I have learned that grief is such an individual thing.
Watching my four children grieve has taught me that.
Each one was in a different place when their dad died,
each one was equipped with different coping mechanisms,
and each experience has been unique.
My youngest son, who was 13 at the time his dad died, really struggled. That seems to be typical for middle school aged children. He bottled things up and did not want to talk. For that matter, he did not want to do anything except watch television, read books, and eat. He would not even turn in the homework that I had helped him to do.
What did we do?
First, I went to see a counselor, who clued me into some of the issues he struggled with.
- I loved him and let the school go.
- We worked on our relationship.
- I took him out of school and for lunch once a week.
- As a family, we talked about a purpose for dad’s death.
- We pitched mulch together.
- We turned more to God.
- I encouraged him to go somewhere by himself and ‘talk’ things over with his dad.
- I found moments to talk with him about things little by little.
I did not know it at the time, but Eric also wrote…
A month ago I found this poem on the floor by his desk. I picked it up and read it. It was amazing, and I thought how much it fit him and how I saw that 13 year old boy stricken with grief.
I asked him where he found the poem. To my surprise, he told me that he had written it. I was really impressed and told him how wonderful I thought it was… heart wrenching…but so heartfelt.
Then I said, “So you’re the boy…”
“Do you still feel that way?”
He said, “No.., that’s how it was in the beginning.”
My heart ached for him…
but I felt the need to ask, “So where is that boy today?”
There was a pause without a response.
So I continued, “You need to write another poem.” I just left it at that.
In his English class, in a 30 minute time span he came up with the second stanza and emailed it to me.
I am pleased to say that 17 months after the accident, my now almost 15 year-old young man is in a much better place. Not only that, but I think he found a voice he did not previously have. I will let you judge.
The storm was raging
Rain and lighting and wind
The sea was a torrent
Mountainous waves crashing down
A fishing boat road up and down
The boy was huddled in the boat
Knuckles white and eyes closed and tears streaming
The cry of his father still echoed in his ears
Sorrow and fear are a dark cloud that almost consumed the boy
The storm raged and thundered
The boy was alone in the stormy sea
The stormy sea, the sea of life
The edge of the storm was calm
The water was still and motionless
The boy stood on the fishing boat looking out at the sea of life
His clothes were damp, but his cheeks were dry
The loss of his father still ached his heart
He had beaten the choking cloud of despair
He stared at the sun-bathed horizon
The wind stirred and began to push the boat out of the storm
The wind pushed him across the sea of life
A sad smile split his face as he was pushed across the foaming waves
The wind pushed him away from the storm towards the horizon
The wind, the wind of hope