The two experiences I've had with death are shockingly similar, yet worlds apart. The whole family gathered in my grandparents' house. At my mother in law's home, there were four, then three when she moved on. I stand next to a man who has now lost both of his parents. I'm there for him as much as I can be, but I'm still just outside of it. Still feeling helpless, wringing my hands, doing the laundry and hoping it helps.
The loss of my mother in law has been, and continues to be life changing. In my world, my grief is secondary, and that's OK, because it is still personal and important. She was a friend, a connection to my husband's past, my sole female counterpart in being a Panza. I miss her smile, the one that looks exactly like my husband's.
I do my best to be a support staff, for Nick and my father in law, because I feel that's where I best fit. When the situation presents itself, I know what to do, I feel confident in how to help these two men. Mostly, their needs are practical. I'm good at practical. When emotions flare, I offer a hug, and usually a few of the right words find their way across the room. I say it's OK to cry.
But here's the place I really get lost: What do I do for my son, who has lost his grandmother?
I don't have a place for this. Up until now we haven't done anything. She's in a few pictures around the house. Oliver still recognizes her, and points her out as Grandma. But... he's not yet two. Those memories and recognition will fade.
When do I tell the stories? How do I tell them without crying, for fear of confusing him? Why would Mommy cry over a story that's supposed to be happy, about someone we love? And worse... what about the stories I don't know? The questions I can't answer?
The memories he won't have.
I grieve for his loss more than anything.
Because he won't remember how she loved him so much.