Death and all her friends

Zu has always been a bit insecure. Part of it may be a result of spending a summer away from our home when she was 1. It is possibly a result of being an adopted child. And genetics might bear part of the blame.

She is empathetic to a degree not found in many adults. She feels the pain of others. When you’re sad, she’s sad. She is the girl going out of her way to brighten the world around her. Yet you add that insight to the other feelings endured by typical three year olds (temper tantrums, testing boundaries, feeling picked on by older siblings, impulses to eat things that are not edible), what you find is a girl struggling to express her emotions.

Along with the empathy, there is a deep bond with Bekah and me. I treasure this attachment, but it bellies Zu’s battle with insecurity. We cuddle with her, but she always begs for more time cuddling. She longs to be wherever we (the adults) are located. Zu she dreads the time of day where we leave for work or drop her off for school and she celebrates our return as we walk through the front door.

The mornings have become routine enough to be predictable. Zu is an early riser and is often awake before my alarm buzzes. She will greet me in the hall or the living room as I slog out of my bedroom. While I am preparing to leave for work (usually at the moment I get on my shoes or or pull my coat around my shoulders) we have the same conversation - nearly identical word-for-word - every morning.

“Daddy, where are you going today?”
“To work.”
“Please don’t go.”
“I have to, baby.”
“But I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too, love.”

This concept of missing me (or missing Bekah) is a common theme for Zu. I get home from work and "I missed you" are the first words I hear. She will tell Bekah “I missed you” when Zu gets home from school. Bekah and I will go out for dinner or a movie, leaving the kids with their grandparents, and Zu will let us know she missed us when we return. I always thought of this as how Zu expresses love or that it was her showing tenderness for the people that she cares about. That is sweet and endearing. But there is another cause for her concern: fear.

It was recently brought to our attention that she is scared of losing us. We never thought about it, but now that we know… it makes sense.

Since returning from Oklahoma, her insecurities have become more noticeable. She follows me around the house as I’m getting ready for work in the mornings and she cries when Bekah drops her off for school. She acts out if we leave the house - even if it is to run to the grocery store, or take out the trash. Whatever behaviors existed before our trip are now more pronounced. She’s acting out of fear.

When we were told that she is afraid of Bekah and/or me dying, my heart broke. The way Zu described it, she doesn't like it when we leave her somewhere because she is scared that we will die and not ever come back for her. This beautiful and wonderful child constantly living in fear; something about it feels wrong. No preschooler should be so equally adorable and somber. No kid should have to worry about such heavy topics like death and grievous emotional loss.

I'm not exactly sure how to help her. I'm not even sure I possess enough compassion to heal those wounds. In most moments, she is a normal, hyper, lovable, and playful little girl. But it's in those seconds as I open the front door, the instant that I must go, it is then that she needs me the most.

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