To the grandparents in Noodles & Company,
Hello sweet people. I see you.
I see you sitting with and listening to your young granddaughters as they innocently eat their noodles and ask endless questions that likely vary across a spectrum so wide I can’t even begin to guess.
Why is the sky blue?
Do you see this noodle—what does it look like to you?
Can I have a cookie?
Do you remember that one dog we saw last year with black spots?
Will you pretend to be a baby squirrel and play in the trees with me? I’m a baby bunny named Rosie.
I saw you reach for her, Grandma. You pulled her gently onto your lap and let her cry. I saw her sobbing. I saw you hold her as you likely have many times over the past days, weeks. This wasn’t the first burst of tears and won’t be the last.
I saw you, Grandpa, get up to buy the cookie they’d asked for. They ate a good lunch and the cookie was their reward. I saw you wipe your own tears quickly as you waited in line.
And my own heart lurched. I knew this scene all too well.
You are a grieving family. Someone you love dearly has died. Someone you never imagined out of the picture of your life is permanently gone from this earth. I can’t help but wonder if it’s a parent of your granddaughters. Perhaps your own child? Or heaven forbid, both of their parents.
I hold the hot tears back as my own happy daughters finish their lunches. They are happy—safely held by the concept of family that has never, in their sweet 2 and 4-year lifetimes ever changed.
I hold the hot tears back because this is not about me. I will not make it about me. But my heart is ripping inside my own body. I am grieving for you, your loss and your own deep grief.
And in this moment, I want nothing more than to say to you, sweet grandparents,
“You are doing a good job. I am so proud of you. Keep holding them close. Reassure them that it’s OK to feel whatever they need to feel. It’s OK to be angry. It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to laugh when something is funny. There is no right or wrong way of grief.”
I see your eyes lock with mine Grandma, and I try with every fiber of my being to transmit my heart directly into yours as I smile at you. You smile back, as you carry your granddaughter out the door and to the car. You are tired and unsure of how to do this all. But, you’re doing it. Moment by moment. Each hand held. Each tear that soaks into the shoulder of your own shirt. You’re doing it.
I want to tell you to take care of yourself too. Find your own shoulder to cry on. Find a hand to hold. Grieve yourself, too. As you maintain strength for your sweet granddaughters, find time to do what you need to do for yourself.
I see you Grandpa, as you silently tuck the forgotten cookie in your pocket and walk with your youngest granddaughter out the door. I see the sadness in your eyes. I want to give you a hug. But, instead, I say a prayer.
I am so thankful for you and your gentle hands. The cookies you’ll buy. The yeses you’ll give to bring joy to their lives, even in the midst of tragedy. I am hopeful for a community to surround you both in this difficult time. I am thankful that we all are fully capable, in any given moment, to grieve as needed.
In my years of counselor training and running support groups for grieving families, the ONE (most important) THING I learned over and over again is that
we, as people, can do the hard work of grieving.
We only need a safe space to do so and a community with which to do it.
I pray for space to allow all 4 of you to be able to do what you need to do as you process, as you grieve, as you learn what this means for your lives.
As I sit and watch you, I reach for my own daughter’s cheeks. I hold them in my hands and kiss them. I tell her she is brave and beautiful and that I love her very much. She giggles. In that moment, I am reminded of what it means to raise babes, to parent.
Families all look very different, but one thing is universally true… where there is love between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, there are moments of feeling as if your own heart is walking around outside of you. Sometimes your heart is bursting with so much pride and joy that you feel as if your smile will break your own face. And other times, the hurt and pain is so intense as you watch them hurt and feel pain and maneuver it all. You want nothing more than to fix and protect them from any type of grief or pain ever. But, we all know, that isn’t what life is about. We feel pain. We get hurt. We fall. Our children don’t need us to change that. What they need most is for us to let them feel all the stinking feels. They need us to help them process it all—whether through conversation, or simply holding them, kissing them or crying with them.
So, to you, grandparents at Noodles & Company, I know you may not feel capable. But, tell yourselves you are. Tell yourselves that regularly, because the truth is…. YOU ARE. You are fully capable. You are doing a good job. Keep it up. Keep loving. Keep going. You are doing it really, really well.