Sometimes grief hits you right in the gut when you least expect it. This happened to me about a month after we lost our Ella Claire. My phone rang one afternoon. The caller was Nolan’s first-grade teacher. Instantly I said, “what did he do”? The teacher quickly clarified that she called to give me heads up on something. Since the class finished end of year testing, they had free time to draw whatever they wanted. With a wide-open canvas, I can imagine all the things that a first-grade boy would draw!
Nolan frequently drew about sports, hunting, or farming. Instead on that particular day, Nolan drew something that was a shock to both his teacher and myself. Nolan’s picture was Ella Claire grave along with images of the graves of family members buried close to her. Seeing the image broke my heart into a 1000 pieces. This particular day should have been a fun time to draw something fun or silly. Instead, Nolan was focused on his baby sister. Just when you think that kids don’t remember or think about loss, they do. They just don’t always know how to show it.
Even with a heads up, I still cried when I saw the drawing later that day. My tears were mixed with a level of guilt. Why us? Why didn’t I realize something was wrong? What could I have done to prevent this from happening? How do we move on from here? My heart was breaking all over again.
With a look of concern, Nolan thoughtfully asked, “It’s ok that I drew this, isn’t it?” I quickly hugged him and told him, of course, it was ok. It is bittersweet to know that a seven-year-old thinks of his sister who he will never know. We never know what’s on a child’s mind or heart. They see, hear, and feel more than we realize. Regardless of what we see on the outside, it does not always reflect what someone is feeling on the inside. May we always remember to extend grace to others no matter what we think we see on the outside. It’s also important to realize that grief has no expiration or age restrictions!