Children, Loss & Welcome Home Parties

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My daughter returns home from a month long stay at summer camp in North Carolina this Friday.

When we found out that my grandmother had passed away yesterday, I was immediately conflicted with how and when to tell my daughter. I absolutely did not want to call the camp to tell her over the phone, as she would have four days left at camp and a 12 hour long bus ride home to grieve alone. I am not able to afford the airline tickets right now to fly up and get her from camp to tell her the news…and driving the 12 hours to the camp to tell her, then driving 12 hours home with her sobbing in the car didn’t seem fair either. I discussed it with my husband and the rest of the family, and we all agreed that its best to let her finish her time at the camp (there is no cell phone reception or internet usage, so she isn’t able to see anything that people post on their Facebook about her death) and have a fun bus trip home with her friends Friday…and then we’ll tell her when she gets home Friday night.

My mother wants to wait until next weekend to have the memorial service. My grandmother had a prepaid cremation plan – that is what she wanted – so there is no rush to have a funeral service. My daughter has plenty of time to find out.

The only thing I am worried about is that she will be upset that she is the last one to know…she might feel left out, upset that she wasn’t able to be there and comfort my mother during the first days of her grief. She is extremely close to my mother – she is practically a second mom to her – and I know she is going to be upset that she wasn’t there.

But she’s been through enough, what with her own father’s death two years ago.

What is really bothering me, though, is a comment she made while we were visiting her in North Carolina last week. She had befriended a very homesick girl in her cabin. The little girl told Angeline that she was worried one of her parents would die while she was at camp. Then Angeline began to worry that something would happen while she was away.

Something did happen. I’m terrified that this is going to traumatize Angeline. She’s very independent; she’s been going away from home on overnight trips since she was an infant. She’s never thought twice about leaving my husband and I to visit someone, go on a trip, etc, because she has always done it…I’ve raised her to be that way. I am afraid that this is going to create a separation anxiety complex for her. I suppose only time will tell how this will affect her, aside from the grief itself.

My mother and my grandmother spent almost every day together. We are a very close knit family. As I’ve blogged about before, I live within a five minute walking distance to my parents, grandmother, and aunt and uncle. My parents bought a house on the other side of my grandmother’s block. My grandmother spent all of her time either at my mom’s house or my uncle’s house. She babysat her grandchildren, she coaxed my mom into going out to breakfast most mornings, she played with the never ending supply of babies that came through my mom’s house…she was always there. My grandmother was truly my mother’s best friend. My daughter spent a lot of time with my mother, which meant she spent a lot of time with my grandmother.

This is going to be hard.

My niece and I wanted to have a welcome home party for Angeline Friday night when she returned. I now plan to tell Angeline about grandma’s death at that time…so we decided to still have the party, but to have it on Saturday. It will give her a chance to grieve a little, get some of the hardcore sobbing out of her system, and have a little visit to hug her grandma…

I know that my grandmother would have wanted us to have the party. She was like that. When my uncle (her son) committed suicide about 5 years ago, she made several comments to me during his memorial service that she didn’t want everyone crying when she died. She wanted people to laugh and have fun and eat a lot. She was like that, always light hearted, funny, silly…she would want us to celebrate Angeline’s return.

She’s probably sitting up in heaven, pissed off that she won’t be able to sneak a piece of the chocolate cake when no one’s looking…

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  1. says

    I think you’re doing the right thing. I also think you’re raising an independent daughter which is wonderful. Children are very resilliant and having you and her family around her to support and comfort her as she learns this terrible, unexpected news will be a great comfort to her

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