A sense of impending doom

Since Tuesday I have been very worried. Of course I worry about my son’s friend who will be fighting for life and more than likely losing that battle. I have been worried for my friends who will lose their child and still, somehow, have to find a way to continue for their other child. But humans being what they are, I have mostly been worried sick for my son.

I wonder how he will react to the death of his friend. I understand that children that young cannot quite comprehend death, at least not as something that is forever. And he has never showed that much sadness around death – our fish or his great-grand-uncle. But those were not as big a part of his life. They went away, but they didn’t leave a big hole in his life. We have always tried to be matter-of-fact around death because we don’t believe in lying about it. We don’t believe in God so we are not going to tell him stories about his friend watching over him from a cloud in the sky. As another friend has said: the curse of being an atheist. We have always tried to keep our cool around death. But this is something else.

Eventually, he will see his friend sick. We are not going to shield him from that, because if his presence can make it easier for his friend to go through chemo, and of course if our son is ok with that, we will allow him to spend time with his friend. He will surely see the sadness surrounding the whole thing. And I’m sure he will see me cry. Because I will. And again, I don’t want to lie to him. If he wants to go to the funeral, I’ll encourage him, because I think it’s healthier in the long run. Death is a part of life, and modern society has a tendency to want to forget it, but it’s true.

Still, I wonder what effect it will have on him. Will he brush it off and continue unscathed? Will he be changed forever? Will life be different for him after losing a very, very good friend. I don’t know. All I can do is brace myself and try to get as much information as I can about the best way to help him go through this. Do I wait before I tell him so he doesn’t worry for too long (months can be very, very long when you’re four)? Or do I tell him way ahead of the end so he has time to prepare himself, to grieve, and especially, so he doesn’t start worrying that everyone else around him could disappear overnight? How early is just right? Will he have nightmares after that?

It could be a life-changing experience, one that I have never been through. Or it could just be another normal event that he will just brush off, a bump in the road. He has other friends. He might be just fine. I don’t know. And it drives me crazy.

We can only wait and be ready to pick up the pieces. I’ll make sure I hug him very tight when he needs me to.

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