Courage Is Having To Discuss Death With My Children
| Jessica Czamanski
Growing up, I always felt like I needed to catch up, to be more than I was , to be the “adult” in the room. I was always wanting to control my life and every situation around me. And I could get *very bossy* – even with my friends during playtime.
I was always quite mature, sometimes too mature for my age. Unfortunately, this continued throughout my life and exacerbated when my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and subsequently died 9 months later.
I was 13 at the time and had a younger brother who was 10.
I felt lost, incomplete, and most of all, I was full of fears. I felt insecure and unprotected. And even though I had enough caring friends and family members around supporting me, the fears were still there.
Growing up, I always relied on my mom. I loved asking for her opinion and I trusted her more than anyone else. So now I had to figure out life on my own, wondering what her advice and opinions would be.
As I became an adult and important life events happened, I deeply missed her. Every graduation, milestone birthday, my wedding, and eventually the birth of my children were happy events, yet I always missed her deeply. I still do.
Having children stirred a lot of emotions in me. I could not help but think that now I needed to be an adult permanently, while trying to take care of myself and be both mentally and physically healthy for my kids.
Although being a mom completed me and has brought the most joy to my life, it also scares me at times. I knew that eventually my kids would start asking questions about my mom, being the only grandparent they did not have. I was not sure how I would handle this.
Many years had gone by, and even though I had already learned to live with my grief, I was afraid of not being strong enough and keeping it together when those questions arose. I was afraid of not knowing how to answer those questions.
The first time my oldest daughter asked me about her, I gave her a simple explanation about God sometimes needing special people to help him in heaven. Eventually, she learned that there was life and death and the difference between the two, and immediately said
“Your mom is not helping God, she died”.
She was furious and thought I had lied to her with my initial answer. I started to think about the next questions she would ask and how I would answer. I realized how smart my kids were, and that if I did not give them a straight answer they would not be satisfied.
The problem is that I did not want to instill worries in them. For instance, I kept thinking I could not tell them why she passed, or every time I got sick they were going to worry about losing me.
As my kids have grown (currently 7, 5, and 2) the questions keep coming. Once my second daughter was old enough to ask serious questions, I realized I needed to let go of my fear so that I could stop avoiding the reality, my reality, their reality, and give them straightforward, truthful answers.
I knew if they saw me hesitating to answer questions, negativity would build around the subject and that was the last thing I wanted. Although my mom was not physically here, I wanted her to be a part of my children’s lives in a positive and happy way. I decided that I had to talk about my mom’s absence more openly with them, while also explaining to them that sometimes life does not happen as we plan and that we need to enjoy it to the fullest with whatever and whoever we have. I would use these opportunities to build new joyful memories with my kids with my mom embedded in them.
I often tell them stories about things my mom would do for me when I was a kid that I now do for them. I sometimes plan afternoons of baking or cooking using my mom’s recipes and telling them stories of how we used to do the same.
There was one thing I had been avoiding which was watching old videos with them. Every time I watched those on my own, I felt very emotional and cried and I knew if that happened in front of them I would create a sad and somewhat negative experience for them.
Recently, they started asking about how she looked, acted, and even sounded, and this time, rather than avoiding it, I pulled a few videos and spent an unbelievable afternoon watching these with them. They loved seeing their grandmother and being a part of my life when I was their age.
And I am sure they will remember that afternoon forever and so will I.
I was able to keep it together and feel joy rather than sadness!
Grief is never easy, and we are all so different! But one thing is common amongst all of us and it’s that our minds are the most powerful tool we have to manage our emotions. We all have our timeframes and situations, but grief is something we eventually learn to live with and can make the best out of it. I know I will always come across new fears related to my grief, but I will try my best to face them and turn those into new positive experiences and memories.
My greatest fear is something happening to me and having my children live with grief, without a mom, like I did, but since that is something I cannot control…
I choose to face my fear daily and do what I can to stay strong, stay healthy, and be the best mom I can be.