Monday, September 29, 2014

Are my children pre- or post- grievers? Or...The art of saying goodbye.

I recently posted a blog that explained I am a post-griever. You can read it here 

A couple of weeks ago a friend of Liam’s left for furlough. I didn’t think he was that affected. He saw this friend at school but didn’t spend that much time with him outside of that. But, yesterday he announced he was going to make a card for this friend to send to him in America. Then he said he also wanted to make a card for another friend “for when she goes to America too.” That’s when I realized Liam is already aware of his own feelings of loss and finding ways to deal with it.
As our own family gets closer to our own departure from the place we, and more particularly our children (they have lived in PNG now more than half their lives), call home; I have been pondering what is my children’s grief going to look like and how can I help them process it?

We all experience good-byes. The impact and our ability to verbalize and process these goodbyes vary widely based on many factors including our age and mental well-being at the time. Jesus experienced goodbyes the same as us. In Joyce Rupp’s book Praying Our Goodbyes she writes:
“He, [Jesus] too, had many moments when he felt pulled apart, knew the hurt of leaving behind, felt the emptiness that comes with deep loss. Jesus was not spared the ache and the struggle of letting go.  He knew the price of goodbyes.”

As our MK children grow, they will experience more goodbyes than their non-MK peers. My hope is that I will be able to learn the art of saying goodbye like Jesus so that I can teach and help my children to do the same. I don’t know yet whether they will be post- or pre-grievers but either way I am determined to be there with them, if they want me, so that they won’t feel they are alone in their grief.

Liam, at least right now, shows signs of being a post-griever like me. He doesn’t seem that bothered or sad before his friends leave. But, his melancholy and upset words and attitudes a week, two weeks and even sometimes a month afterwards speaks differently. Those words and attitudes say, “I miss them. I am sad. I am looking forward to when I see them again, but I am unsure when that will be. That uncertainty makes me a little sad and frustrated.”
He certainly is not that verbally articulate, neither is his brother for that matter. Nor will they be when it is our turn to depart. In fact, I anticipate that in addition to these emotions, they will also be wrestling with thoughts similar to, “I am worried I won’t have friends in America. What if no one likes me? What will happen to the friends and things I leave behind?”

I write these things now to not only remind myself but to also ask you who read this, and will be part of our lives when we are in America, to please be aware of how hard this will be for them. After the novelty of the new place wears off, they will go through a period of missing their friends and home. And when they do, they will likely be more grouchy, tearful and generally unpleasant from time to time.

They will be little boys who have had to say goodbye to all that is familiar and home them. And they have a mom who is only just learning how to do this well herself. Thank you in advance for graciousness and patience.

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