Last weekend was my Grandfather’s funeral. I’m still recovering from this experience. It’s not just about processing the grief for myself. But also, all the ways his passing has impacted my 3 highly sensitive kids.
Times like this, it’s clear, we’re dealing with extraordinary children. They ask a lot of questions. They inquire about death, heaven, and the after life. Where do we go? Who will be there? How do we get there? Is God real? What does he look like?
My oldest actually has an intense fear of heaven. He tells me he does not want to go there. He believes, very much, heaven is a terrifying place. Furthermore, despite family and friends best intentions, telling my son his great grandfather is in heaven is not comforting to him. In fact, it sent him into a state of complete overwhelm.
We’ve spent the past week sitting in the mysterious wonder; of death, the afterlife, God, and the great beyond. Parenting highly sensitives is a whirlwind like that. They explore these concepts deeply and thoroughly until their minds are exhausted of thought. For days they tried endlessly to unlock the understanding of life’s unknowables. They get lost in the exploration of these abstract concepts, distracting them from the tasks of every day life.
Needless to say, I was hesitant when it came to their desire to attend great grandpa’s memorial, but they wished to be a part of his service in order to say a proper Good- Bye.
The funeral was disorienting for them. They sat in the front row, amongst a sea of grieving people, listening to stories of his beautiful life, trying to understand how people could laugh AND cry, feel happy AND sad all at once. My middle even asked how their Great Grandpa can fit inside such a little box.
This is a lot of information for such tiny little minds.
So my littles did what highly sensitives do, which is, get the unfamiliar sensations out of them through movement. Because, sitting in a room filled with sorrow- filled people triggers their entire body, and activates distress. They feel uncomfortable; mind, body and spirit. They’re bombarded with feelings and emotions, trying to determine where they begin and end.
Due to the silent chaotic nature of the event, it was no surprise to me when my kids started to wiggle, squirm, and literally roll the feelings out of them.
I understand (to a degree) this leaves them open for judgement. I understand people perceive their ‘too much-ness’ as “bad behavior”. But, when my 3 year old threw himself on the floor in front of the priest, I was completely unphased. Further more, I swore I heard my grandfather chuckle as he watched his great grandchild barrel rolling between the legs of my seat. My grandfather took quite a liking to my youngest. I could feel their bond alive in that moment. I felt waves of peace, knowing he was right there with us.
Until I felt a shift in the room, I was suddenly completely aware of the unhappiness surrounding me. My son’s “too muchness” was flaring and not everyone took this as lightly as we did. You see, not everyone is as understanding, empathic or patient with my child as me and my grandfather.
My youngest was subsequently “kicked out” for his “bad behavior”, I was devastated. I was embarrassed. But mostly I was angry. For what reason was he banned from the service? For his self- expression? For his emotion? What was so terrible about him being on the floor? It was neither disrespectful nor distracting to anyone. I didn’t have answers for him, or for myself and my heart ached for us both.
The expectation was quite large, and if anyone thinks [my] kids will just sit still unmoving, while their bodies fill with emotion is unfair and unrealistic.
My children responded beautifully, as best they could with the magnitude of emotion that filled the room. Regardless of onlookers and their opinions, what matters is, they gained closure on a difficult chapter in their lives.
By the end of a 2.5 hour service, I could sense my children were completely drained, as was I. I felt a mixture of pride in just how well they handled themselves, and defeat in the way others responded to them.
It’s a constant battle, raising highly sensitives, trying to make space for their needs, and protecting my little cubs from the intolerance of others. I just want them to feel loved and accepted even in those moments they’re unsure of themselves. They deserve that, we all do.
I think the most wonderful part of this experience is, they honored their grandfather just by being their brave little selves, which is exactly what he would want. And I feel him smiling down on them, he knows they are exactly as they need to be.