The grieving started tonight. M’s school made the announcement yesterday that Mrs. P died over the weekend, losing a long battle with ovarian cancer. M told me she wasn’t sad, and that she didn’t even cry in school. She did, however, start crying buckets when we got into the car and she said she forgot to do something that might prevent her from participating in backwards day on Friday. Through tears, she said, “we’ve never had a backwards day and what if we never have one again?” I thought this was very strange and asked her if she thought any of her tears were because she was said about Mrs. P. She told me no. I thought I got off easy.
That was a premature thought.
About 8:30 pm tonight, I went into M’s room to say goodnight to her and saw her looking at last year’s yearbook. She held up the book to me and pointed to Mrs. P’s photo. She started crying. We spent the next half an hour crying and talking and crying some more. I held my big girl (7 years old) as we both cried. I’m not sure if I was crying more for her or for me. I’m not sure if my crying made things harder for her or not. I just couldn’t help it.
This is very hard on both of us. I lost a dear friend to cancer a few years ago, and it’s been hard for me because of that. I’m not sure why she did, but Mrs. P told me that she had cancer during our parent teacher conference last year. I’ve been expecting this was going to happen for just about a year now and had been dreading having to have M go through this.
You could just tell how much Mrs. P cared about her kids, and I felt she was especially fond of M. She promised me she’d take care of M, knowing how shy she was socially when M was first in her class. And every time she saw me, she told me how much she enjoyed having M in her class and how much she felt so happy to see her bright and smiling face. We saw Mrs. P over the summer, after the science summer camp and her face would just light up when she saw M, and M”s face would light up too. It seemed to me that M felt especially close to Mrs. P.
M asked how you “catch” cancer, and why does your body stop fighting it even if you get treatment for it? These are tough questions to answer.
I tried to focus on the good things about Mrs. P, but that only made us both cry harder. The thing is, even though I didn’t know her that well, she was such a sweet person and a dedicated teacher. I wanted all my girls to have a chance to have her for first grade. I was going to miss her smile at us every time she saw us.
The most heartbreaking thing about our conversation tonight was that said she never got to say goodbye. But I did remind her that she did send cards and pictures and that I was sure Mrs. P knew that M loved her. I told her we would go to the wake on Friday. I have no idea how to prepare her for that.
I told M that it was okay if she needed to see Mrs. Z (school psychologist) to talk if she felt sad. She told me that if she was sad, that she’d cry after school. I told her that was okay and it might take a while to feel better and that was okay too.
I know she is private with her feelings, and never wants to cause a scene in front of anyone.
This is just….hard.