I tried to distract them with a promise of a trip to the store for a treat.
Then I tried to busy them with crayons and paper.
I started a half dozen times and would get a few words in and stop. Stumped. Yet, children are persistent.
As I mentioned just a few posts ago in “Burden Of Truth” it was time to tell the older girls the truth about their father’s death. I knew it was coming with little questions that were leaking out at inopportune times. Inopportune because it was never the right time for me, but then again it never would be.
It began with the Valentine roses. They each had a single bud in a vase and were beginning to fret that if they didn’t get them watered in time they would die. When I hear any word remotely related to death around my children; I cringe. I worry. I over-think. I protect. I hesitated in telling them that the roses began to die the moment they were cut from the bush that contains the roots. I agonized over destroying their dreams that these roses would become a rose bush with enough water and sunlight.
I suppose it is normal to feel this way when death has affected you so closely. It also means we are that much closer to talking about his suicide every time we talk about how things die.
I finally got cornered where telling the truth was the only option. They asked a million questions (actually it was probably just 5 or 6, but it felt like a million) and I answered with the most age appropriate truthful retorts that I could. I then ended it with my usual “Now you explain it to me,” so that I can make sure they understood.
Isabella in her usual logical, yet intuitive 4 year old mind summed it up perfectly and Annie, the emotional 6 year old agreed.
“Daddy’s mind was sick and it made him think different then we do. When he got very sad and his mind hurt one day he decided he would rather die and be an angel. So he used a gun and won’t ever be back where we can see him, but we will keep him in our hearts.”
In that singular moment I was proud and saddened by their grasp of mental illness and suicide.
The truth is out, but there will always be a burden to that truth.
When they asked questions of why couldn’t we see his pain? Why didn’t he go to a doctor and get fixed? I could only answer with “I don’t know and I don’t understand.” They seem to be content with my own lack of understanding. Perhaps they will find comfort in the knowledge that none of us fully understand, but we are in it together. I hope that the honesty and openness of my answers gives them confidence that they can always come to me with anything and I will do my best.
That’s really all I want with the children in my care. The confidence that we may not understand what is around us, but we are in it together. The times we have to face truths that we may not want to; we will survive it together.
The burdens that we were left with have exposed themselves to not be burdens at all, but a bind. A bind that survivors are left with that gives strength.