June 29, 2018 at 2:14 pm #3749
My first reaction to this article was to cry – even though I was 40 when my Mom died, part of me still grieved as a child. I still felt alone but was comforted by the support system that surrounded me and held me up. Unlike the author as a child and the support she received from her Dad, who listened and encouraged and helped her find her own answers or the acceptance of the reality that there were no answers, my role and my Dad’s roles were reversed. He was the one who relied on us, and not really the other way around. Like the author, my wish is also for children who lose a loved one like a parent to have someone there to support them as their childhood imagination fades and they have to make room in life for both joy and grief.
My next reaction was to realize how little she spoke of her brother or his grief, except in general terms. Now in part, I realize that she wasn’t writing about her brother’s experiences but her own; but it struck me how self-focused grief really is, particularly for children. She grieved and woke her Dad up to support her; even when she says she grieved for his loss as much or more than her own, again she grieved and sought his support. I think that is so natural for a child and it was such a gift from her father to her that he didn’t destroy that self-focus, because that is what she needed – she was a child and he was an adult. That is a hard thing for a suffering person to give another, the ability to be self-focused in childhood grief. Like the mom in the moon, that phase of grief also passes away with maturity and experience, or at least it should. That seems to be the ministry challenge to both adults and children – how to help adults foster that kind of security, and how to help children mature through it appropriately.
June 29, 2018 at 5:37 pm #3751
Carolyn and all,
Thank you for sharing both your thoughts and your feelings. I too had tears in my eyes as I read. The memory that emerged for me was when my wife and I sat down to tell our 4-year-old son that we were going to separate. The word divorce wasn’t mentioned but he could tell this was a threatening thing. He broke into tears and immediately we began to cry. He stopped crying and began to console us. Through his recovery and therapy work after 12 years of addiction, he uncovered the insight and feeling that during our separation and divorce, he made “little boy” decisions not to feel his feelings and not to enjoy his playful side. Recovery has been painful but wonderful as he has been able to revisit that earlier grief, own, express it, and work through it.
July 1, 2018 at 7:00 am #3753
Lori Casey BSN MDiv., BCC-PCHACParticipant@lcasey
The Mom is Just the Moon Reflection
When I read Michelle Butler’s article I was struck by her recollection of the people, what was said (and not said), and how she felt on the day and days immediately after her mother died. Although I was an adult when my mother died, I don’t remember anything- it was a blur. It was interesting to me that at nine, it was important to know her mother was located in a “place.” C.S. Lewis writes of his initial feelings and struggle with simply wanting to know where his wife Joy was located (after her death) in his book, “A Grief Observed.” For Michelle, a child raised in the church, she had learned of a place where people reside after death, but it was a tremendous comfort to locate heaven to specific spot where she could connect with her mom. Missing the bedtime ritual of being tucked in by her mother, she also found comfort in situating the location of heaven/mom in the moon. The moon ‘shining down on her’ reminded her of her mother watching over her until her maturity “pushed away her childhood innocence” and the ability to use her imagination to “overcome the awareness of her mother’s absence.”
My mother suffered with so much pain for over three years before her death, that when I would go home to visit my parents, I would often hear her crying and asking God to help her bear the pain, take the pain away or let her die. I never struggled with wanting to know the place or location of her soul (in terms of where Heaven is on Google maps) because I was so relieved she was not suffering anymore. Now I think of her “out there somewhere in the presence of God.” When I go home (Huntington, IN) I visit her grave and I am grateful for the tangible place to take flowers. My sister placed a solar flower near her headstone. My brother brought wind chimes, and my father still agonizes over the type of granite he bought for her headstone (there is humor in this as my mother was an interior decorator and he knew he had to “get it right.”) Taking flowers to my mom’s grave is comforting to me.
Michelle writes that her father’s patient listening, willingness to grieve with her, the words “If we stick together, we can make it” were a source of comfort and hope for her brother and herself. The many hours her father spent listening to her, the pastor’s counseling and the many women who were supportive and “gave her pieces of of the childhood she would have had with her mother” were all instrumental in providing a foundation for those days/weeks when grief would seem to incapacitate.
For those who lose a parent, sibling or a caretaker who is as close as a parent at a young age, grief would be cyclical as maturity would bring about new or different questions and a sort of new need to make sense of the death and loss. I really appreciate how she revisits for us her grief progression through time. I resonate with her in the many ways grief is so very hard, and that at times, and fully expressing all emotions, recognize that she is right, sometimes even “comfort is not enough.” Sometimes there is a hole in my heart that aches for what was or what might have been. But then the reality of the ravages of disease reminds me that the living with my mother in intractable pain was much harder than the living is without her suffering.
In our readings for this class, the most prominent themes for moving through grief include of the necessity of sincerely caring people who are dependably present, comfortable with grief, and extremely good listeners.
July 2, 2018 at 8:23 pm #3770
Lori, I really appreciate your observations about the author’s need to locate heaven to a specific spot where she could connect with her mom and still feel her presence, watching out over her from the moon. I can imagine that grief would have been more difficult for her otherwise. I appreciated that Michelle was able to find that place for herself, as opposed to the church or her family trying to impose it upon her. I wonder if that would have been effective, or if it would have ended up just alienating her from the people trying to support her? That would be my guess – a rejection of an externally imposed “place.” I wish the author had discussed whether or not her view of heaven today is colored by the comfort and contact she experienced believing her mother was on the moon when she was so young and sad.
I especially appreciate your willingness to share your story about your own mother, and your relief that she is not struggling anymore – that living without her is preferable to living with her in intractable pain. I have also never struggled with wanting to know precisely and scientifically where my mom’s soul is – I really like how you describe it as “out there somewhere in the presence of God.” That is exactly the kind of heaven my mom would have wanted to end up in anyway!!
The author was indeed very blessed and lucky to be surrounded by people who supported her and let her grieve, while supporting her and gave her such a solid foundation.
July 2, 2018 at 8:27 pm #3772
Rick, thank you for sharing your story about your son and his struggles, as well as his recovery and growth. Grieving is painful whenever you do it, and so many people push it down deep and fail to process and work with it for years. As with your son, I have seen people who have been liberated by facing and processing their grief years after their loss, evidence to me that God is always at work and things are never perfect.
July 6, 2018 at 1:54 pm #3802
I came away from this article reminded of how resilient children truly can be, especially when adults support them and honor their grief. I love that her father never answered her difficult theological questions but rather sat with her as she struggled with the questions (her dad would have made a good chaplain) I admit that in my ministry I struggle with why God allows children to lose their parents, what sense could that possibly make? I am thankful we have a wonderful nonprofit in our community, called New Hope for Kids that provides grief support for kids who have lost important people, often parents. They provide a support group for children to be other children and the adults have a group of their own at the same time. It is amazing that her father was able to be so present with her, even in his own grief. I often encourage adults of children to find other people to support and love their children through a major loss in addition to them (if they are the parents) because the parents are trying to cope with their own grief. I remember in my first unit of CPE we had to draw a picture of the first time we remember hearing or understanding about death. It was my grandpa’s funeral. As I mentioned in another post the wake was in his home for a few days so I had the support of our church and community. We then brought chairs from the church and set them up in the living room for service. I still remember sitting on my dad’s lap for the service. It was the only time I saw my dad cry in all of his 70 years. As the author so eloquently described, having a father who teaches one how to grieve openly, express feelings, and remember, makes it possible for us to indeed continue to have a happy childhood!
July 6, 2018 at 2:01 pm #3803
I too had to watch my mom decline and toward the end I would say suffer. She was on hospice and lost her mobility the last two months and that was very hard on her. The last week I was able to be with her as she kept asking me where the light was? She couldn’t find it and she was ready to go! I resonate with your deep feelings of loss and wanting things to be different but realize that for my mom it was time to go to the next life, but like the author, wonder desperately where she is and if she likes heaven as much as we have been led to believe we will. The list of those I love who are there continues to grow so she will have others to talk to – and I can’t help but wonder if they talk about me? See me? Help me in some abstract way. I have a bird feeder in my backyard and cardinals have always reminded me of my parents and I have a pair that come and eat at the feeder each day. I call them my “mom and dad” — in a way it comforts me and helps me to think they are close by.
July 8, 2018 at 1:50 pm #3807
Lori Casey BSN MDiv., BCC-PCHACParticipant@lcasey
Dierdre, It is such a comfort when things that are meaningful things, symbols, or objects comfort us when they seem to be more prevalent after the death and loss of a loved one. A dear friend of mine saw a rainbow as she left the hospital after her husband died and she firmly believes God was comforting her in and through the rainbow. She loves butterflies and believes her husband comforts and encourages her through butterflies that appear at unusual moments.
Carolyn, I too wondered why she didn’t talk much about her brother and his grief other than to say that her dad initially told them they needed to “stick together.” And I think you are right about not focusing much on him as her grief was self focused at that time. I also agree that she was extremely fortunate to have a father who was patient and allowed her to grieve via many emotions without correction or guilt (ie. “you should not say such things, or be mad at God….etc….). He listened to her questions, comforted her in her grief and modeled what adult grief can look like. I found her tattoos interesting. Initially I wondered if they were a testimony to the significance her parents have/had in her life. But maybe I am way off base. Maybe they are an affirmation of her love for them, and an abiding reminder of their love, comfort and presence with her always? One more thing I really liked about the article, she described the comfort she received from locating her Mother in the moon and then she allowed us to see her journey maturing through this belief. Dierdre and Carolyn, I too would like to ask her in what way her own experiences in grief have helped her to help other children.
July 10, 2018 at 1:16 pm #3812
Inanimate objects can also be a big comfort. After my mom died, we had her shirts made into teddy bears and bible covers. She had some ugly shirts but they made great teddy bears; I have mine in my room and can see it every day, and my children were able to cuddle and hold their bears and feel connected to a grandmother they will never truly know.
We also have an ongoing ritual that has helped in our grief and has brought joy. Rather than marking the day she died, we continue to celebrate my mom’s birthday every year. We go out and eat ice cream (her favorite food) for dinner – no veggies, just ice cream! My kids love this ritual and while they may not always be able to tell you when my birthday is, they can absolutely tell you when my mom’s birthday is! She would have gotten a kick out of this, and it has brought me joy to find a way to celebrate her life. It has also given me opportunities to talk to my kids about her and about my own grief.
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