Death is wrong. Death is evil. We know in our hearts this is not how it is supposed to be.
The reality of death takes a long time to seep into the head of an adult. It takes even longer for a child. Our daughter had just turned one when my husband died. Now two years later, death has been a part of her story for as far back as she can remember. There are details I will not share until she is ready, but the reality that her daddy’s body died and he is unable to come back is something that she has been told for two years.
But today while we were visiting the cemetery, a place she loves to go, she told me in her hopeful voice, “Daddy is climbing out of the ground and then he is going to see me and say, ‘you are so wonderful’.” I told her I’m sorry that her daddy is dead and so he cannot climb out of the ground. She told me again that he was going to, but it wasn’t her sure voice; again, it was her hopeful voice.
We got in the car to return to Atlanta, and after going through our, “I’m sorry your husband died” and “I’m sorry your daddy died” conversation, followed by, “I can feel two feelings at once, I’m happy I am with you mommy and I’m sad my daddy is dead,” our conversation returned to daddy’s body being dead. “WAIT!” she suddenly said in pure astonishment, “HE CAN’T PEE?”
Yes, so that is our takeaway today. Daddy is dead, so daddy cannot pee. The reality of death creeps in slowly. These conversations are frequent and almost always initiated by Zoya.
I believe strongly in telling her the truth and at this age, nothing but the truth. Someday she will understand when I say “I think” or “I believe” her daddy came and kissed me goodbye after he was shot. For now we stick with certainties. Of course, I don’t tell her everything. This is not the age to know that a stranger shot her daddy while he was working. This is not the time, but someday, it will be the time. She needs to know her daddy didn’t abandon her willingly. Her story must have a foundation of absolute truth.
A therapist once told me that our ability to live well after trauma isn’t so much dependent upon the severity of the event, but our ability to incorporate what happened into our story. Slowly we are incorporating the truth of his death and our lives into our story, one bodily function at a time.