We recently lost a very dear family friend. She was 61 and essentially an adopted grandmother to my kiddos, though she was like an older sister to me. Unmarried and childless, she gratefully joined in on any activity we invited her to, from swimming at the community pool to gymnastics class to going to the zoo. She was one of my foremost homeschool supporters.
Though she fought hard against multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow) for 6 months or so, it was her kidneys that gave out in then and sent her into a rapid downward spiral. Through all the doctors apointments and hospital visits and extra help with shopping and around the house, we put on our brave faces and tried never to complain about the inconvinience. I would be lying if I told you that I never thought to myself: ‘it will be easier once she dies’. I thought it… but I was dead wrong!
Losing a loved one may release them of their suffering but it also releases you of the need to put on that brave face, and the trapped emotions just might come crashing in on you all at once. The guilt, the anger, the blame, the sadness. And when your children are suffering the loss too, it is all multiplied.
It might seem to make perfect sense to throw out the homeschool schedule for a while and ride the wave of grief. And for some, that may actually work. But I want to offer my personal experience so that others may benefit from considering it.
Aimlessness and sorrow can get into all sort of trouble when they chum up. If everyone in the family is feeling stung, then having no purpose in your day will likely lead to fights and chaos and anarchy…which will lead to more pain, of a different sort. Don’t pile hurt upon hurt.
If you are fortunate enough to get a heads-up that a loved one is dying, have a plan for your own family to carry you through the storm. There are a few things I wish I had known to do:
1) Prepare freezer meals. I have not only found it hard to think about food, or what to make, but have also felt overwhelmed at the thought of having to grocery shop. Think comfort food.
2)Have babysitters lined up. Friends or family who will take the kids so that you can have some time to process your own feelings, or so that you can devote time to helping with nessesary tasks after the death of your loved one without feeling like you are neglecting your kids. Little kids are resilient, they need to get back to playing and can seem unbothered by the loss, which can almost irritate older kids and adults who are processing dificult feelings. I sent my littles to daycare for a couple days and it was a nice break for us all. I only wish I had lined up an overnight or two as well, bedtime routine was harder than usual and I would get quite cranky with them.
3) Stock snacks. People may come visit to consol you, be ready to receive them with tea and cookies. It may even be that tea time is what your kids need more of too. Or perhaps you will welcome the distraction of a playdate, snacks would be good to have on hand.
4) Discuss what roles you may be called on to fill, post-mortem, with with the ailing party so that you can be prepared. If you will be asked to say a few words at the funeral, start writing things down now. If you will be asked to help file the taxes and claim insurance, know where the paperwork is. Etc…
5) Prepare several weeks of school lessons ahead.more on this in a bit.
6) Prepare how you will explain death to the little ones.
The physical exhaustion (and pain! I wasn’t expecting to actually HURT so much), and emotional drain this last week has been much like having a new baby. There have been sleepless nights, crying, incosolable children and ravenous hunger but no desire to cook and clean. So prepare as much as you can before hand.
Maintain your school routine. If you have had a good school rythym going, try to maintain it. If you did not, try to bring in some structure. In times like this, children look to their parents to be their anchor, their security. Let’s not leave them flapping in the wind while we hide from the storm raging inside. Strive for calm, planned activities. Fun, engaging, purposeful activities that will keep their minds and hands busy and help them sleep at night. Remeber to get outside as much as possible. I found it hard to face the cheerful sun some days.
We have had one of our best weeks of school so far this year beacause we have welcomed the distraction of work over the defening quiet that allows our thoughts to turn dark.
Hopefully some will find these tips helpful. I wish we did not need to think about such things and I look forward to a time when we won’t anymore (Rev. 21:3,4)