It came as a shock. We had only had him for a few months when I noticed that he had climbed out of his shell. Sure enough, he was gone. He had escaped out of his colorful protective covering, and died.
My son had been thrilled to no end when we took him to the pet shop to buy his very first special pets-two hermit crabs. I had done my research and made sure the environment was a hermit crab haven and stocked up on food. The boys loved cleaning out the cage and watching the crabs move around and burrow under the sand.
I knew my sons would notice that Hermie the crab was missing sooner than later, but I was dreading telling them the sad news. I just wanted them to avoid the pain, but I knew it had to come.
We sat down and I told them as gently but as straightforward as possible.
They erupted in a loud burst of agony and tears-just as I thought they would. They cried, and were saddened for a good portion of the day. They weren’t themselves, and understandably so.
Throughout the day, they would say to me, “Mommy, I’m so sad about Hermie” or ask me a question about his death. Each time, I was a shoulder to lean on.
And then a new day dawned.
No more tears. No more moping.
I realized that they had allowed themselves to truly grieve, experience the roller coaster of emotions, the good memories, the anger, the sadness, the gloomy day of loss-and then they moved on.
When they look into the cage now, they don’t see the home that once held Hermie-they see the remaining crab that is still alive. They smile and giggle and get excited about taking him out of his cage for a little bath. No more tears about what they have lost.
The loss of a pet can be devastating-especially if it is a beloved animal that a family has had for a long time. But I often notice that my boys don’t hang on to past hurts and losses like I do.
They are much more caught up in the moment of here and now, focusing on what they do have. And when those sad times come, they allow the raw emotions to have their way-a release that isn’t put on hold for another more convenient time.
As a busy wife and mom, reality is that sometimes I do have to hold myself together when I might feel like crumpling into a puddle of tears. And sometimes that means not dealing with a sadness for quite some time-which can have more negative effects.
I also tend to have a longer memory-holding on to a hurt or a loss and allowing it to fester. Granted, some losses are great and take long periods of time to sort through, but I wonder if in general I am so in tune to being the adult that I don’t allow myself to grieve and move forward when I face disappointments.
My bootstraps are pretty long for all the pulling.
I’m convinced that an attitude of gratitude is life-saving. Thanking God and counting your blessings is medicine for the soul.
But we have been given emotions for a reason, and taking the time to have a good cry, explaining that Mommy is okay-that she sometimes has sad moments too, and then allowing God to make beauty from the ashes is part of the process to wholeness.
Brave mom with the stiff upper lip, you so often allow your child to cry on your shoulder. Do you need a shoulder today too? It's okay to cry. God is not far from any one of us and He is your comforter. Take the time to be honest with Him, ask Him the hard questions, and allow Him to console you, just as you so often do for others.
My boys will face more disappointments all along the days of their lives. I wish I could say that I taught them how to wrestle through their emotions and handle losses in a way that will strengthen them in the end.
But it’s the other way around. I don’t want to teach them to buck up and “handle it like a man”. I’m praying that they will always give themselves permission to be sad when hard times come, and more importantly, permission to move forward when reasons for rejoicing are all around them.
It’s the least I can do, since they taught me that lesson first.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
YOUR TURN! How do you help your kids through hard times? Do you find yourself trying to be the “adult” and stifling your emotions too?
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