When Grief Calls: An Idea & A Picture

March 15, 2021

“Mom, are you ready to hear my idea?” I’m so busy and distracted I nearly dismissed his question and his need for attention. 

He walks up to the blank living room wall and says,

“Right here, Mom! My idea is to put Memere’s big picture right here. It looks like the perfect place for a picture and then we’d see her every day. I need to see her. I miss her.”

Instantly I’m paying close attention. Both my heart and soul are awakened by his request. He’s describing the large and heavy canvas we received from the funeral home after my mother passed away. The one that sits on the floor of my office, yet to be hung, years later. 

Everything he’s said is true, it’s the perfect spot for a picture, and he misses her. We all do. He wants to “see” her and so do I, desperately. 

I watch as he carefully details why her picture should be hung in this very spot. I wonder how long he’s been thinking about this. How long has he been trying to find ways to keep her memory alive and “see” her again? 

Kids are resilient but they also hold grief and longing too. It’s evident in the delicate and priceless way he misses his grandmother. Somehow he grieves beautifully. He grieves serendipitously. It’s inspiring. I wish he knew that. 

I tell him his idea is a great one. I listen as he mumbles more wishes from his heart. I’m not exactly sure what each one means but I know it’s a sign that he desperately wants to connect with the glorious grandmother he was gifted. One that was stolen away, way too soon. 

In the same way I’m filled with gratitude that he remembers her so delicately, I’m also heartbroken that he has to remember her instead of living alongside her, enjoying her the way I did. I’m honored that he strives to keep her memory alive and also devastated that he only has memories. It’s such a complex blend of sorrow and appreciation. 

I hug him tightly and kiss the top of his head. I’m so thankful I took the time to listen to his idea because what I was really listening to was his heart and his grief. I’m blessed to be his safe place. I’m grateful that he can share the needs of his healing. 

Grief is messy and challenging and transformative. It creates different needs with each shift in healing and perspective. He said he needed to see her, that he missed her, and shared exactly what his grief needed to move forward. His grief inspires and encourages, it’s full of hope. I wish he knew that. 

I’ll be getting my hammer and nails ready. Soon, I’ll be hanging a picture, because when grief highlights what we need, we should listen. 

I’m listening intently now. Are you?

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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