We met at a moms retreat and I was immediately drawn by her grace-full demeanor. Later, I was blessed to have Kimberley as my next-door-neighbor for a short time and I treasure our morning coffee times in my heart. I miss those times. Having Kimberley’s words here while I express some thoughts on finding quiet in her little corner is a bit like sharing a morning coffee together. And we would love for you to join us!
I knew that I was not asking an easy thing when I asked Kimberley to share on my blog as her story includes deep pain and grief. Yet, I asked because her wisdom and willingness has offered me much in my own journey. Her words are vulnerable, honest, and for me, life changing.
I can still remember the sound of her screaming reach me down the hall.
The panic that laced through her voice and she wasn’t even 4.
Mama! Mama!! Livie’s opened the door! Jesus is going to take her too!
I remember pulling her close to my heart, trying to slow her breathing with the sound of my own, but how do you fix what was so incredibly broken?
One month earlier, her last memory of her Papa was of watching him walk out that door.
He never came back.
Instead, in the cold of a December afternoon, he hung himself from a tree.
Three of his sons found him 2 days later.
It was New Year’s Eve.
What should have been a joyous celebration, the birth of a New Year found us completely shattered with grief.
She began asking where her Papa was and we innocently told her as simply as we knew how that he was with Jesus in heaven.
But Lyla took that to mean that if you walk out that door and she wasn’t with you, you are not coming back.
12 short months later, we made the excruciatingly hard decision to move back down to the United States after attempts at reconciliation failed and we became estranged from my family.
Suddenly, I found myself grieving not only my father-in-law, but grieving the loss of family and the hard emotions of that settled deep into my heart that was already barely keeping itself above water.
Naively I thought that my three children, 4 years old and under, were too young to be affected too terribly and while 2 of my 3 are not as cognizant of what we went through, that was probably the worst assumption I made.
It’s easy to believe that children are resilient because they are. But the reality is, it is because they have no choice.
It has been 28 months since suicide entered into our lives,
13 1/2 months since we packed everything up and moved away from our life, job, friends and community
And we are only beginning now to see a small measure of healing in the life of my oldest.
Marissa asked me to write on how to help little ones deal with the loss of a loved one and to be frank, this has been hard for me to compose…
I think because it is still so very on-going.
But if I have anything of worth to share with you, it would be this:
- Allow yourself to grieve. As your small ones see you wrestle through the big and scary emotions of sadness and grief, you are giving them the tools to find their own voice to navigate through what is unknown and so very large. Allowing them to see your tears, to hear you voice your pain shows them that it is okay to feel.
- Expect the unexpected. We have lived in the town we live in now for the past 12 months. Life has settled down for the most part and I can find myself caught up in the lull of normalcy. Until. And that word is key. I am always amazed at what can trigger the grief in Lyla. Anything from the first snowfall, to a sunny day, to a cancelled play date or the wrong thing made for dinner. Suddenly her face crumples and all she wants to do is to go home. And that is when I have to stop and consciously put everything down and pull her in close and let her cry it all out. When the unexpected comes up, everything needs to slow down.
- Look deeper. I loved our little yellow house that we lived in for 3 years. Loved. It. I never wanted to move, much to the questioning of others around me. To me, it was home and where we were surrounded by the sweetest neighbours (of whom, Marissa was one). In the unexpected moments where grief spills out, Lyla especially focuses hard on wanting to go back to our yellow house. Rarely does she voice the who she is missing, she voices the what. I have learned that I need to draw out who the house represents to her in that moment and help her talk through the big emotions that are rooted deep. It can be exhausting, for both of us, but it is worth it to see the calm that settles over at the end.
- Get Involved. When we pulled into this town, we knew no one. At all. We had no roots here, no family, or friends. I am a homebody by nature and if it had just been me and Tony moving to the foreign and unknown, I would have been content to hole up in our house and never leave. But I have three very social children who were feeling very displaced and confused. I knew that I had to find a way to get involved. Even if you are in a place where you know a million people, there is a tendency to want to curl inward and protect what feels vulnerable and fragile. I had to resist that feeling for the sake of my little ones and so I prayed for strength and courage and you know what? He opened doors and hearts and within 2-3 months we found ourselves being embraced by an amazing community here who have welcomed us in and come alongside us as we still deal with the reality that our lives are completely different than we ever dreamed they would be.
- Choose to be vulnerable and transparent. When you have been hurt or experienced any sort of trauma, being vulnerable is the last thing one may want to do. And for a while, we had made the decision to “put it all behind us” and move forward. But the thing with children? They live in the emotion of the moment. If they are hurting or grieving or celebrating or playing, they experience each emotion fully right where they are. And those emotions are carried over into whatever situation they find themselves in. I found myself having to explain behavior patterns and the sudden tears and panic and terror that would arise and leave those around us confused and shocked. And I found that in embracing our journey that we have been given to walk through, I was also opening up my heart again and teaching my little ones to do the same. In doing so, in being vulnerable with our hurt and our grief and the horrific loss of family that we experienced, our grief is being tempered with the Family of God that we find ourselves surrounded by. In watching their parents learn to trust and hope again, my children are learning that yes, pain will enter into the picture, but Jesus provides what we need to get through each moment.
- Be thankful. Why? Because Jesus lovingly tells us to. And to be honest, those two words can seem like the most cruel, the most mocking in the middle of deep and all-consuming grief. But can I tell you here, that the practice of being thankful has kept me sane. By choosing to be thankful no matter the situation, I’ve found Him to be so very faithful and I can trust that all that He has allowed is for His greater good. No, I am not at the point I can give thanks for suicide, but I can thank Jesus for His presence and strength to walk through this valley I never wanted to enter into. No, I am not at the point that I can give thanks for rejection and unresolved brokenness, but I can thank Jesus for His promise that He will never forsake me, that He will take me in, that He places the lonely in families and He is near to the brokenhearted. And as I repeat these truths to myself – yes, out loud in the crazy moments of a chaotic day that finds me easily in tears, I hear their three little voices begin to remind me where to place my eyes: “Mama, let’s thank Jesus together. Let’s thank Him that you have the three best children ever!” And in those moments, I can see clearly that I really, really do.
Elias, my youngest, is at the age and height where he has figured out how to reach and unlock the front door and throw it wide open.
The other morning as I was getting ready in our bedroom, I heard the unmistakable sound of the garage door opening…
And giggling, I heard lots of giggling.
I rushed down the hall and through our kitchen to see what was going on and I found him there, surrounded by his sisters; all three of them caught up in the moment of conspiring together to be sneaky.
But what I noticed, more than anything -outside the unmistakable feeling of being outnumbered by three children bound and determined to conquer every closed and locked space in this house?
It was the absence of fear on the face of my oldest.
We are getting there, slowly. Some days and moments I wonder if what we went through has permanently damaged young hearts, and then a front door is pulled open and a calm voice calls down the hall,
“Mama! Elias is trying to escape again.”
Fear entered in through a door pulled closed,
But healing breathes through these walls as what has been sealed up by grief is flung open wide.
And we welcome Hope in…
Kimberley loves Jesus, her husband Tony, her Lyla, her Olivia and her Elias. She loves to bake and to knit and to read and to talk and to laugh and to cry. Jesus has met her in amazing ways in the amazingly mundane and you can read what she shares as she stays up way too late with a coffee cup in hand at My Little Corner…She would love to meet you there.