Tag Archives: child dealing with death of sibling

Darcy’s Song

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!

I Hope You Dance

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Sibling Addition & Subtraction

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.

Grieving Siblings

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:
Invisible String

My Yellow Balloon

For the Adults:
The Boy on the Green Bicycle

Children Are Not Paper Dolls

Waiting

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…

Kisses

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.

Pictures

We’re leaving on vacation tomorrow and I had promised Darcy that we would work on a scrapbook of her and Benny. Of course I forgot to print out pictures, so here I am at midnight uploading to Wal-mart in my frenzied last minute panic.

I just sent 187 pictures to be printed. 187 memories of my family complete. 187 times when we were whole. 187 times before the accident that made us a family of 3 again.

I don’t often go here, because it hurts too damn much, but I’m sad tonight. I think some part of me goes about my day playing a part, as if Bennett didn’t exist. What an awful way to live my life. It’s too hard to remember what actually happened, so I think I’ve processed it as if he’s gone away. Not tonight.

I’m looking at these pictures and it devastates me so much to see my kids together. That will never happen again, Darcy will grow older in pictures alone. She has a brother that she doesn’t get to see, or touch or laugh with. There is no feeling on earth worse than this right now. IMG_4260

I know that I had it all and now it’s gone, he’s gone. I cannot get Darcy’s comment out of my head when I told her to play by herself, ‘but mom, I had a brother.’ It’s brings so many happy, painful memories to my mind. I cannot stand being alone in this house with her, it reminds me too much of what’s missing.

I had a son. His name was Bennett. I miss him.

Sometimes…

About 8 years ago, my 3 Day walking team and I put out a cookbook. I was going through it tonight looking for something and found these words that I wrote,

“sometimes people just pass through our lives and only stay long enough to make a difference.”

How very true indeed. When I think about all of the lessons that my children have taught me about life and love I feel lucky. They changed me, they changed my marriage and they made us a family. They made my life whole.

So my life is a little bit more like a donut now, there’s a big piece missing from the center, my munchkin is gone. I never thought that I would have a boy, it seemed such a foreign idea to me because I had two sisters. It hurts to remember all of the laughter that that little boy brought into my life. How coy he was when he smiled and how ridiculous he was when he tantrumed (it really was quite funny). He made me so happy and balanced out his sister. They were yin and yang. Maybe it was because they were so young yet, but they rarely fought. Most of the time Benny had Darcy in stitches, laughing hysterically over some antic that he had pulled. He was a performer and comedian and could have done so many amazing things with his life.

Today I was cleaning in my room and Darcy was behind me every time I turned around. I finally told her she needs to learn to play by herself for a little bit. I was picking something up off the floor when she said to me, ‘it’s because I don’t have a brother anymore to play with.’ It was a good thing that I was bent over so that she couldn’t see my face. How does one even respond to that? It was like someone physically stabbed me, it hurt so much. I wish I can make it all better, but I can’t.

Benny taught me happiness and laughter. Everything could be funny with him around. He taught me about patience like never before. He taught me about having a little boy and loving a son. Mostly he taught me life is short, there are no guarantees, how presumptuous of us to assume that there is a tomorrow. His life changed me, his death changed me. I miss the laughter and smiles. I miss Darcy’s playmate.