Erin has a friend whose father just passed away suddenly. This little boy is 9 years old and facing the rest of his life without his dad. Obviously our family is aching for this boy and his mother as the community rallies support around this wonderful family. Loss is loss, quite frankly, and Chris and I have been talking about how we can help this family a few weeks from now, knowing that the hard part really begins when people start to move on. The grief kicks into gear when you try so hard to move towards some kind of normal life and realize that nothing will ever be "normal" again--at least not the old definition of normal. So what can we do? Cook meals, offer up child care, and give them space to grieve. Space and time to just let it all go and be sad. People who haven't dealt with life-changing grief don't understand how hard that work is, how much time it takes and how much space you need to do it. It is such hard, important work--too much for a 9 year old boy, but do it he must.
As we were having this conversation with Erin about what we can do to help, Erin disappears into her Lego room. I originally thought she had gone in there to putter--trying to escape the sadness and wrap her brain around the idea that this person (who she had dinner with a few weeks ago) was gone. I was wrong. She comes out and hands me a few mini-figures that she had assembled. "What is this?" I asked.
"Oh, that is Eragon, Harry Potter, Boba Fett and Anakin Skywalker. They are for sympathy magic."
At this point, she explains to me that Sympathy Magic is something she read about in one of her books (Percy Jackson maybe?). What her friend has to do is pass his sadness into these characters who all have had the same kind of loss as him--in this case, the loss of a father. From them, he can draw the strength he needs to continue on. "Because," she said, "what [her friend] needs now is the strength to be sad."