We tried so hard to plan everything in these children's lives-taking the recent disruption in their lives into consideration-and wham... our family is hit with one of the most difficult times in our lives-as my husbands mother struggles in a hospital bed for5-6 weeks and eventually passes on.
This note is for you adoptive families- and not something I would normally consider publishing as it is so personal and painful.. but for your children's sake...
What we did well:
- We found a social worker (asked at the hospital) that works with death and dying. Discussed our children's past and how to handle death.
- Found books on the subject-thank you library!
- Took Habtamu (4) to a cemetery and lightly discussed our views on death.
- Talked a lot about our family-how Nana was gone from our physical lives and included his prior family in this discussion as best we could.
- Talked about the future as a family
- excluded the children from the wake and Funeral activities
- Went to family event after funeral together as a family.
- Let Debritu spend her birthday night away from us (her first with us) as the next morning was the funeral and night before the wake.
- Hold their "big" joint birthday party AWAY from our home-we all had fun and there was a lot less stress that day- something we all needed
- Have them make art and take it into the hospital.
- Take them to the grave site right after the funeral-on our way home- and let them know that grandma was there now and we could visit her here again.
- We gave Habtamu a job to hug people when they were sad. He liked this very much as he's a boy with lots of feelings and was able to help people.
What we would not do again:
- used a leaf anaylage- because leafs come back-oops (there's this kids book that describes the cycle of life-didn't work so well for us).
- Tell Habtamu while she was in the hospital and our hopes/doctors hopes for her recovery were high-that she was sleeping so she could get better and when she was able-we'd take her into see her.
- Do a family photo shoot the day after we learned she was not going to stay with us.
- Spend so much time with them in the waiting room- If we'd known it was going to be so long-we'd have found a way to disrupt their schedule less.
Things we should have done:
- Hired a person to "have fun" with the kids and got more babysitters so we could "address" the difficulty in our lives prior to her death.
- Explained more to the baby about what was going on- even though she couldn't speak or understand everything-sometimes we focus more on Habtamu as he is more "cognitive" of current situations.
- Gone in to visit "nana" together (husband and wife).... before she passed instead of juggling the kids in the waiting room.
- Remembered more about the details of what she was wearing when we buried her -even though family picked this out-because it was important to the kids.
They knew their Nana "banana" bi-weekly visits plus Lived with us a few weeks after arrival for a short bit.
They did fine with her departure-although they were impacted and did have feelings about it.
It has not affected their adjustment-that we have noticed-although the disruption in their schedule and the influx of family (and the departure of ) did.
Handling the "nana is dead" statements can be difficult-but they grew as people and we grew as a family through this process. They saw that families can go through significant difficulty and stay together.
We tried to think of their culture and what they would have seen in terms of a funeral. We avoided all items that would "knit" these experiences- and so far (one month later) we are moving on ***as a family****.