Wednesday, December 1, 2010


My middling suffers from anxiety. Mild anxiety. Scary movies, thunderstorms, news stories about people dying or hurting each other often came up again at bed time. We've had to shelter her from those things where possible, in ways we never had to do with my tween. It's been what I consider fairly typical: dark basements, heavy wind, unrecognizable noises at night. Around Henry's death it was worse; we couldn't say the word "fire" within a few hours of bed time or she couldn't fall asleep. Hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis all chased her as she lay in bed. Not to mention the kid in her class who watched too much History Channel telling her OVER and OVER according to the Mayans the world was ending in 2012.

That's all gotten better lately. In fact, we've been able to watch the Harry Potter movies with her, which even 6 months ago she couldn't have tolerated. She is now able to identify that as fantasy and cope with the fear that it gives her as entertainment.

This week she and her sister got into a tiff at bedtime. It was insignificant, but left her feeling upset. Which prevented sleep. She got tucked in twice, shed a few tears, and I thought she was off to la la land.

I was in my living room, knitting and unwinding as I do at the end of the day, and she walked over to me, looked me straight in the eye and said,

"How can I overcome my fear of dying?"

I made her ask me twice more, at first thinking she was joking. She had a small smirk on her face, but she does that when she's embarrassed. She sat on my lap and we talked about 15 minutes, and she asked to fall asleep there.

It was the first time since Henry died that one of my children fell asleep on my lap. It was really nice. As she pointed out before she fell asleep, she's too big for me to carry, so I had to wake her to take her back up to bed.

I found her question so profound. Of course that's what all the natural disaster angst has been about. I just didn't know she realized it. She said to me, "I think when you are dead you're just gone," and I didn't argue with her. She was afraid of her 9th birthday coming next week because it meant she was older, and therefore closer to dying. And she asked me about Henry's room. She didn't specify what she was getting at, and I didn't press...I think a lot of the time she doesn't know, and I didn't want to push her. But I think his room bothers her. I feel so blind to makes me sad to see his empty room and his ashes on his bookshelf every time I go up the stairs...but his door is right next to hers. She sees it more than I do. How vapid of me.

I didn't give her answers; I don't have them. I told her that even grownups are afraid of dying. I told her that I don't know what we will do with Henry's room. I told her I get sad and scared too, and try to think about other things. I told her that's why I knit so much. She thought that was funny. I wonder if it would have been easier to have some answers: afterlife, souls, heaven....but those answers beget new questions as well.

My middling is a thinker. She always has been. I'd like to think that she gets that at least in part from me. It's fun to see her brain continue to mature, to let her cognitive abilities catch up to what she tries to understand. When she asked me that question, I couldn't breathe for a second. But I'm proud of her.


rlbates said...

I wish I had some words of wisdom or comfort for her. I know how it is to lose a parent when I was 8 yo, but didn't lose my oldest brother until I was 25 yo. Both are still with me at age 53. I have outlived both. By that, I mean neither made it to age 50 even.

{{{hugs}}} to you both

Sybil said...

I think she was acting as a very well grown up little girl with the confidance to ask her Mum these questions. I also think her Mum was a very clever lady for her answers. Perhaps it may be time to start thinking about Harry's room maybe you should all be talking together that may well bring out even more questions that have to be looked at and listened to and discussed.
Love to you all,
Sybil xx

Doctor Blondie said...

Grownups are afraid of dying too. Some of them accept that life ends, and decide to make most of their time here.
Your daughter seems like a smart girl.

socks said...

I can picture the time you two had together that night.
She is so sensitive, and so are you. She is so loving, and so are you.

And you are so trustworthy that she can say anything and know she will receive your acceptance and compassion and honesty.

"VAPID"? I had to look up that word. Of course it is hard on her to have Henry's room look like he might come home at any moment - who would have thought of that? What an important question.

I know that you will find the answers that will help her, and will help yourself in doing so.

...tom... said...


you said...
"I wonder if it would have been easier to have some answers: afterlife, souls, heaven....but those answers beget new questions as well."

...drolllol... Yeah, prob'ly not a good time to introduce new variables into the 'mix'.

Something like Gentle Willow by Joyce Mills might be of use. That one may be a tad 'young' for her but I do remember it as being a sensitive book.

It is tough to find grieving books that avoid mixing in all those variables mentioned above. Perhaps some searching or readers' recommendations might help find some good ones. (Of course, I have no idea if this approach has already been used...)

Anyway, as a word lover I would of course think of books and the thoughts of others shared there.

Sounds like you have every reason to be proud of her . . .and her of you.


Gentle Willow at Amazon

Kris said...

I don't know how to explain how exactly you described me at that age. I'm so glad that you're taking this path of being proud and honest instead of worrying *with* her; that only makes it worse.