What they never told me was what stage four cancer meant for dad. I mean, how do you explain that to a child? How do you say something like, “Hey, your father has cancer and one day, it may take him from us.” There is no easy way to have that conversation, in my opinion. It hurts to even think about having to tell anyone that, let alone a child.
This day for me was January 26, 2002. Dad’s cancer had taken a turn for the worse, and mom had to bring him to the hospital. My brothers and I spent the night with our grandparents and got woken up by a phone call. I heard cries, screams… but young me just couldn’t comprehend what was going on. We all piled in the car and went to the hospital. The family was sitting around, mourning, and there I sat, twiddling my fingers just wondering why we had to wake up and see daddy at the hospital. The family began leaving, and mom came to take us home. I looked all around and said these words, “Mommy, where is daddy? Is he coming home with us?” The tears from our loved ones all around us began to flood the room. I didn’t understand what was happening. I knew Dad was sick but we all get sick, right? When we get sick, we go to the doctor, get some medicine and get better. Dad had been through months of chemo, and I thought he was getting better. Daddy died that day.
You may wonder something like, “Does my child even understand what it means to die?” There are a lot of things that we shy away from because we don’t believe the child is ready or able to understand. Children grieve. While they may grieve differently than adults, they grieve. It took me years to realize that sometimes healing takes place in this life, and sometimes healing takes place in the next. My mother was very proactive and made sure we (mom, me and my brothers) went to grief counseling. We sat in a room, talked about our feelings, and she even gave us great coping strategies to help us get through hard times. But how do you grieve when you’re still trying to comprehend the magnitude of what’s happening? I was seven years old when dad died, so by this time I knew dad wasn’t going to appear magically, but I still didn’t understand what I was feeling and how to move through those feelings. I felt trapped for many years of my life because there was a hole that needed to be filled and I didn’t understand how to fill it. I was mad at God because I just didn’t understand why He would allow a little girl and two young men to grow up without her father. We struggled a lot, and we all grieved differently. I looked online and pulled this list of a few ways people negatively deal with grief:
Since the age of seven, I have dealt with 11 out of 14 of this list. It’s true when you hear things like, “It doesn’t get easier, you just get better.” I had to understand what grief was. I had to understand that grief was natural, and IT’S OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY! I had to understand Dad’s healing wasn’t meant to be on this side of heaven. I had to understand his life, his impact and his legacy. Kenneth Carl Douglas, Sr. was a phenomenal man. I will forever be his little princess, his peanut. He still finds ways to show up when I need him the most.
1. On January 26, 2009, my niece was born. Every year on this day, we celebrate her life. She is our reason to smile on this day. Her light, her spirit, her smile and the peace she brings is everything my father was.
2. My husband looks exactly like my father! I thought, “You marry your father” was a joke until I saw this side by side…
3. My husband and I decided to get married on my father’s birthday. Every year we not only celebrate our union, but we celebrate the man my father was and the life he lived for us.
4. My father impacted the world. I can’t go long without someone telling me about how my father would give the best hugs, the best advice, the best prayer, how he was the best friend, brother, son, singer, minister, or just all-around person. I always hear stories of how he gave his last for people and how much he loved. My father was the definition of Christ-like. Maybe that’s why they needed to be together.
I understand this may be a hard thing to discuss with your children. So to help with teaching them about grief and how to navigate through it, here are a few books we have at BeBOMBBookClub.com.
Cameron's Dream: Cameron is a Dreamer! He dreams of becoming a professional wrestler, riding roller coasters, playing with his friends, even having a puppy. One night, Cameron is given a dream so special, he'll cherish it forever. 'Cameron's Dream' is an inspirational Children's book that invites the reader (children and adults alike), to consider the beautiful and exciting afterlife of loved ones who have passed away. Unlike other books that focus on the mourning and grieving process, this book celebrates life, is joyous and uplifting; and is filled with illustrations of a Heaven that children can relate to and are likely comforted by.
Lauryn and the Butterfly: One day, Lauryn's dear friend, Ms. Mary wakes up filled with joy and excitement when she finds herself in a new, amazing, and wondrous place! However, Ms. Mary becomes worried that Lauryn is alone and missing her... Then a very special someone sends Lauryn a beautiful reminder of her dear friend, that Lauryn will cherish forever.
What About Me? I'm Sad, Too.: What About Me? I'm Sad Too., is an activity book for children and grown ups to understand the different emotions of having to deal with grief at a young age. As adults, when dealing with death, it is easy to forget that children are grieving too. On your journey through What About Me? I'm Sad Too., Children's Grief Activity Book, you will explore different activities to aid children with opening up and understanding about their feelings when someone they love dies. This activity book is designed to help children and adults venture through their grief journey, and in doing so, find a sweet comfort as they walk through the "not so good feelings" together.
Two things in life are certain; we must be born and we must die. Death is natural. Grief is natural. Teach your children about grief and give them positive ways to work through it. Here is a list of ways to positively cope with grief from The Lighthouse Treatment Center: