My son is named after two of his grandfathers. One on my side, one on my husband's side. And he misses them desperately. Having never really met them, I'm constantly stunned at how intense his grief is over these men. Marc's grandfathers both passed away before I met him, and my grandfather died last year. Sam didn't really know him at all. But he mourns for them, talks about his grandfathers a lot.
It's so hard to talk to him about it, because he's just aching with grief and sadness. Sometimes he'll get really quiet, and then he'll just say quietly "I just miss Grandpa Sam and Grandpa Bubbles and Grandpa Earl so much" and then start to cry, and it breaks my heart. Because I miss him too - I loved my Grandpa. He was the man in my life for a very long time, and I'll always miss him. On more than one occasion, both Marc and I have ended up crying right along with him.
I've tried to explain grief to Sam. Tried to tell him that it's okay to miss people we've lost, that missing them is a way of honoring them. And that even though it's hard, we just have to get thru it. I give him tangible reminders to make him feel better, I've framed pictures of each of them and put them on his wall. Marc's grandfather was devoutly Jewish, so I tell him that when we celebrate Shabbat, we're honoring him. My grandfather loved nature and reading and playing chess, so I'll pull out the chess board that my grandfather used to teach me chess and we play together. I recently went to the library and took out bird watching books, and Sam's outside right now, diligently bird watching with his best friend. "See, Mama? I'm watching the birds, just like Grandpa!"
Sam is such a tender, sweet kid. His emotions are raw, there's no artifice or defenses. Whatever he's feeling is right there. I always say that nobody loves me like Sammy loves me, because it's so intense and all encompassing. And his grief is the same way. He just misses them. He knows that he's lost something, but not having his great grandfathers in his life. And while my heart breaks for him, I'm also in awe of his capacity to love, to grieve for men who would have adored their namesake. And in the end, isn't that an incredible testimony to how very much these men were loved? How much of an impact they had, to be mourned three and four generations down the line? I hope that my great great grandchildren think of me as often as my son thinks of his grandfathers.