Several times a week we go by the cemetery where Bennett is. Parker and I started saying hi as we drive by and now Fletch says hi and blows him kisses. He’s a pretty great little brother.
This is absolutely heartbreaking to watch. I know that Darcy was young when Benny died, but this is still so close to home.
I was thinking the other day about how many songs I was able to relate to Benny and his life and death. It really got me thinking. Does Darcy have a song? Is there something that stands out in my mind? Was there something that I used to sing to her.
This question plagued me for days. And then the other day ‘her song’ came on the radio. We were in the kitchen making dinner and I looked at her and said, ‘This! This is your song! This is what I used to sing to you when I put you to sleep!’ How could I ever forget?? Such an appropriate song if you know my daughter too!
Today was a great day with my family. We carved pumpkins, watched football (yes, that’s very odd for us), worked on Halloween costumes and just spent time with one another.
This has been a rare day for us because Autumn was crazy. Parker traveled a lot for work, school started back up and so did dance, girl scouts, etc. I welcomed this opportunity to be home with my family.
Darcy and I ran to Target and AC Moore to get the finishing touches for her costume. We had to drive across the parking lot and she asked if she had to buckle up, to which I said yes. We had just recently talked about how her booster seat in the car isn’t going away just because she’s 8. She’s just as serious about vehicle safety as I am.
I swear, there are times when I can feel it coming, when I know she’s going to ask questions about the accident. It’s been nearly 3 years and it’s lessened some, but it still gets me every time. I cannot describe it, it’s like feeling a ghost, because I just know.
She asked if I remembered the accident as we drove across the parking lot. I told her yes, bits and pieces. She asked if Benny had been run over and I answered honestly. She said, ‘I thought so.’
She asked me if I dropped him. I tried so hard to explain that it wasn’t on purpose. At that point we were getting out of the car and she started to tell me how she would have held on tight and hopped out of the way. To passersby it probably looked like she was doing a dance as we walked into the store while she described how she would have handled it.
I forget she was only 4. She knew what we told her. She’s nearly 8 and has had plenty of time to process and look at the situation from her 8 year old perspective.
I looked at her and said,’I don’t think we ever told you, but the police came over to the house with my car and reconstructed the accident. They timed how long it would take the car to get from the top of the driveway to the bottom. It was 6-7 seconds. I ran and the car door hit me and knocked Benny out of my arms. There just wasn’t enough time to get out of the way.’
She got it. I think it gave her a clearer picture of what happened. Her response was, ‘oh, well yeah, a car is much heavier than you. And now you park the other way so it won’t happen.’
It just seemed like something clicked with her, that she had a better understanding. In that moment, she seemed so old. Here’s a little girl that believes in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, yet I felt like I was speaking to an adult.
I never really thought about her looking at our situation as she grew up. It must be like watching a movie as a child and then seeing it as an adult and being able to identify the adult humor or situations.
I’m glad that she is giving me the opportunity to speak frankly. I’m so happy to have open lines of communication with her.
I’m so lucky to have this child in my life. She carries our Benny memories with her. She’s what keeps us going, she’s what makes us want more of everything that life has to offer.
Of utter and complete happiness. My daughter, my amazing daughter just found out she was cast as a mouse in the Nutcracker in the Hanover Theater. This is a big deal!
For weeks it was all that she could talk about. How she wanted to get a call back. I cautioned her that the competition would be fierce and told her that I was so proud of her for even trying out. I told her this was the first time she had ever done anything like this and tried to present realistic expectations.
Then tonight happened and we jumped on her bed and danced around her room. This little girl whose confidence used to worry me blows me away. I think back to 3 years ago, when her world fell apart and she was still so little learning the worst lesson about how unfair life is.
I remember the year and a half of therapy. I remember all of the tough questions and accusations. I remember the struggle with her and her peers. I remember how tough it has all been for her and how much it tore her down. Thinking of it all overwhelms me.
But today I look at that and I am floored by how confident this little girl has become. She didn’t get there alone. She is so very lucky to have some of the best, kindest and caring people in her life. Some of whom were strangers before Benny died and have become lifelong friends. Her aunties, her uncles, her cousins, her ‘San’s’ and her friends. She is where she is today because of them. Because these people have loved and supported her to no end.
It’s incredible to look at how far she’s come. I don’t often stop to think about it, because it’s so hard. Thank you to everyone that has helped to shape this confident little lady. I’m one proud mama tonight!
We are deep into the second week of school. Darcy has very hesitantly entered the third grade. I’m not sure how she grew up on me so quickly.
School scares me. She’s had good teachers and she’s had great teachers. She’s not just another kid in that classroom, but someone that needs extra attention. We’ve struggled with our love for school when her teachers just don’t get it and her emotional needs are not being met.
I understand that classroom sizes can be huge and with IEP’s and grading papers, there is a lot of work for teachers to deal with. What I don’t like is an unresponsive teacher and a child who doesn’t want to go to school. A child that I know is hungry to learn and create and become a part of her classroom community.
Darcy’s a great student, a huge classroom helper and takes direction well (from her teachers), so all that I ever hear is what a joy she is to have in class. She’s one of the easy ones and sometimes that causes her emotional needs to be overlooked.
So I am sitting here right now with the HUGEST feeling of relief because we are 8 days into the school year and I have heard from her teacher twice already. Nothing bad, just trying to test the waters and see where Darcy is at with things. There’s nothing better than knowing that she is willing to reach out at the slightest bit of trouble. This woman has no idea how much better I already feel about third grade.
And guess what? This must translate into her teaching style because Darcy is LOVING school! She comes home happy, excited to share stories and of course some drama from her day. She’s feeling confident again and it’s so nice to see her excited for school.
And all it took was a little communication.
When Darcy was three and a half (almost to the day) we welcomed Benny into the world. Darcy was so excited to have a sibling, not sure about the brother part, but nonetheless a little person to call her own. At three and a half she was super helpful, getting me diapers, wipes, grabbing me stuff while he was nursing and fending more for herself. She truly doted on Bennett and was a loving and caring older sister.
But she was still only three and a half. She was still too young to voice her emotions and how this new baby had affected her place in our family. Because I was the youngest child in my family, I never went through this transition. The night terrors that had disappeared started up again, so Parker was up with Darcy while I was up with Benny. She started giving me a very hard time because I was home on maternity leave with her and Benny throughout the summer. She became physical a few times, hitting, biting, which is not like her at all. She was a frustrated and jealous three and a half year old and expressed it in the only ways she knew how at the time. She very rarely took anything out on Benny, mostly on me or Parker. I think most kids go though an emotional time when a new sibling is born. It’s normal.
We finally got into a groove and she was able to adapt. As Bennett grew older, they played together all of the time. She was the most patient big sister and he rewarded her with his antics that she laughed at. They rarely fought and got along extremely well for siblings. Yes, she tried to control him, mother him, smother him sometimes with affection and rules, but their relationship was one to be envious of. I rarely had to break up a fight. She was happy to share her toys with him and play with him all of the time. She would distract him when I needed to pull something out of the oven. She was an incredible big sister, she was born to nurture others. I’ve never seen two closer siblings.
I now have an almost six and a half year old that has known the emotions that come with accepting a new sibling into their lives and then losing them. I’ve written previously about Darcy’s behavior issues, night terrors and therapy and what an incredible turn around this little girl has made. She is incredibly strong to have made it where she is today as a child. I am so proud to call this little lady my daughter. She is bright, out-going, kind, nurturing and able to own her emotions. It’s been a long road with a lot of work over the past year and a half, but we’ve all grown as a family.
Fast forward to present time. The night terrors have started. The behaviors are ramping up at school (a little) and at home. She is beginning to display her emotions through her behaviors again and not her words. This was easy to watch when she was younger, but she’s going into second grade next year. We just started back to monthly therapy. The first session we went to she was over the top, interrupting, asking tons of questions, trying to run the appointment so that she wouldn’t have to talk about her feelings. Her therapist even said at one point, ‘sheesh I haven’t seen you in a few months and I think you’ve forgotten how to talk about your feelings.’ I can feel the regression going on.
I don’t know if it’s the time of year, because this happened last May before Benny’s birthday too. I have a feeling that she’s struggling big time with the whole new baby, but can’t quite figure out yet how it’s affecting her. I have a child that went from only child, to having and loving a sibling, to only child and now she’s going to have a sibling again. I know that she’s older and the transition to sibling should be easier, but she doesn’t trust it. She actually said to me the other day that she hopes that the new baby doesn’t die too. I tried to explain that what happened to Benny was a freak accident and that it wouldn’t happen again, but I make no promises. I told her that I was pretty sure her brother Fletcher would grow old with her. She’s going through so much of the same feelings as I am. I just want to bubble wrap this little guy to make sure that nothing EVER happens. The difference is that I’m 35 and she’s 6.
It’s making me crazy that she’s going through this. That she’s scared to love Fletcher because of what might happen. That she can’t express herself because she’s too young to truly understand much of it anyway. No child should have to go through this ever. I’m angry. I’m sad. I want so much more for my daughter. She will never just be Darcy again, she will always be the little girl who’s brother died.
I am by no means an expert on this topic. I naively thought that Darcy was doing extremely well, until it all fell apart last February. All it took was one night away from Parker and I and the bottom fell out. She was extra clingy, acting out and night terrors had begun again.
How on Earth does a 5 year old process the death of her brother? How does she process someone close to her picking her up from school, bringing her home to see my car surrounded by police, ambulance and fire and no family around? How does she process that individual falling apart on her when she needed him most? Not getting any answers, but knowing something is terribly wrong. Darcy asks me a lot of questions about that day, but really hasn’t talked too much about what she through beyond coming home and saying that the police were nice to her.
Darcy saw the adjustment counselor at school twice in the beginning, which Parker and I were thinking was enough. She seemed to be adjusting ok. My cousin was on my case to set her up with her own counselor and after the holidays we did do that, although I had no idea what to expect. The first meeting was awful, Darcy wanted no part of it. I think a part of her sensed something was off. The second meeting went well and she warmed up to her therapist Annie and very shortly became the loving, playful person that we know, singing, dancing and playing through her sessions.
At first, I thought, ok, there’s very little going on here. We played, I enjoyed seeing Darcy interact and I figured, at least we tried. Then I talked to Annie one on one. She noticed that Darcy was constantly playing with cars, reenacting car accidents, ambulances and police coming to the scene. I had’t really even noticed, she always played with cars with her brother, so to me it was no different. She was trying to make sense of it all.
Annie started to push Darcy to talk about Benny. At first she would remain tight lipped and wanted nothing to do with it. To Darcy it was easier to not talk about him at all. This was hard for Parker and I. Darcy started to ask us to stop crying, she was done with it all. Annie pushed her a little more each session and in about 8 months, she was bringing in pictures and drawing her family album including Benny. She had truly opened up and begun to share with Annie. I found that she looked forward to our meetings with Annie. Over the summer when she started doing really well, we had gone from seeing Annie from once a week to two times a month. Darcy was missing her time with Annie desperately. Annie worked for us, she worked for Darcy.
The other day she came home from school with a paper she wrote about her family. She talked about all of our pets that have passed and how she loves her baby brother. That wouldn’t have happened a year ago.
Before I was born, one of my cousins died, he was hit by a car coming off of the bus. His older brother was there when it happened. This happened 40+ years ago. I sat at the table with my Uncle who said that he regretted not getting help for my surviving cousin. I think about how long ago everything happened to them and how different therapy was conceived. Because I was so young and never knew my cousin or their situation, I was surprised by how similar our stories were. I am also so hopeful because here they are today, decades later, surviving.
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, period. When it comes to kids, I don’t know the the right way to handle things, I just know what worked for us. I consider us lucky to have people in our lives that pushed us to get Darcy the help that she needed. I owe my cousin Annie, who pushed us to get Darcy into counseling my peace of mind.
I think I’ve talked about this, but I’ll say it again that a close friend gave us the book ‘The Invisible String’. We read it at Benny’s memorial services and it speaks about our connection with close friends and family without being overly sad for kids. Recently we had our neighbors over and Darcy chose to read this story to them. It made me feel really good that she felt comfortable reading this story that’s so closely intertwined with her brother’s services. There are a few additional books that I will also recommend below. I will add more as I find them.
For the Kids:
For the Adults:
The Boy on the Green Bicycle
Today we saw Darcy’s therapist for the first time in over a month. She has been doing so well, so we had agreed on spacing out her appointments a bit. There is a great deal of solace in the fact that we found ‘the one,’ this perfect woman who has spent so many hours with Darcy and I bonding over our shared loss. She has saved me in so many ways and truly helped me to become a more patient mother.
We often color, or play with legos, cars or a dollhouse. In the beginning, Darcy would play act with cars and create accidents, police, ambulances, everything that her little mind witnessed the day of the accident. Darcy wasn’t there when it happened, a reason for which I am eternally grateful. She came home to the aftermath, the helicopters, police tape and onlookers, she saw my car across the street and she knew that something really bad had happened.
We’ve worked hard with Darcy to help her identify her emotions instead of acting out and she has made incredible strides in opening up to her therapist and my husband and I. It’s hard to watch your child go through the loss of a sibling at any age, but at 5, death is still a foreign concept. She acts so mature sometimes, that I forget that she really still doesn’t understand.
Her therapist asked her today if she was scared that something would happen to me or Parker. Unsurprisingly, her answer was yes. She knows that I lost my mom to breast cancer and often asks me when I’m going to die, or if I’m going to get sick. She doesn’t get it and I’m mad that she has to.
Her therapist asked her tonight if she wonders if Parker and I will have more children. At first I was a little taken aback by this question because I really didn’t want to discuss my family plans with my 5 year old. What she said, shocked me. She wanted to know if I was going to have another little boy. She said we would call him Benny, Captain Crazy. She thought that we could make another Bennett. It broke my heart to explain to her that there was only 1 Benny. I told her that there was only 1 Darcy too, but she had just met a woman named Darcy on the walk, so naturally she corrected me. I tried to explain that every child is different, they look different and have different personalities. I reminded her of how different she and Benny were. I think she got it, but I don’t know. The fact that she thought that we could have ‘another Benny’ surprised me.
I love that she believes in magic and fairies and santa clause. I love her innocence. I wish we could all hold on to those beliefs as adults. At the same time, I wish she were older, it’s such a fine line to walk. I wish I could talk to her like an adult and know that she understands what I’m saying. I wish she were old enough to read this blog, I honestly cannot wait until she is. I want her to understand so badly. She’s my best friend, now I just have to wait for her to grow up.
I’ll be here future Darcy, waiting…
Darcy and I went to the library yesterday. When I walked in, there were tons of toddlers in the kids area, running around, making noise, and I couldn’t help but smile. We didn’t go there often with Benny, but had been in the fall right before the accident. It’s hard for me to be there.
There was a little man there, maybe 16-18 months. I was looking at him and smiled, then went to search the computer for books that Darcy wanted. I wasn’t really paying attention to what the kids were doing until one of the mother’s called out the name Bennett. I couldn’t believe it. I had never met another Bennett when the dude was alive, I couldn’t believe that there was one in the library. His mom asked him to put the bus away because they were leaving. Our Benny had a yellow bus, it was his favorite. It was the only toy I ever let him bring to Sandy’s and he would vroom it all over her house.
I’ve been seeing his name everywhere since I’ve been home. Most recently in a book I read (couldn’t tell you what it was about because my focus is all screwed up again) the characters last name was Bennett and she had PTSD, how appropriate. Parker’s Aunt once told me she considers this ‘a kiss’ from our children. It’s a beautiful way to think about it.
While in Canada, I had a Benny dream, the first in a long time. He was older, maybe 4 or 5 and dressed in a tux or suit and I think he was going to be in someone’s wedding (bizarre). He looked at me, all handsome and grown up and told me that he loved me. It was a surreal experience, because even in my dream I realized just how significant this was. Some part of me knew that he was gone, this wasn’t one of those dreams where you wake up and think he’s still alive. I knew in my dream what a gift this was. Tara dreamed about him a few days later. Keep it coming bud. We’re used to being on our toes where you’re concerned.