Saturday, September 17, 2011

Big Grief for a Little Girl

As a I child I was sort of sheltered from death ~ and I grew up with huge fears about death because of it.  I vowed to introduce the concept early to my children and make sure they knew it was a natural part of life.  Gianna was three weeks old when I took her to the funeral home for the first time.  She's probably been at least 25 times since then. It became a little ministry for her. She loves to pray for the deceased and her favorite thing is to give them blessings (making the sign of the cross on their forehead.)  She has always been a little light for the grieving family members - giving hugs, turning on her charm and even performing. She often spoke of heaven and the people we knew who were there.
When I walked in my parents home to tell them and Gianna of Iain's tragic death, I didn't beat around the bush.  There is no sugar-coating death. (Well, maybe there is - but I don't see what good it does.)  I told her Daddy got very sick and died. She knew about heaven, about the funeral home, about caskets - it was all part of her vernacular. I told her that we were going to be very sad for a very long time...and that would be okay.  I told her that God would help us, but we couldn't see Daddy anymore here and he couldn't live with us anymore since he'd be in heaven. Oh, how I hated telling her that.
 Daily conversations help clarify this reality - for both of us.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Most days have a 'normal' feel to them.  I'm not sure how that's even possible.  At least once a day, I make sure something special is planned just for Gianna. It helps to have something to look forward to.
It might be as simple as playing outside in this amazing weather.
Or finally enjoying the parks as the weather cools a bit...
Or picking satsumas from our tree... 
Or enjoying a play date...

Sometimes there are activities for her all day long.
But there's always at least one thing that's fun and special.

* * * * * * *
Two weeks after Iain's death, we stayed in town with my parents to make life a little easier for us. We've been back home in the Bluff for three weeks now and settling back into some semblance of normalcy.  It's actually been good to be home. Gianna is happy to be in her space.  It's good to have lots of reminders of Daddy around.....and sometimes really sad.

* * * * * * *

Overall, Gianna has been a gem these last five weeks.  She is affected by grief much of the same way I am. 
*  She's so tired, but dreads going to sleep. (Being alone with thoughts is a frightening thing while grieving.) 
*  She fell out of bed a half dozen times the first ten days. (Probably because her sleep was so fitful.)
* Her appetite is only now starting to return.  Food is not terribly interesting to her these days.
*  She melts down for the smallest things - and then falls apart into heartbreaking sobs.  Every single disappointment, frustration, sadness or irritation is exacerbated by Iain's death. (For both of us.)
*  She refuses to take a nap at my mom's house. The day Iain died she had just woken from her nap when I came to share the horrible news.  She's made that association and even asked, "Did Daddy die because I was at MeMaw's house?"  God bless my very smart, broken-hearted child.
*  She was very angry at me the first few weeks and went nuts every time I showed signs of sadness.  She really acted out (or tried to) the first few weeks.  There was just no other safe place to direct her anger - than toward me.  That's part of the toughest part of this ordeal.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I keep a Jelly Book where I record many of the great things Gianna says and does.  I suppose this could be considered the grief edition:

Gianna talks about him a lot.  A few days after he died while she was giving us one of her 'live concerts' with her guitar in tow - I mentioned that I bet Daddy was in heaven telling all the people,
"Would you just look at my baby girl!  She is amazing! Yep, that's my Monkey-Doo!"
She was intrigued by that comment and it began an interesting occurrence...

Regularly (most often when we're in the car) she asks me,
"What do you think Daddy is saying to me right now?"
Early on she said, "You be Daddy."
So, I lower my voice and tell her what I think Iain might be saying.
G: Oh Daddy, I miss you so much.
Me as Daddy:  Oh, sweetheart, I'm really really close to you.  I miss you too, but I'm watching over you from heaven.
G:  Daddy I laid on you and kissed you and talked to you (at the funeral home.)
Me as Daddy:  I know, sweet girl, I remember everything. I hear you every time you talk to me.
G:  Daddy, I whispered to you to wake up.
Me as Daddy: Oh I know.  I wish I could have woken up for you - but now I have to love you from heaven.
G:  Can you give me hugs and kisses.
Me as Daddy: Oh yes. I do all the time.  We call them heaven hugs and heaven kisses.
G: Daddy, can you please love Mommy big big.  She is really really sad.
Me as Daddy:  (Almost not able to speak)  Oh yes, I promise I will always love your Mommy in a very special way.
G:  You live in my heart, Daddy.
Me as Daddy: You live in my heart too, Gianna  I love you so much.
G: I love you big much too Daddy.

Sometimes the conversations go on for 20 minutes.
Sometimes she tells him what she's been doing. Sometimes she asks him big questions.  Sometimes she shares her love and longing. Sometimes she even shares her sadness and anger.
And sometimes, I am choking back tears and can hardly answer her.
Thank God this precious child is still communicating with and loving her Daddy.
I am sure he is beyond proud.
I know I am.

* * * * * * *
She comes to be fairly often with tears spilling from her eyes saying,
"Mommy, my heart is brokeeen."

* * * * * * * *
G:  Oh Mommy, my drips keep coming out. (tears)
Me:  I know, my love, but that's how God helps to heal our broken hearts.  Our tears help release some of the sad from our hearts.
G:  But my sad won't stop leaking out.
(Neither will mine, sweet girl.)

* * * * * * *
Gianna asked the other night if she could have some medicine before bed.
I asked her why she needed medicine.
"To take my sad away." she replied.

* * * * * * *
Tonight during prayer she asked me if I loved her.
"Oh yes! My heart is so FULL of love for you it feels like it will burst!"
"Oh," she said, "My heart is full of sad."

* * * * * * *
Be assured that, overall, this precious child is doing remarkably well....all things considered.

She is my sunshine and my amazing grace.
We laugh a lot and have a lot of 'normal' moments sprinkled throughout our grief.
We continue to ride on the prayers of SO MANY people.
I'm certain those prayers are the reason I'm able to get out of bed every morning and function with some sort of regularity.....even with grace and peace. There is no explanation, but prayer!
Thank you to all you prayer warriors who continue to lift us up.
I am so very grateful.


  1. You are a remarkable woman! I love that you are sharing your thoughts and moments here. I find myself going back and rereading your posts. I try to somehow make myself breath in your pain and grief to make your pain and grief go away. But I know I can not. Gianna could not have a better mother. She needs you so much now more than ever. From what I can read (and reread) you are doing an amazing job. I always want to post something in return but find myself at a loss. Please consider me a prayer warrior, this is all I feel I can do for the days, weeks, months and years that will pass. I love y'all.

  2. Maria, your latest blog reminded me yet again how very special you are. Your thoughts turned into words are inspirational, how are you the rock in this, I often ask myself. I have not kept in touch with so many individuals from my past which breaks my heart sometimes. How lucky we are that technology has enabled us to re-connect. Although this should never replace the face to face contact. Please know that my prayers are with you and your precious little girl. I did not have the pleasure of meeting Iain, which makes me even more sad, but your writing somehow creates an introduction on it's own. I hope to see you soon, but in the meantime, please know that I am thinking of you often. Beth Tramonte Land

  3. Maria you have done your daughter such a service in life! It is beautiful how you are supporting her through your grief. We had our God son Wil spend the night with us a week ago. It has been a year and a half since we lost his father to cancer and he has always said things like I see daddy in the clouds, he is looking at me from heaven, and he calls me on heavens phone. It was all so sweet. His mother recently started dating and as he was filling me in in the car he told me my other dad ,pat, is in heaven he is gone and I am going to have a new daddy now. It was so hard for me to swallow because I felt like we were leaving him behind, but then I was so happy that he had reached the stage of acceptance. Children are so resilient I thank God that Gianna has you and that you have Gianna everyday!

  4. Jelly Book posts always leave me in tears. However, this edition left me in tears for completely different reasons. You and Gianna together make a perfect team. Same as Sarah said, count me as one of your warriors too!

  5. Dearest Maria:

    What a wonderful post! It is a tribute to you and your wonderful ability as a mother. How lucky you and Gianna are to have each other during this difficult time. I hope the book I gave you helps you to always remember that our loved ones are very near and that Heaven is not some far-away place - no, it is very near, which is why it is so easy for our loved ones to reach out to us from the other side. (Which is what I think Jesus meant when He said that the Kingdom of God was at hand.) I hope you take with you the valuable lessons in the book and that as the days go by, you'll start to recognize the signs of Iain's presence (lights flickering,the phone ringing and no one's there, the dreams) and all of the other marvelous ways he'll reach out to the both of you from now on. Our loved ones NEVER leave us - they're just with us in a different way, which is why there really is no such thing as goodbye - there's only (as Camille says) "To be continued..." If you EVER need re-assurance, please feel free to call me and I'll share with you the many ways "Old Liz" has made HER presence known! Love you much!

  6. To say that your blog touches my heart is an understatement.WOW.You have a gift in writing that makes the reader feel like I am a part of your family by birth and not just as a member of the Body of Christ.Thank you so much for sharing in the blessed way that you do.I am one of the many who lift you and Gianna in prayer.

  7. Oh Maria, my heart breaks for you & Gianna everyday. Y'all have been on my mind everyday since Iain died. I cannot believe it has been five weeks. Your conversation between Gianna & Daddy in heaven left me in tears. I wish I could take away even a fraction of your pain. Please know I am lifting you up and praying for peace & acceptance for you. As a survivor (of my baby girl & then a year later, my mother), I can promise you that time will help lessen your sorrow. It may be a long time, but eventually you will feel better. Sending much love your way.
    Melissa Lowe

  8. I still think of you both & keep you in my prayers.

  9. o Maria, what a wonderful love y'all have for our God and for each other.


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