Half-Angel

What do you do with a grieving child?

You listen. You hold. You listen some more.

You offer tissues, you offer a hug. You answer lots of questions.

You nod. You tell stories. You honor the small memories told.

You come up with suggestions–or rather, embellish on those that the little one has.

You produce boxes (“too little”, “too big”, “too not-good”, “I don’t like it”, “okay, this one …”), find padding and ribbons and stickers, along with a few extra hugs.

You write what’s requested. Erase the letter that did not look perfect. Write it again. Erase. Write once more. You understand that it has to be just-so.

You provide blank paper and crayons, markers, highlighters, scissors. Play dough.

You oblige to search Google for questions your answers were not good enough, and come across five hundred other interesting things that lead to more questions. Distraction is good medicine, too.

You write down a protocol for ceremony, number the steps, change the order.

You make a headstone from tongue depressors and card stock. Give another hug.

You write the name of the departed. Erase it because it did not come out perfectly. Write. Erase. Write once more.

You draw a picture and told it “doesn’t even look like him.”

You are saved by a photo from the bowels of phone memory–a snapshot of happier times.

You give more hugs. Another tissue.

You stay with. You listen. You know that no small loss is small. That no one is truly replaceable, that loss is confusing and brings along with it the worry of losses far bigger and questions too scary for words. You don’t go where the child does not take you. You comfort, you understand.

What do you do with a grieving child?

You listen. You hug.

You promise not to forget.

You tuck the drawing in the folder (“but be careful”) to keep it safe.

And you use a tissue yourself, when the child wonders aloud if dead fish get to have wings and continues to answer himself:  “Yeah, because they have fins, so Benny was already half-angel.”

beta fish

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