Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How a Stuffed Giraffe Became an Important Lesson On Loss

Today, the Overlord ran up the stairs from her play room, all the way to my office, to tell me, "Mommy! Giraffey's broken! His music winder thingy doesn't work anymore. Look! Can you fix him?"

Giraffey never had a name before today, by the way. The toy in question is a baby toy that Great-Grandma sent the Usurper when she was born. I think. The whys and the whens and wherefores aren't so very important to this story, though.

Basically, Giraffey is a plush music box. There's a wind-up key attached to its side. You wind it up. It plays a song. Well. No more, unfortunately. Something inside is broken, and neither me nor my husband know how to fix it. So...

Sadly, I told her, "No, honey. I'm sorry, but I can't fix this. There's nothing we can do about it. He's broken."

There was a look of absolute heartache on her face. The pout and the moisture in her eyes was nearly unbearable.

"Honey, I'm sorry, but I think it's time to say good-bye to Giraffey."

Her daddy came in to join us in the talk saying he couldn't fix Giraffey either. He told her she had the choice to keep him as is, broken but still able to be played with, or we could say good-bye. She chose to say good-bye. So I told her we'd send him to a faraway place where broken toys go after they can't be played with anymore.

This seemed kinder to me than telling her we were going to throw the toy in the trash. Little did I know it was going to turn into an elaborate story about Toy Heaven.

Later, I found her playing downstairs with her sister. They were having fun, giggling and make-believing with their My Little Pony toys. Then Lilah looked up with a pout and asked, "Mommy, where's Giraffey?"

"Honey..." The toy was upstairs, still. Her daddy was investigating it and trying to figure out if there really was any way to repair it, but we both knew it was a lost cause. So I told her, "Giraffey went to a faraway place where broken stuffies go when they no longer work, where they can live with other stuffies and be happy even though they can't be played with anymore."

As a nonreligious individual raising my children pretty much atheist, I never thought I'd be making a Heaven analogy to help my daughter deal with loss.

She accepted this story.

Later, upstairs while watching TV, she was pouting about Giraffey still, talking about how much she missed him. There were actual tears. I hugged her and told her, "Oh, honey. It's okay to feel sad when you miss something you love very much."

Wiping the tears off her cheeks broke me.

"Would it make you feel better to see Giraffey one more time, if he came back from the faraway place to say good-bye?"

"Yeah," she said.

So I got him back out of the closet where I'd stashed him to hide so she wouldn't keep asking us to try to fix him. She gathered him up in her arms and held him tight.

Unfortunately, her little sister was right there and wanted to play with Giraffey, too. It was a struggle getting her to let Amelia have the toy, but she relented when I told her to let her say good-bye in her own way. This was a concept that had to be drilled into her head repeatedly by both her father and me.

My husband told her, "You let Amelia say good-bye to Giraffey in her own way. He will stay with us until bedtime, and then he has to go."

Eventually she stopped trying to tell her sister to tell Giraffey good-bye. Some time later, she brought the toy back to me in my office.

"Mom, 'Melia put Giraffey down," she said, handing me the broken toy.

"Do you think Amelia's done saying good-bye to him then, in her own way?" I asked.


Amelia didn't come running back to my office crying, so I figured it was true enough. Though, I'm also pretty sure she had no idea what was going on. The Usurper is only two and a half to the Overlord's almost five now!

Somehow she got the impression that the faraway place I mentioned was an island. I didn't correct her. I like the idea of it being an island. Somehow I'm sure that makes it seem more soothing and an okay place to be.

"Is the Faraway Island magical?" she asked me.

"Yes, dear. The Faraway Island is a magical place where all stuffies and broken toys can talk to each other and be happy when they can't be played with anymore."

I do not regret expounding upon my lie.

"Oh. I never heard Giraffey talk."

"Well, maybe if you listen very closely you'll hear him talk to you. ... Are you done saying good-bye now?"


After dinner, we revisited with Giraffey one last time. I brought him out of my office and told Lilah, "Giraffey doesn't want you to be sad when he leaves, Lilah, so he told me he'd like to take a picture with you so you'll always have something to look at and remember him by."

So we took a couple of pictures, both of Lilah with Giraffey and Amelia with Giraffey.

Lilah came back to talk to me a little more about Giraffey and the Faraway Island. She told me she really wanted to see the Island and see all the talking toys. I told her that'd be nice. She asked where it was. "Is it up in the sky?"

"Maybe," I told her. "It's so faraway that even I don't know where it is, honey. I've never seen it. I'm not a toy, so I can't go there."

"Oh," she said. "I hope there's a moon there. The moon is magical. It's like an island."

All I could do was smile as she walked away.

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