Wednesday, a few hours before Kate got home from school, there was a knock at my door. It was our neighbor, one of our favorite regular visitors at our house. She had a strange look on her face and she asked me if we’d seen Seal, Kate’s cat, that day.
My heart dropped. He had been mysteriously missing all day, which happens from time to time, so I hadn’t been too concerned.
But there was a reason Seal hadn’t been around. He had been hit by a car earlier that day. The thought of telling Kate her beloved cat had died made me want to throw up.
Peter, who always gets handed the job of digging the graves of our pets, put Seal in a box and dug the hole.
And then Kate was home and we had to break the news that the cat she’d loved for 3 years was gone.
There is nothing worse than knowing you are going to break the heart of your child. To sit them down and look them in the eye and know that your words will cause pain and sorrow.
I was reminded, while holding her sobbing body, that death, not matter how small, is always sad. And these moments are what deepen and mature her. Sadness changes us, even the ones we may foolishly deem insignificant.
She wasn’t sure if she could face school the next day or her baseball game the day after that, but I cupped her sweet face in mine and I said, “Kate, you are braver than you think. You can do this.” And guess what? She is.
We do our best to protect our kids from the weight of the world, but I was reminded again this week that it’s an impossible task. It’s necessary to let them grieve. If I’m going to raise kids who are brave and alive, I want to be the one who gently teaches them that life has rough and rotten days.
In my heart, I know I’m not raising a kid…. I’m raising an adult. And the way I respond and lead her through this time that is so very sad for her will shape how she processes death and disappointment. Now, I’m tempted to think I’ve put in my time when her sister died seven years ago, but the truth is, how she processed death when she was two is completely different from how she’s processing it now. I’ve had to put aside my thoughts of how she should be reacting, and instead let her work it out herself.
While I want to take it away, fix it, and protect her, I can’t. So I’ve done a lot of listening, holding, and comforting this week. I listen as the anguish pours out and we cry with together. She texted her teacher, told her friends and made a special frame with Seal’s picture.
I don’t always get it right. I don’t always have the words to say or the patience I need with my kids. But I do know that when the hard days come, my kids need to know down to the tips of their toes that my heart is busted open for them. I want them to be confident that I’m on their team and I hurt with them, but I can’t rescue them from the sadness of the world. And while it breaks my heart to see the tears pooling in her eyes, I know that the words I spoke over her are true.
She’s braver than she thinks.
I’m so very glad you’re here. I hope you’ll stick around so we can get to know one another a little more. Go here if you’d like to receive my posts via email. –Sarah