The Grief of Back to School

It is that time of year again. When Maggie died last May we were in our last week of homeschool classes and beginning our summer break. We hunkered down with our little family and before we knew it summer was gone and fall was arriving. I remember being acutely aware that Maggie would have been entering the 6th grade. She died 13 days before her 11th birthday. I remember seeing Maggie’s name on our class registration page and sobbing. We had signed her up to take her very first class outside of the home. Writing for Beginners. She loved to write. We have so many stories sitting on our computer that are half done. None of them were ever finished.

They say that over time grief changes. This is true. But it is also so very much the same and today is no exception. I have not allowed myself to really ponder what is happening because I must stay strong as we transition two of our children into public/private school and our oldest into full-time homeschool classes. This past year has been brutal on my children. I have watched and wept as they struggle against depression, anxiety, deep-seated fears, anger, frustration, and so much more. We made the decision to transition our 8 and 5-year old into school in order to break up the routine of home. I absolutely love homeschooling. I love being near my children all day. I love living life with them. But the truth is that life is chaos right now and they need more joy in their lives. They need to be in a structured classroom setting. They need a daily dose of friends. They need caring teachers who are not mom. And I need things as well. I need time to cry. I need one on one time with my almost 3-year-old as she overcomes the trauma of losing Maggie. I need to be able to keep up with household chores. We all need something and schooling outside of the home seems to be the way to accomplish some of this.

Tonight, my 8-year-old came to me and asked if we could talk. She told me that she was working on a song about Maggie. She began to explain it to me. “She is lying in her hospital bed and I am asking her why she lied to me and told me we would live life together. You said we could buy a house together! You said we could live life together! And now you are leaving me!” She said, “Mom, I want her to go to school with me.” As tears sprang up in my eyes I gathered her into my arms and told her that I know she is sad. I know she is angry. I tell her that all of these feelings are ok to have. I also tell her how much Maggie loves her. I tell her that Maggie will be with her on the first day of school. I tell her that Maggie is ok with her living her life and being happy even in the midst of deep sadness.

And now, here I sit. Empty arms. Empty heart. “But you must live for your other children,” they say! “Maggie wouldn’t want you to be sad!” they exclaim. Although well-meaning it is all a futile attempt to comfort the grieving mother’s heart. Her hearts screams daily that she is not supposed to be here. Her heart weeps every moment because she will always be a mother of five yet one is forever missing. Her heart is always incomplete. Her heart is always shattered. She always grieves even as she daily chooses to live this life till its natural end. Her nights and early morning hours are filled with thoughts of the one whom she loves and was taken so suddenly from her. Her child’s face is every present before her as a guide to that glorious day. She lies in bed in the midst of darkness and asks her little one to meet her when the time comes. “Don’t let me be alone when it is my time. Meet me and show me all of the beautiful things you have done while we are apart.”

7th grade is nothing compared to the glories of Heaven. But that does not stop the mother’s heart from longing for what it cannot have.

It’s the neverness that is so painful. Never again to be here with us – never to sit with us at the table…. All the rest of our lives we must live without him. Only our death can stop the pain of his death.” 
― Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

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