This morning, Susannah wanted to call Granddaddy. “Hey, Granddaddy! You wanna do a video chat?” Of course, he said yes, and we got the laptops fired up for a nice, pajama’ed, messy-haired chat session. Susannah was her silly self, making up words and enjoying watching herself on the picture-in-picture box. Jonas was not himself at all. He barely talked to Dad, and kept acting out aggressively (growling at the screen when Granddaddy asked him a question, antagonizing Susannah while she was trying to talk). After we hung up, Jonas was slouched on the sofa, curled into a grumpy lump, with his back toward the room.
“Jonas, are you upset? Because you seem really grumpy.”
“Yes. I’m grumpy. I’m angry.”
“Are you angry at Granddaddy?”
“Yes.” His eyes glistened with little-boy-trying-not-to-cry-tears.
And I knew. I knew the conversation we were going to have today. I’d sensed it coming, even before Mom died. When things got bad around Thanksgiving, and I tried to explain brain tumors and cancer in spinal fluid to an almost 6 year old, I knew that soon I was going to have a very angry young man on my hands.
I sank onto the couch beside him. I lowered my face so that our foreheads touched. And as carefully as I could, I told him, “You don’t need to be angry at Granddaddy. I bet seeing him and talking to him makes you think about Grandmama, and that makes you sad and angry. Is that right?”
“But, baby, it is not Granddaddy’s fault that Grandmama died.“
Jonas sat upright. His cheeks flushed, and he blurted out, “I know! I know it’s not his fault! IT’S GOD’S FAULT THAT SHE DIED. And when I get up there, I am going to BREAK HIM.”
And then the tears did come – hot, angry tears. Maybe tears of shame at finally confessing this anger, this wish to see God face-to-face and break Him into pieces as punishment for taking away Grandmama. And my tears came, too. Mine were tears of sadness of missing my mom, sadness for my son’s hurting heart, and tears of desperation for how to explain this big, big situation to a little boy.
So I grabbed him and I held him and I told him I understand. We turned on a show for Susannah to watch and we went to sit on the stairs, so we could talk in private.
I did my best.
When I asked Jonas how he feels, he said, “ANGRY.”
“I know, but how does the anger make your body feel? Does it make your tummy hurt?”
“Yes.” He looked relieved, maybe to know that the knot in his belly was related to the anger bubbling in his chest. “My tummy hurts. And I feel… I just feel…. all half.”
“Half.” I thought about that for a second. “You feel like half is missing? Do you mean, you feel like something is missing inside here?” I touched his chest. He folded into me for another hug. “Yeah.”
“Think about how much Grandmama loved God. Do you know what I mean?”
Jonas’ head was pressed into my shoulder, but he nodded. “Yeah. She loved Jesus.”
“Yeah, she did. She talked about Him a lot. And she loved songs about Him, and she read her Bible, and she taught kids at her church about the Bible. And as much as Grandmama loved God – well, God loved her back, even more than that.”
“Baby, it is not God’s fault that Grandmama died. God didn’t give her cancer. God designed us, designed our bodies, and He wants us to have good health. But this world we live in has problems. There are germs, and bees that sting us, and accidents where we get injured, and diseases like cancer. Sometimes it just happens – people get cancer. And some of those people get healthy again, and some of those people don’t.”
“Grandmama’s body just got weaker when the cancer got stronger, and when her body couldn’t live anymore… that’s when God just let her come to Heaven. Her body died. Her spirit lived – it will always live, and when we go to Heaven (a long, long time from now, I hope) we will all be together there.”
We talked about being angry and sad, and how it’s okay to feel that way. It’s okay to talk about how you feel, and Mommy and Daddy and Granddaddy can all listen and help. We talked about what’s NOT okay (like yelling at your sister because you feel angry about something else) and we talked about pretty soon Jonas will probably feel less angry but he might feel sad for a while still.
And we prayed together, asking God to bring comfort to Jonas’ heart. Thanking God for loving us and watching over us even when we are angry at Him. Telling God how sad we are and how much we miss Grandmama.
So. I know this will take time, and we probably have more conversations ahead of us. Keep Jonas in your prayers, that he’ll be able to release his anger in appropriate ways, that he’ll feel the love of God even in the midst of his hurting, and that he’ll get to a point of acceptance and understanding. And if you can spare a prayer for a mama who’s trying to guide her little man through grief, I’ll take it.