Monday, 13 September 2010

A child's guide to dealing with death

 You know when you become a mom that there are going to be times when you have to deal with the really difficult stuff with your child – the stuff of life, and of death – because both of these can be really hard, and both of these are inevitable.

It came sooner than I thought it would though, when three people that were part of our lives died in a fire. How to tell my big boy that the friend whose house he and his brother spent the afternoon with three days before, the boy he had shared a birthday party with the previous month, had lost his life in the bedroom that they were playing in, and that the boy’s mom and his baby sister had perished too?

I did what any chicken mom does. I delayed the inevitable, and called in an expert to tell the difficult tale. I dodged the question when my son saw the picture of the inferno on the front page of The Star, and asked whose house had burned down, holding off the terrible answer until someone else could give it, because I was too scared and too broken to do it myself.

The psychologist was amazing with Daniel and his friends at school. She asked about their friend, their favourite games with him, and what he liked the most. She then gently explained that he, his sister and his mother had been in an accident, but that they were safe now, and happy, and that they couldn’t be hurt any more. She explained that they weren’t coming back ever again, but that we could hold them all in our hearts.

Daniel was solemn, but calm, and only cried when I did. We wrote a message to his friend and his sister on helium balloons, and released them with the other children.

When my mom drove past the house later that week, not realizing where it was, he saw the burnt out shell and went quiet. “It was my friend’s house that burned down, wasn’t it, Nana?” he asked. “Yes, my boy,” she said, bracing herself. “It’s ok Nana. He’s safe now, he’s in heaven,” said my amazing boy.

I realized in this that the simplicity of his approach is what is helping him deal with the loss. He doesn’t know the details – although one day I’m sure he’ll figure it out. I’ve promised myself that I’m not going to delegate that explanation, one day when it happens. In being unaware of the details, he really is dealing with the simple facts. There was an accident. They are not here any more. They are safe. They cannot be hurt again. No more information required, really.

He’s not said much about it since, although every now and then he’ll mention a favourite game he played with his friend, or he’ll see something similar to a toy that he played with at his friend’s home, but he’s never sad or tearful.

Last week, he was all about tattoos, as some of the other children had some stick-on transfer tattoos. I hate them, but eventually gave in and got a pack of 35 (yes, 35!!!) tattoos for him and his brother to share. He wanted one on his chest, and just as I magically revealed the circular tattoo, he asked if that was near where his heart was.

“Yes, my boy,” I said.

“Cool. Then my friend can see it too. He’s in my heart, you see.”

 I first published this piece on JoziKids.

An update on the Third Thursday and Gill Marcus fundraiser

A while back I told you about the fundraiser that we're planning on 13 October, in aid of the Big Shoes Foundation. Gill Marcus, Governor of the Reserve Bank will be talking about the big shoes she's filled in her career as a struggle icon, business woman and politician. Since then, the ladies in Third Thursday have been working their networks, and we've been offered the most fantastic goodies to either auction off or give away as prizes.

You see, that's the thing about our events. Not only will you leave with that good warm-hearted feeling that you've given a bit of time and a bit of cash to help someone else out - you're likely to leave with a gift or a purchase that will make you downright glad that you took the time out of your busy schedule to help us give back to our community.

So, if you were wondering whether or not you should join us on the 13th of October, here are a few more reasons (apart from the feel-good ones) that you should:

- Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and the Valley Lodge have sponsored getaway prizes for the lady and gentleman who wear the funkiest shoes on the night.
- Eliza Kentridge, sister of William and no artistic slouch herself, has donated a work currently in progress for us to auction.
- Jonathan Shapiro, aka Zapiro, has donated some signed limited edition cartoons, in line with the theme of the evening, for auction.
- Clarins has very kindly sponsored some Thierry Mugler men's fragrance gift sets for table giveaways.
And there's still more in the pipeline!

So... have you booked your ticket yet?! :-)

If you haven't, contact Helen on to book your place. Tickets are R500 per person, and the event will take place at the Indaba in Fourways.

See you there?