I have written in the past about how one of the most difficult things I have ever had to explain to Dominic was when my husband's mom passed away. At the time, he was just six. Since the hubby is an only child, Lauren, Dominic, my husband and I spent a lot of time at the funeral home in Cleveland when she died. Not exactly the best place for a six-year old. Since Dominic was used to seeing his grandmother frequently, it was super duper hard to figure out the best way to explain it to him. We finally decided to tell him, "Grandma was broken, and she went somewhere where they could fix her." That seemed to satisfy him at the time. As he has gotten older and is beginning to understand more about that time, we changed it to, "Grandma is in Heaven." Once in a great while, he would say that spontaneously. For the past month, though, he has been saying, "Grandma is in Heaven," just about every day, at least once a day, sometimes multiple times a day. When the hubby is bringing him back from religious education class on Sunday nights, they pass by the assisted living facility she was in for about five years. My husband told me recently that every single time they pass by, Dominic unprompted says, "Grandma is in Heaven." I asked Dominic's private speech therapist about it this past Saturday and she had an interesting theory. Like my mother-in-law, Dominic was used to seeing his sister a lot. Since Lauren is not here every day, I think he is trying to process her being gone. He will say, "I will feel sad when Lauren leaves for college," spontaneously, so I know those are the times he really, really misses her. Yesterday before school, Dominic kept saying, "Grandma is in Heaven," so I asked him, "do you want to see pictures of you with Grandma?" He said, "yes!" We went down to the basement and brought up a poster board we had made when she passed away. I propped it up and he sat looking at it for a while.
I said, "we used to visit Grandma in Cleveland, then we visited her at her assisted living facility, and then she would come to our house to visit." I then said,"she died and then went to Heaven." I could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he tried to make sense of what I just told him. I'm almost positive he understood. I think when you have to explain someone's passing to a young child there are multiple ways you can say it. When you have a child with speech and language delays like Dominic, you have to break it down very specifically. I think his private speech therapist is right, because last night and this morning Dominic said, "Lauren is in school," immediately followed by, "Grandma is in Heaven." I think it's so cool that he is beginning to associate words with his emotions. We have been waiting a long time for him to be able to do it, but it seems to be coming together for him. Yeah, finally!