My grandson, Timothy, pulls his hood around his five-year-old face with the strings left dangling down his chest and his coat unzipped. A sock monkey droops its body half way out of the lime green backpack that bounces along the gravel driveway. Cold drizzle hit us in the face as we hurry to the car and strap our seat belts in place.
“I see you have brought a new friend along,” I say. “What is your friend’s name?”
“His name is Hiccup. He is visiting me for a whole week, and then I have to take him back to school, so someone else can take him home.”
The rain beats hard against the windshield as I drive down the muddy gravel road to the highway that leads us to my house. I wonder how I am going to get through our overnight playdate. Christmas is just two weeks away and I am reminded of all the passed-away loved ones that I won’t be sending a card. How do we get through the holidays? Then Timothy brought me back to the present.
“Grandma, I am supposed to take Hiccup places and then write down where we went. Can you help me write about Hiccup?”
I quickly answered, “Of course, sweetie. We can write down where you have been and what we do before you go home.”
Timothy smiled from ear to ear and said, “I love you, Grandma.”
“I love you too, honey.”
Just as we turned into the driveway, Timothy said, “Hiccup wants to see the Christmas lights tonight. Or he will be sad forever.”
“Okay sweetie, we will go see the Christmas lights after dinner.”
It seemed less complicated if I followed Timothy’s lead, and I wouldn’t have to use a lot of my energy thinking up activities to give him happy memories.
I got my camera out and we took pictures of Hiccup and Timothy doing various fun and silly things to give him a few souvenirs for school.
While we were looking at Christmas lights, Timothy said, “I am glad Hiccup came to visit me this week. He has helped me to not miss Grandpa so much.”
Although the grandpa Timothy was referring to was not my husband, it reminded me how important it is to take time to play, in order to help reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed, while healing from grief and loss. Timothy’s playdate took me into a state where time passed quickly. I felt challenged and blissful helping my grandson spell words upon the page. I was fully engaged in a social interaction that brought meaning and purpose to my life.
Maybe you don’t have children to draw your attention away from the grief and loss you feel for a short respite. Then do something spontaneous that you enjoy and helps you lose track of time. Deliberately schedule some fun into your life. If you don’t take time to care for yourself, no one else will.