My father passed away 11 years ago this month. I was with him and watched him take his very last breath. He was my hero, my rock, my biggest source of support and love, and losing him was devastating. To be with someone in the moment of time that they exit this life is as precious as it is to witness the birth and human beings entrance into life. I am not a religious person, but I am very spiritual, and I always wondered how I’d talk to my children about spiritual things, or God, or death and dying. My dad passed well before my children came to be, but in his loss and my openness of grief and what I believe, I think I’ve done a beautiful job shaping what my children know about the loss of a loved one.
We Talk About Grampa A Lot
My dad was a big guy, both physically and in his presence and impact on this earth. He was a two-tour Vietnam Vet, worked with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, and was a police officer as well. I loved his heart for service. He also loved to cook and barbecue and was a foodie before I think that term even existed.
We have always talked about my dad in our family. My husband never knew him but being a military veteran as well, there’s an understanding of who my dad was just by virtue of that. My in-laws live nearby and we celebrate holidays with his recipes and stories, and his spirit is alive and well with us all. That’s how my children have come to know him, though never in person, they know who he was and most certainly how loved he was by me.
I Am an Open Book and I Grieve and Cry in Front of Them
There are times that I miss him so much it still hurts. I think it always will, though somehow you get to know what life is like without them, and the pain changes. That journey of grief and healing is nothing short of intense.
There are times that I just want to talk to him, ask him a question, have him be here for things with the kids, and it is HARD. I don’t hide my grief or my sadness, I cry and I share it with my kids. I tell them how much I miss their Grampa. They’re both so sweet, they’ll usually bring me one of their stuffed animals, or pat my arm or back. I let them into my sadness. And I think that has helped them see that it is normal; that we can miss our dear ones so much and that we can cry and move through it. Usually, we end up talking about him, but sometimes, it’s just the sadness that’s there.
I think this is such an important gift for them to see. It was hard at first to allow myself the space to be, thinking that maybe I’d “mess them up” by seeing me in such a mess of tears. But it’s been just the opposite; they’ve seen it as normal and ok. And hopefully, when they experience the loss of someone important to them, they’ll know that it’s ok to feel all those big feelings they’ve seen Mama have, and can make room for that in themselves. This is what my children know about the loss of a loved one.
My Sign From My Dad Is 444
Not long after my dad passed away, I had the most vivid dream of him. We were in what felt like a house, though its colors were sky blue and white like the clouds. There were four walls, and there were power outlets on each wall. My father was pointing to them and he was saying, “Dawn, there are 4 of them, see? Four.” And then he stomped his foot, and said “4 – 444!” as he pointed. I remember being like, ok, Dad, I got it; he was so emphatic about it!
I awoke feeling so connected to his presence and his message from the other side. And from that moment forward, I started to see messages of 444 in different ways; sometimes on the clock as 4:44, other times in phone numbers on a sign as I drive by, receipts with savings of $44.44. I do my best to stop or slow down in those moments and breathe it in. I ask him what he wants me to hear and I listen. Or sometimes, I cry, feeling his message from the other side, grateful.
As my children got older and I’d see this message, I’d share with the kids, “444! Grampa’s saying hi!” At first they asked “What do you mean?” I explained the dream, and that I believe our loved ones are still with us and sometimes they try and connect with us. And that if we’re open to it, we’ll see or feel it.
And now, they always say back, “Hi Grampa!!!” I can’t tell you how much this warms my heart and fills my soul. Sometimes, my daughter will say, out of the blue, “Mommy, 444.” And I swear it’s him speaking through her. There is no doubt in my mind that their souls knew each other before they arrived here on earth, but the fact that they’ll never be able to physically be with each other in this lifetime still makes my heart ache.
What This Has Taught My Children About Losing a Loved One
What my children know about the loss of a loved one, is that it’s an inevitable part of life. And that being sad and grieving the loss of them is normal. I believe they know that even though they are gone from our physical lives, they are still with us. They believe with me, that their souls live on, in the sparkles of the sun on the water, in the magical twinkle of the trees blowing in the wind, in the signs we receive, and the love and memories in our hearts.