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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Someone Else's Mother

During chemo day today, one of the nurses asked me how my daughter (the eldest) reacted.

"To what?" I asked, confused.

The nurse came over and quietly let me know that the mother of one of the girls in my daughter's shichva (grade) passed away from cancer during Lag BaOmer. The girl is from the other class, along with the nurse's daughter.

Hmmmm, I wonder if my daughter's need to talk last night had anything to do with this.

My daughter did not mention anything.

I consulted the social worker, who suggested I talk with my daughter's teacher and gather more information before raising the subject with my daughter.

Before I could find anything else out, my daughter called me about something mundane and mentioned, by the way, that the mother of one of the kids in the other class died of cancer, but she can't talk about it now, she has to go...


I told her that we might not be home when she gets home tonight because we are going to Nichum Aveilim (comfort a mourner) -- our neighbor's mother also passed away this week.

"Wow. Everyone's dying," she commented.

"No, not everyone;" I corrected her, "and our neighbor's mother is older, not like the mother of the girl from your class."

I really wanted to hear more, but she really needed to go. I was worried that I would not be able to talk with her about this at all.

Tomorrow morning she is going away for three days for Shabbat Garin -- a regional Shabbaton (retreat) for all the kids her age in her youth group.

So, I was relieved to find my daughter still awake, and busy as a bee, when we returned home.

We started to talk about the girl from her shichva.

Meanwhile, Moshe wanted to heat up some soup.

"Where is the cover to the pot?" he asked me.

As I began to answer him, my daughter started walking away. It was late, and she still needed to pack for the Shabbat Garin.

I stopped answering Moshe and called for her to come back.

We started talking again, and Moshe again asked me where to find the cover to the pot.

Frustrated, my eldest said she really did not have time to wait because she had to go pack, and walked out of the room.

I couldn't believe it!

Now all three of us were frustrated!

My eldest needed to pack.
I needed to talk with her.
And Moshe needed the cover to the pot.

I glared at Moshe, told him to cook it without a cover, and followed my daughter, hoping I could at least talk with her while she was packing.

It was not the greatest of circumstances, but it was the best I was going to get at that point.

I learned that they talked in school about what happens during shiv'a (the 7 day mourning period), and about who goes to Nichum Aveilim. Most of the girls from the other class are going, and some girls from my daughter's class, who are close with the girl who lost her mother, are going. My daughter is not going.

At first, I thought she should go, even if she is not close with the girl, but I did not say anything. I am glad I waited.

As we were talking, I realized that, given my situation, it was probably better for my daughter not to go.

It is healthier for her to maintain her distance. She does not need to vicariously experience the pain of losing a mother.

All the time we are talking, my daughter is deliberating about what clothes to bring, pulling clothes out of her closet, making lists, etc.

At one point, my eldest expressed her exasperation. "I do not want to talk about this anymore when I have more important things to worry about!"

"Like what clothes to pack!" I finished her sentence.

"YES!!" she shouted.

And, with that, the discussion was over... almost.

I explained that it was important for me to talk with her about this because I wanted to make sure that she was not worried or concerned. She assured me that she was not. Why?

"You are not going to die," she explained, succinctly.

"We are all going to die," I corrected her.

"Yes, but you are not going to die from cancer," She answered.

And, with that, the discussion really was over.

I hope she is right.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Cheryl Pitt said...

Wow, I think you did great. I remember reading somewhere that if you have to have a difficult conversation with a pree-teen/teen that you should it while they're "busy" so they don't feel put on thespot or have to endure lots of eye contact.

SuperRaizy said...

I agree that you handled the situation very well under the circumstances. However, don't be surprised if your daughter brings up the subject again in a week or two. It sounds like she may not be done talking about this.