Yesterday morning, as I reached into the depths of my bedroom closet, planning to prepare Alea's birthday gift for this weekend, Roya entered upon the scene. I was scared and dismayed that she would see the stash of clearance gifts put away for Christmas time strewn all around me on the floor. But something else caught Roya's eye instead. Up on the shelf in my old-house, painted-blue bedroom closet sat Baby Emily.
Baby Emily, you might be surprised - even shocked - to discover, is not a baby doll. It is this small, stuffed, colorful bear, each limb squared off in different colours, with a zipper in the back, and a metal key chain hanging off the end. It arrived in one of the many hand-me-down bags of stuffed animals we've received over the years and somehow became one of Roya's favorite toys.
As Roya's attachment to Baby Emily grew, Lynn became increasingly irritated by its presence in our family. He could not stand this odd looking bear/key chain. Even more so, he couldn't stand how Roya behaved with this small, odd toy. She would act and talk like a baby, driving Lynn crazy, and making behavior choices we didn't allow in our home.
Soooo, earlier this past summer, Lynn took and hid Baby Emily. He'd had enough, taken it, and hidden it in one of his drawers.
I opened this drawer a few weeks ago and laughed astonishingly to find Baby Emily buried beneath his shorts :) I think I knew he put her there, but I forgot!
Hmmm... I thought. Should I give this back to Roya? Has she missed it? I guess I'll keep it and put it up on the closet shelf for now...
Now... Roya sees Baby Emily and cries out in pure glee, I found her! I found her! I found Baby Emily! I missed Daddy so much and I missed Baby Emily and now she's back!
Roya's grief is very complicated. She's not out there with her feelings like Alea. On the outside, she's strong and literal. She says very matter-of-factly, Daddy's in heaven, Alea. You don't have a Daddy anymore. Then she looks for other ways to try and communicate her heart to the world: Unicorn feels sad and really misses Daddy.
I feel so blessed to be Roya's Mama, because I can relate to her deep introverted nature just enough to catch glimpses of her heart and notice (sometimes) her subtle cues: I know I'm not right out there with my feelings, but I'm still hurting, and I need help.
I often think of Hagar in Genesis 16, when she says, You are the God who sees me (Gen 16:13). Whether we are out there with our feelings or not, we all need to be seen, especially when we're hurting.
Recently, I initiated a new tradition in our home called Pillow Time. During Pillow Time, the three Erskine girls, the left-behinds, gather around a big stuffy pillow in the middle of the living room floor. Each one of us takes her turn to say whatever needs to be said. I feel angry that Daddy died! or I feel sad when I miss Daddy or I feel happy when I think of Daddy in heaven. We share memories and express our feelings, sometimes punching the pillow, other times screaming into the pillow, other times not needing the pillow at all. But we share our thoughts and feelings in a safe environment, where we can grieve together and heal together.
Yesterday, after Roya found Baby Emily, she asked, Can we do pillow time? Baby Emily needs to be a part of pillow time. I think that means Roya has something new to say.