Raine has been struggling since my grandmother passed away. There have been some good days but mostly she’s been very off. The herbal medication that’s been working wonders for nearly a year is no longer making any difference. Most of the time, Raine is edgy and filled with anxiety.
When I ask how I can help, her answer is, “Can you change death? That’s all that can help me now.” Loss has marked her life in a variety of ways. Losing her great-grandmother is likely opening old wounds.
To cope, Raine and Athena play “funeral”. Athena pretends to be dead. Raine races around the house “trying to get to the funeral on time!” No doubt this has to do with the concern about being late for my grandmother’s funeral. As we were about to leave, the dog we’re watching escaped from the backyard. Piling the kids and the babysitter into the car, we drove around to find him. Then I brought them all to my parents’ house where the babysitter was to watch my kids and my nephew. Arriving slightly later than I’d hoped, my brother-in-law was no where near ready. So we waited. With whispered speculations, I wondered if we’d make it on time.
In the children’s game, there are several versions. In one, Raine makes it on time and is unsure how to mourn the loss of her sister. Another involves Raine being so late she misses the funeral and Athena is already buried – under a blanket or the dinning room table. In the third version, “Jesus makes Athena come alive again.” Then there is much rejoicing and no need for a funeral.
Hoping to ease Raine’s grief, we visited my grandmother’s grave last Friday. I brought daisies from our garden for the girls to put there. We parked by the funeral home, then walked across the bridge and over to the cemetery. That way Raine would have the full picture of the funeral and graveside procession.
I don’t know if it helped. But we did it.
Mostly, I’ve been telling her how brave she is. “You love even though your heart’s been hurt. That makes you especially brave.” It is remarkably brave for Raine to open her heart to so many when she’s lost so much in her short life (birth parents, other birth siblings, the home she knew, the country she was born in, friends of mine who have moved on with life, Sabrina* and Megan* – foster children who were with us for a very long time – and the list goes on).
Still Raine greets everyone with confident exuberance. She’s sure she’ll be loved and is ready to do the same. Even in the midst of grief, Raine is choosing to love.