season simply due to time.
This time, he has experienced death.
While he and his dad, stepmom, cousin, aunt, uncle, and adoptive grandparents (technically uncle's parents, but they've adopted Mr. Kevin as their grandson), were at his cousin's (same age, grown up together) baseball game, Grandpa had a massive heart attack in the stands. He did not survive the 10 minute trip to the hospital, and passed while enroute. The family there took it hard, naturally.
Mr. Kevin has as well.
At 11, this is the first person Mr. Kevin remembers losing. He has lost pets due to age or oncoming traffic, and he mourns for them years after their passing. There are days he'll start crying and tell me he misses his Pepper (beagle that passed away 3 years ago) or his Sissy (dad and stepmom's little poodle mix that lived 16 years) or Fuzz (the neighborhood cat that adopted us, moved in with us during the blizzard of '10 and took over the bed and a few laps, and went missing a year ago). His different diagnosis affect how he responds to grief. The autism and MR limit how he is able to communicate his grief, frustration, feelings. Instead of crying, he may lash out and hit. Instead of saying "I'm sad", he may melt down.
During the time between the death and funeral, he repeatedly asked "what happened". Both sides of the family lines have tried to answer as best as we can, at the level where he would comprehend the best. He seems comforted most with hearing that Grandpa is taking care of his Pepper in heaven. We all know that is not true bible doctrine, but for a grieving 11 year old boy who is functioning around 7 to 8 years old or so, it helps. He is comforted with thoughts of heaven, with Jesus being there. As far as he's concerned, Jesus has his dogs and cats and is taking care of them for him until he gets to go to heaven too.
Seriously, what do you say to a child like Kevin?
He is still grieving, he misses Grandpa. He has shown it through tears, through meltdowns, through silence. Where words fail, hugs make up the difference.
His heart hurts, but we remind him Jesus is there. Jesus loves hin and heals hurting hearts like his.
And like yours.