Wednesday, June 24, 2020


Years ago my mom sent me a book on childhood trauma. I...don't know where it is currently...but I'm positive I still have it. We just have moved twice since I got it's...somewhere, I'm sure. Okay, I found it. In my mind it has a blue cover (it does have a blue cover), but the spine is red! So that threw me off the scent a bit. Anyway, it's called Childhood Disrupted by Donna Jackson Nakazawa and my mom sent it to me because it talks about how even if our brains can't remember our trauma, our bodies remember our trauma. Stressful events even from infancy can be kind of hardwired into our bodies and we need to learn how to cope with this hardwiring. So, she sent me this book to help Benjamin, who had a less-than-graceful opening act of his life.

But I've been thinking about this book over the past year and a half or so and I'm glad I finally found it so that I can review it a little bit and hopefully glean an idea or two.

My kids—Zoë and Benjamin, specifically—still aren't "over" Karen's death. I'm not sure death is something to get over, really. I think that longing—that clenching, tugging sensation in your heart—never goes away. I think it gets better. I think it becomes something that you can live with, something that becomes a part of you, something tolerable, familiar, and, to a certain extent, comfortable. We learn to be comfortable with our grief. Somehow we realize that in spite of always, always missing someone, we will be fine. I'm fine. Andrew is fine. But my kids aren't quite fine yet.

Last night we began memorizing a new scripture. Alma 37:46—" O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever." Before reading the scripture together, Andrew asked if any of the kids could tell us the story of Moses and the brazen serpent, so Rachel recounted the story (and I pulled out some pictures of our visit to Mt. Nebo), and then Andrew led the scripture aloud, pausing after each phrase so that we could repeat after him. When he got to the last sentence, Zoë flipped out.

"The way is prepared," Andrew said.

"The way is prepared," we all repeated.

"...and if we will look we may live forever," Andrew said.

"...and if we will look we may..."

"NO!" Zoë wailed. "I don't want to live forever! I want to die!"

"I know," I said, pulling her close. "The idea of eternity really worries you."

"I can't live like this forever!" she cried. "I miss Grandma!"

"I know," I said. "We all miss Grandma. But you don't have to worry about living like this forever. That's not what this is about. You're going to grow up. You'll have many wonderful experiences and, unfortunately, far too many sad experiences. And it will hurt a lot, but it will be beautiful. And then you will die and you'll get to see Grandma and you won't feel sad anymore. You will feel so, so happy and that's what will be forever."

She seemed okay with that answer. Benjamin, on the other hand, turned morbid and suggested an early death might be better for us all...

"Ah," I said. "But we're supposed to endure to the end, remember? We just keep plugging along until it's our time, wading through the good and the bad. And then we die. Experiencing life is important."


Sometimes my kids come up with really tough questions.

Zoë couldn't fall asleep last night because she was crying too hard, missing too hard. It's been a year and a half!

I've said this before, but I'll say it again. Losing Grandma was different for my kids. It's been harder for them than losing my grandparents was for me. Of course, I was older when I first started losing my grandparents, so that helps, but I think the biggest difference is that I only saw my grandparents occasionally. They weren't a daily fixture in my life the way Karen had been for my kids.

For Zoë, especially, it's been hard. I think that's because she's still so little that she hasn't had many life-defining moments yet. She knows we moved to Georgia. And before that she lived with Grandma. But then Grandma died. That's her life timeline as she understands it. She lived with Grandma, Grandma died, we moved to Georgia. She doesn't remember anything else. She doesn't remember moving in with Grandma. She doesn't remember life before Alexander. So her memories are kind of brutal.

That's not to say she doesn't have happy memories. She does! She remembers her little preschool friends, she remembers going to the park, she remembers that Grandma kept jellybeans in her office...and then she gets sad again.

So last night she was sad, but she felt better when I reassured her that "forever" would absolutely include Grandma, and she's been fine all day today (a little bit "scream-y," but that's pretty normal for her).


  1. Well, Karen's death was like immediate family death, not extended family death, because of the proximity. What a hard thing for Z--I had not thought about that she has so many hard things in her memory. Add Covid-19 to the hard things. Wow.

  2. Aw, sweet kids. I'm sorry they lost their grandma so young...especially one they were living with at the time. I'm glad she feels more hopeful now that you explained eternity with Grandma. <3