My fourteen year old firstborn sits in the hairdressers’ chair, all lanky legs and angles. His curls tumble to the floor – a boofy English Sheepdog turning sleek German Pinscher – and his face morphs as I watch. He’s half smiling, the little mouth twitch I know means he’s well pleased.
“Reckon your Dad will recognise you?” the hairdresser asks, teasing.
STOP! In my head klaxons bellow and lights flare against the danger. Don’t ask that!
All emotion is gone. He’s stone-faced, staring a thousand years through the mirror.
She doesn’t know what’s happened. That his Dad has chosen not to have anything to do with him or his brother anymore. That he hasn’t seen his Dad since before Christmas, and his Dad didn’t recognise him then either.
He shrugs. “Ugh” he grunts, an acceptable almost-answer. Curls continue to drift and eddy through the air, across the floor.
Somehow, grief has tracked us down again and kicked us silent. Grief wears steel-capped boots.
I’d have thought that for the wallop those boots give there’d be some warning that grief is coming for a visit. I know some dates grief will drop by: the anniversary of my Pop’s death; Father’s Day; when my friends graduate from the degree I’ll never finish; a myriad of future, significant events in my sons’ lives. But I can prepare and plan for those – it’s the rough ambushes by grief in the middle of sun drenched afternoons which bruise me, leave me battered and punctured and realising grief wasn’t as far behind me as I’d thought. Grief’s boots are splattered with dismay and surprises.
But even with the unexpected tackles and unwanted reconnections, sometimes I open the door wide and invite grief in, cruel boots and all. We don’t wallow (mostly). Or brawl (much). I’ve found grief’s sturdy, obvious presence gives some credence and acknowledgement to the pain I’m feeling, the ache of what was lost. The weight of grief’s boots is familiar, like the shape of my favourite mug in my fingers, and after a time of contemplation and use, is sometimes just as possible to put carefully away on a shelf, out of sight, out of mind.
How has grief ambushed you? Do you let yourself have a wallow or brawl with your feelings? How would you personify an emotion? Have you been able to leave grief permanently behind? How do you cope with and support grieving children?
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