One thing I've struggled with is how to manage John's understanding of Ian dying. Of having a daddy, but having no memory of him.
We're a family of faith, actively involved in our church community so that gave me a bit of framework to use. We talk about daddy going to heaven, as opposed to other explanations. When ever I've been talking to John about Ian dying, I have kept that explanation consistent.
Recently John's been showing an interest in our wedding album. John was 4 months old when Ian and I married, so he's in the photos. And he has taken to saying that is when Daddy went to heaven.
I've got photos of John with Ian after the wedding up around the house; photos where John's obviously older than in the wedding photos.
So I wondered where this timing belief came from (not that I've dealt with it yet, but it's relatively new)...
This week however, we had our first experience of John stating that 'daddy went to heaven' independently, and to a stranger. And it gave context to his interpretation of the wedding photos being when daddy went to heaven.
A colleague of my step-mother got stuck sitting next to John as my Dad to both ladies to a function, and John insisted that he go for the car ride too. This lady apparently chatted away with John. Then she apparently said to John, something to the effect of 'you're not a baby'. John promptly responded 'when I was a baby, daddy went to heaven'.
How to throw someone who has no inkling that it's coming.
Let alone out of the mouth of a three and a half year old.
So I now know where his interpretation of the wedding photos comes from - he's a baby in them, and they're at the church we still attend, so in his little three and a half year old brain and understanding of the world, that's when daddy went to heaven.
And I know John has an explanation that he's at least comfortable with, if not fully understanding.
It's something to work with as he, and his language and comprehension, grows. As yet I've not gone into details with John about how Ian died, but I think it's time to add some of that medical detail so he builds a better understanding for himself.