Lessons From My Grandson About How to Grieve

 In Grandchildren, Grandparents, Grief loss

For many, 2012 was a mixed bag of good and bad.  I suppose life is this way in general.  Once we come to accept it, we are better equipped to deal with it.  Forest Gump’s mom got it right, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get”.

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Cameron at the Morton Arboretum two weeks after his father died.

2012 was a rough year for my eleven year-old grandson, Cameron.  In March his father died from complications due to a heart condition.  It was difficult watching him walk through what was before him.  A few things are harder than that feeling of helplessness while standing alongside a loved one experiencing a loss.

A few weeks later, Cameron and I took our annual “guys weekend” when we celebrate his birthday in a hotel (usually one with an indoor water park).  The year before he asked me if I wanted to read a chapter from a book he downloaded free from iTunes.  I was expecting some kids book, perhaps the latest Harry Potter.  Instead, the title read“Why God Allows Suffering”.  I was taken aback by his selection, but we sat side-by-side on the bed and read a chapter, then talked about it.  Thinking back, I wonder if somehow God was preparing him for what would come a year later.

Our weekender this past March was special.  I recorded everything on my iPad and created a movie for him.  We had several talks over the weekend about his dad and he opened up about his loss.  I couldn’t imagine what it was like for him to lose his dad at such a tender young age.  My dad died in my mid-thirties and that was real hard on me.

In the summer, his baseball team played for the championship and won the game.  All his family was with him including his dad’s parents.  It was quite an emotional moment for all.  The remaining warm months found us at Great America, screaming with hands raised on the thrill rides and frolicking at the water park. Later in the fall I won a silent auction for an organization I support called OrphaNetwork.  The prize was two prime tickets to a Chicago Bulls basketball game.

On December 8th I surprised him with another “guys weekend”.  We had a blast watching the Bulls trounce the New York Knicks! I have come to anticipate one or more deep conversations with Cameron.  Of course, he did not disappoint.  During halftime at the game he asked me about a book I just finished writing (due out this year).  Then he said, “I would like to write a book Papa.” When I asked him what he planned to write about he said, “I would like to write about what it is like from a kid’s perspective to lose a member of the family.” I told him that I have never heard a book written from a child’s perspective and thought it was intriguing. 

The remainder of the weekend he asked several more questions about how to start writing the book.  I told him I would help him with the project in 2013. Six days later the nation was shook by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children and six adults were killed during a mass murder.  At LifeWork we acted quickly, writing to parents how to help their children process what occurred.

Cameron, without prompting from any adult, emailed the principal at his grade school (Hale Elementary School) and suggested the school do something to show support to Sandy Hook and the community of Newtown, Connecticut.  He asked if on the upcoming Friday, one week after the horrible event, students could wear the school colors of Sandy Hook and place ribbons around the school in to show support to Sandy Hook. His idea caught fire and the whole school got behind the effort.  Many students bore the green and white colors and stood outside in the cold tying ribbons on the fence around the school.  Channel 2 News showed up with a camera crew and filmed the event.  It appeared later that evening on the six o’clock news.  You can see the clip, including an interview with Cameron and my daughter by visiting this link:http://chicago.cbslocal.com/video/8095460-chicago-6th-grader-pays-tribute-to-sandy-hook-victims/ Cameron has taught me some important lessons in 2002.  Here are a few I’ll leave for you to consider from an eleven year-old boy…

Suffering is a part of life.

God allows it.  We have to learn how to deal with it.  Whether you are an 11 year-old standing at the gravesite of your father, or a parent facing the loss of a child, suffering is a path all of us walk at some point in life.

It is important to talk about your pain.

Let it out.  Talk to someone.  Cameron taught me a lot about this.  We had frequent conversations over the course of 2012.  Usually, he initiated the talks.  I could see that it helped him to process his grieve and normalize it.

It is also important to let go of your pain.

Cameron at the trophy ceremony.  League Champions!

Cameron at the trophy ceremony. League Champions!

Let it go.  Get back to your life.  A few months later, Cameron’s baseball team won the championship in his league.  It was a bittersweet moment.  His dad was not in the stands this time, but he watched from afar.

Turn pain into compassion.

Reach out to others.  See a need, respond to it. I could write more about Cameron’s experiences over the past several years.  In respect of family privacy, I choose not to do so.  Needless, to say he has had a lifetime of hardships packed into his first eleven years on earth.  These experiences while hurtful have also been helpful in shaping the character that people admire.  I hope his story in 2012 will give you a fresh perspective as you venture into 2013.

 

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