Life Without Grandma
When my mother died this past May, I had that question in my mind the entire time. Would Daniel truly understand that his grandmother had died? Would my mother herself visit him in his dreams and tell him she's moved on?
Daniel has always been very attached to me. But during his year as a 2nd grader this past school year, he was becoming more independent from me. For us that meant that I could actually leave the house alone without him having a meltdown. I could visit his school without him crying and pulling on me to leave with me once he saw me.
But on that horrible day, when he came home from school, he knew something was up with me. Kids like Daniel always get a bad rap. Since he is nonverbal, a lot of people cannot measure how much he truly understands despite my telling them that he understands a lot more than people may think. But what the hell do I know right? It's not like I'm his mother. #eyeroll
As I lay crying a thousand tears in my bed, he comes into my room. He hugs me, strokes my face and comforts me the way only a son can comfort his mother. He knew. He knew that I needed someone else to take care of me in those moments and that he could help me. And ever since that day, 4 months ago, he has reverted back to not being able to be apart from me. And while others may view that as a regression, I see it as a son making sure his mom is always okay.
With Chloe, I told her, "No more Grandma. Grandma is in Heaven."
Me: "Where is Grandma, Chloe?"
Chloe: "In Heaven."
Me: "And where is Heaven, Chloe?"
Chloe: "Up in the sky."
We did this several times throughout many days up until the time we moved from New York into my parent's home in Florida. I'd share with my husband my frustrations of actually knowing if they got it, if they truly understood what I was saying to them. But their understanding of her death was confirmed for me by them on our arrival to their home and everyday since then.
In truth, I lost my faith in a lot of things a long time ago. When Daniel was diagnosed in 2010, I was angry. I didn't believe in the church or any form of faith and religion. Anytime I would share my disappointment, my anger, my frustrations on how autism "won" on any given day, I always got the good old, "Praying for you," "Let God handle it," etc.
And for a long time, 6 years since the diagnosis, I didn't believe in Him anymore. My parents are faithful people, especially my mom. She was always urging me back to the faith. But I refused it until she had her stroke this past Mother's Day. I don't think I prayed harder in my entire life or even at all. I prayed for her to be healed, for my life to be taken instead of hers, for years to be shaved off of my life just to give those years to her. But in the end, maybe it wasn't enough. Or maybe, as is life, that's just the way it goes.
I needed to turn back to my faith because without it, without dreaming of Heaven, I may not believe enough to be blessed to see her again in Eternity.
Now back to Chloe.
Chloe said something about me that left me stunned. While in my room crying my eyes out, I spent about 2 weeks in there, being comforted by one of my absolutely amazing sister/cousins, this is what was said:
Chloe: "Mommy, no crying."
S/C: "It's okay Chloe. Mommy is just a little sad."
Chloe: "Mommy is little sad. Grandma is big happy."
I thought I was hearing things. Then a few days later:
Chloe: "I want to see Grandma."
Me: "You can't see Grandma. Grandma is in Heaven."
Chloe: "No, she's not. Grandma is here."
And then a few hours later that same day while shopping:
Chloe: "I want Grandma."
Me: (frustrated) "Chloe, Grandma is not here. Remember? Where is Grandma?"
Chloe: "Grandma is in Grandpa's room"
I have never coaxed any information out of that child about anything, those revelations happened spontaneously. Children on the spectrum wear their heart on their sleeve. They say what they mean and they mean what they say. And I had to take her word for it.
Fast forward to the big move.
We get here, to her house. And instead of Daniel and Chloe running around trying to find their Grandmother, they didn't look for her. My mother was a huge part of their lives, so for them to not try to find her in her home was striking. They knew, physically, she was no longer with us. And that, to me, was my confirmation that they got it.
My poor sweet girl who knows it all, feels it all and sees it all. She has been all alone in her own grief, not being able to share or discuss with her siblings her pain on losing her Grandmother and of leaving New York for the unknown.
This entire process continues to be a work in progress. My grief and theirs.