More from our conversation referenced in my last post.
I asked "How do you feel, Luke, when you see mommy cry?" He said, "I've only seen you cry three times. The rest of the times I was at school."
Background: Luke asks me sometimes when the last time I cried was, how often I cry, etc. He does not talk about Joe in the same sentence but we both know where these questions come from. I tell him that I cry a lot. Not every day, but probably every week. I tell him that it's ok to cry because everyone needs a way to let their feelings out, and it's important to let your feelings out and not keep them all inside. And then when you're done crying, you move on to something else. I've told him there are different ways of dealing with the feelings, to talk about them, to cry, etc and it's not important how you let them out, but that you let them out of your body and mind. We talk about this concept pretty often because Luke will always be the first to say "I never cried about daddy". He says it as though it's a good thing. I don't know where this comes from. I don't believe that Joe or I ever gave the impression that crying means weakness. I'm not going to tell my son he has to cry over what happened. I just tell him that it is ok no matter if he cries or does not cry and if he does cry I would just hug him.
Luke also says he does not think about his daddy a lot. It is so true that kids process loss so much differently than adults do. First, they don't necessarily understand what it means to die and the permanence of it. Second, their minds do not focus or dwell on hurtful things the way ours do. They may think of it for a minute, it may or may not feel good, and then they are on to something else. Third, kids really are "in the moment". It took me so long to understand and accept this concept. If kids are having fun doing something, they really are having fun. There 's no hidden secret to uncover. That's it. You just have to let it be what it is. They are not like adults, where we kind of go with the flow with sadness overshadowing everything.
So back to the question I asked Luke. "How do you feel when you see mommy cry?" I asked him again and didn't dispute his "3 times" comment, though this kid has definitely seen me cry more than three times. Luke went on (in his silly hyper-active voice) "I feel like, oh boy, I gotta get daddy. Where's daddy??" I realized what he was saying for the first time. "You feel like you don't know what to do when you see me cry?". He said "yes".
"Luke, I don't need you to do anything when I cry. If you want to do something, you could give me a hug, but I don't need anything. It's just how I let my feelings out. And I don't need daddy Luke. Mommy will be okay, even without daddy. You remember that I met daddy when I was 23 right? You remember that there was 'mommy' before I met daddy right? Mommy can take care of everything, including my two babies (ok they're not babies but I am allowed to still call them that if I want to :-). It's been a year and a half since daddy was here Luke, and we're all doing pretty good, wouldn't you say?
Luke said yes.
"Look at Alyssa's report card", I said pointing to the fridge, "she's doing great. And you're doing great with school and hockey and your friends and all the other things you do. And mommy is doing good too right? We are okay, and we've spent a long time without daddy now and we're all okay. Mommy can take care of you guys and the house and everything that needs to be done, even without daddy."
I honestly do not know what Luke thinks about in terms of his father dying, but I have always known that he worries about me. He makes comments here and there about my life; how I 'have to' do all the things around the house (to which I reply- "but Luke, that's okay, because I like to do that stuff") and believe it or not, he makes reference to me getting old "by myself". I think this comes from that he understands that Joe and I were married and we planned on getting old together. My sweet boy does not want his mommy to be alone as an old lady. It tears at my heart to think of him worrying about that. For now though, all I can do is show him that I am okay, that I am am not worried about that. And I'm not.
In a way I was glad to talk about this topic with Luke because I realized that some of his worries are possible to take away. With death, there is so little you have control over. There is no chance of hope to see Joe on this earth again. That's a hard thing I struggle with in terms of easing my children's pain. But their worries about me have possibilities to diminish with my actions.