November is National Grieving Children’s Month. I have watched my daughter grieve for years. She hides it well. She pretends she doesn’t care, that it is not important to her. But, I am her mother, I see what she works to conceal. I am the one to who is there on those rare times when it all just gets to be too much. I’ve watched her scream and cry. I’ve listened to her wail about the unfairness of it all. I’ve spent hours comforting her only to close myself in my own room and cry about the same exact thing.
She was a toddler when her father got sick. By the time she was three, he was bedridden. When she was six, he left for the hospital. She was nine when he died. She really never got a chance to know him. I think that is what she mourns.
A child grieves differently than an adult. We think they are resilient and bounce back quickly, but I think we underestimate them. I’ve sat on the bed next to my daughter as she weeps. She told me her friends think she’s spoiled. She has no siblings living at home so she has her own room. A luxury to most of her friends. They think she has so much. She looks up at me and says “they have no idea what I don’t have.” She’s right. They can’t possibly know what it is to grow up without a daddy. They have their siblings to laugh with, to fight with, to play with. To share experiences with.
She doesn’t mention her father often. She doesn’t want to be known as the girl whose father died. But that’s how she sees herself. She does not just grieve in November. She grieves every day of her life. I grieve right along with her because all of the love I have to give, will never be enough to fix this.
On the first anniversary of her father’s death, we held a small ceremony by his grave. I asked her if she wanted to speak. She said no, but she did agree to work with me to write something for the rabbi to read. She told me a little bit about how she was feeling, but she was so young, she didn’t have the words. I thought I might know a little about what she was thinking. I wrote something up and showed it to her. She turned her back to me as she read it. I knew I got it right when I saw her shoulders sag. She so slowly turned to face me, she nodded her head and tears streamed down her face. She whispered “how did you know?”
I can’t believe it is been a year since you had to go away
I still miss and think of you as I go about my day
There are times I want to call you, just to hear your voice
Why did you have to leave me? That can’t have been your choice.
I miss the prayers that you said for us every Friday night.
I miss the blessing that you gave me near the candles burning bright.
I miss the silly songs that you would sing, the stories that you told,
The way you used to wrap me up to keep me from the cold.
Daddy, can you see me, late at night when I’m in bed?
Can you hear the words I say, though they are only in my head?
Daddy you’re not here now and sometimes I’m afraid
My friends don’t understand me. They don’t know the price I’ve paid.
Daddy I feel all alone and you’re not here to calm my fears
And Daddy, sometimes I’m so sad, and you’re not here to dry my tears.
Daddy, who will learn with me and teach me right from wrong?
Who will lead the Passover Seder? Who will sing the songs?
Who will say they’re proud of me? Who will make me smile?
Who will speak at my bas mitzva? Who will walk me down the aisle?
Daddy, I’m your daughter, and I’ll do my best, you’ll see.
And though I can not see you, you will always live in me.