Nobody ever wants to really dwell on it, or talk about it. We shield our children from it to the best of our abilities. We explain it away, and we put it on the "back burner" and we wait.
All of us have experienced loss- every human, actually starts life with a loss: loss of warmth, loss of darkness, loss of our umbilical cord... Really, as much as we try to shield our precious little ones from loss, to have life, there has to be a loss.
And this great mystery of life, of all that we have, of all that we get to experience, endings remain sad. Usually, anyway, endings are hard.
I grew up moving every three years. I think my mom and dad did a pretty good job of helping me and my brother walk through "good-byes", and "see you laters". This was way before the Internet, and long distance calls actually cost a lot of money (yes, we did have TV, and Atari game systems were, and still are, pretty cool-- but way back when...). Today, though, the world is a lot smaller, it seems a lot smaller, anyway, and with FaceTime, and email, it's actually pretty easy to keep in touch in real time. But, back in "ancient times" we wrote letters, and had to wait for a reply. It was hard to leave friends, and sometimes family every three years. These were losses.
These moves and losses were especially hard to deal with when I was a teenager. I'm not sure I realized how difficult it was to experience this type of loss until I was older, no longer a military "brat", and I found myself being the friend saying good-bye to someone else moving away. I was suddenly the one not moving. I felt left behind. I literally had a mental-health-worthy depression in my mid-thirties when my best friend moved to the west coast. We're talking not-wanting-to-get-out-of-bed depression. It was a tough year. I wonder now if that was just a culmination of all the good-byes I've ever said or experienced finally breaking the surface of the carefully calm good-byes over my entire life. Did I really ever deal with good-bye? Maybe I just was always "fine" because I was really just not dealing with the emotion of it all. I don't know. I've been friends with the (now) seven families that have moved in and out of the house across the street. It's a bit of a running joke on our street, that I've been friends with all of them. They've all moved. I've been left behind. I know now to deal with these losses as they happen. Depressions are serious. I'd like to avoid them in the future. Like I said, that was a tough year.
Parents have to deal with all sorts of losses, though, every day. We may not think of them so seriously: the first tooth, the first roll over, the first sleep-through-the-night, the first crawl, walk, etc. They are all losses, natural and sometimes happy, of the various stages of your baby's life. It happens daily. Your little one is getting older, and more independent. Does your family have a pet? You'll be dealing with a loss eventually. Moves, best friends, grandparents and great grandparents... Saying those kind of good byes are especially precious. I recommend you give them special attention, especially if you have an especially sensitive child (I need to follow my own advice, here).
There are all kinds of books to help illustrate and define death and dying- for kids, and for parents. In fact, a lot of the books that are for children are just as good for the adults that are reading them to their children. I cling to my faith, so, I recommend books that deal with death according to your faith; they can be especially helpful.
We experienced a very unusual, and unfortunately sudden death of a family member this summer. We were quite stunned, actually, and while it seems like we are all OK, I think we will be dealing with this loss on many different levels in the weeks to come. My grandmother is 91, and lives with my mom and dad. My uncle, her baby, the youngest, died unexpectedly. She has dementia, most likely Alzheimer's, so it has to be re-explained, re-lived through, almost daily. My mom is exhausted. My grandma is mostly sad. My dad is trying to keep it together. This is a hard, difficult, crazy, weird type of loss. It was not expected (I keep saying that, because he was 58, and not sick). It's unclear exactly what happened. There has not been a lot of closure. Even the memorial service, while lovely, was so quickly put together, and accomplished, that it seems... surreal, maybe. My uncle was struggling with a lot of different issues, some so private that as they come to light we are all feeling somewhat responsible, in a way, for not knowing the pain he was in. Wondering... What if? What if we knew? If only? Could we have helped?
As I write this on the anniversary of 9-11, the over-riding thought I have is this: I didn't tell him I loved him. I didn't share my faith with him. I didn't call to check in with him. I just didn't... And I should have. So... Remember your loved ones. Call them and check in. Send a note telling them you love them. Don't wait. Seriously, there is no time like the present to tell someone you care.
This is my sweet, wise, old grandma- with her precious great-grandchildren!