The unexpected death of Eliane, his wife, victim of a lethal meningitis (“She called me from work saying she didn`t feel well and 24 hours later she was dead”), left Ronaldo Baker, a designer from the south of Brazil, from one day to the other, with a double challenge: to survive the shock and pain of loss and at the same time, support and take care of their baby daughter, Rafaela, 5 years old.
There is no possible preparation to handle such a situation. Or a strategy that makes it easier. However, life points out ways to proceed. As he said in a long and exciting skype conversation, it was Rafa herself who gave the first clues of how to move forward. “She told me that the feeling of longing was gone when she drew.” Ronaldo started drawing with an application on his phone. He created a series of cartoons that recorded exciting moments of his daily life with the girl. The stories nowadays illustrate his blog paiviuvo.com.br where he gathers also articles, videos and testimonials about the grieving that can help people who may be going through the same process. As he describes in the blog, his goal is to show that the world doesn’t end when we lose someone we love.
The first big decision that Ronaldo had to take alone was about taking or not Rafaela to her mother’s funeral. He talked to the school’s psychologists and although he has heard all the recommendations about taking the girl, that it would be good, he thought it was best to spare her from this moment. “I saw that this is a very personal decision,” he says, “I don`t know if I did well, but I followed my heart. I found very brutal to expose the child to the mother’s view in the casket, and also to people`s comments” Ronaldo didn`t take her and also told his daughter the mother had died and wouldn`t return. It was the small Rafaela who turned his mother into a little star in the sky, although this has not been told by her father. At first, he did not like the idea, but eventually realizing that the image helped the little girl, made a drawing of the scene and let Rafa had her little star mother.
Since the death of his wife, father and daughter have lived good days and bad days, happy and sad. Rafa cried with Mother’s Day celebrations in school and suffers when asked why her mom doesn`t pick her up. The girl expresses her pain without problems and has taught her father to do the same. At the same time, she recovers fast and plays with her little dog Piti, without losing child’s joy.
Rafa has taught me a lot, I haven`t yet learned how to comb her hair.