Raising Grieving Children

I was home with my little rainbows the other day when my four year old son came over to me with tears in his eyes. I was potty training with the 2 year old, which consists of whisking her through the house before she can pee on my carpet whilst she screams at me that she has to ‘go right now!’. So I’m in the middle of wiping butts and washing hands when her brother approaches me with big crocodile tears running down his cheeks.

‘What’s wrong buddy?’ I’m asking not really paying attention as I’m trying to clean up the mess his little sister made. ‘I really miss Benny. I’m sad that he died.’ he replies standing there clutching his big brothers picture in his hand.

It was as if someone punched me in the gut, or maybe more accurately, the heart. This beautiful child of mine never even met his older brother. He was born nearly 2 years after he died. It completely throws me when this little 4 year old has these very intense moments of loss.

Later in the day my son was talking about music and how sad music makes you feel your feelings, especially when someone dies. Then you cry. This little guy may be more emotionally mature than I am.

And what am I supposed to do with this? Never in a million years did I expect my rainbows to feel the loss of their brother they never knew this deeply. The whole thing is baffling and overwhelming. My older daughter who knew her brother has been in therapy for years and we’ve all been getting the help that we need. I guess I figured that Benny would be an abstract idea to these ‘after’ children.

Maybe it’s because we have pictures of Benny up all over the house. We talk about him and share stories. We celebrate his birthday and visit him in the cemetery. My children have been raised surrounded by tragedy and death and the realization that young people die too. It’s awful to even pen these words.

I wish I knew how to best handle these moments when they happen, or at least be able to be better prepared for them. But like most instances in parenting, it’s learning as you go.

So I got down on his level and hugged him tight. I told him that I was sorry that he missed his brother and it’s ok to be sad. I cried because it made me miss his brother too. It made me miss everything my boys never got to do together.

As I collected myself the kids became busy with Batman and my son had moved on. He accepted the fact that Benny was gone and he was ok with it, for now. I wish that I could be as resilient in grief as children are.

#thisischildloss

The Next Right Thing

**Spoiler Alert for Frozen II**

Clearly I am on a Frozen II kick this week! If you don’t have little kids, or haven’t seen it, you have missed Disney getting grief right. I know that I’ve posted other songs/lyrics from the movie, but this one was a gut punch. I have never been so bowled over by a scene/song in an animated movie before. And I was prepared!

It all started when my oldest came home one day to tell me that Olaf the snowman dies in Frozen II. I knew we would be taking the kids to see it, so I needed to be prepared. We love Olaf over here (I swear my 4 year old son is part Olaf), so I was worried how my kids would handle this. I was concerned it would be triggering for my eleven year old, who is the only one to know her brother before he died.

I reached out to a friend, who reminded me that this was a Disney movie (in other words , everything ends well), but that that scene was sad and Anna sings a song about loss. So I knew what was coming. And I sat in that theatre and I cried my damn heart out.

I watched Anna hold Olaf as he was being reduced to snowflakes and my God it took me back to the last moments of holding Benny and saying good bye. And the lyrics to the song that Anna sang during that scene were probably the best description that I have ever heard of how to handle early grief.

This is cold
This is empty
This is numb
The life I knew is over
The lights are out
Hello, darkness
I’m ready to succumb

I follow you around
I always have
But you’ve gone to a place I cannot find
This grief has a gravity
It pulls me down
But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
You are lost, hope is gone
But you must go on
And do the next right thing

Can there be a day beyond this night?
I don’t know anymore what is true
I can’t find my direction, I’m all alone
The only star that guided me was you
How to rise from the floor
When it’s not you I’m rising for?
Just do the next right thing
Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing
I won’t look too far ahead
It’s too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath
This next step
This next choice is one that I can make

So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And with the dawn, what comes then
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again?
Then I’ll make the choice
To hear that voice
And do the next right thing

I’ve seen dark before
But not like this

Nearly seven years later I’m still stumbling around trying to do the next right thing. Some days are easier than others. Some days there just don’t seem to be any right things.

I guess that’s all we can do when we are confronted with such a huge loss, is realize that the life we knew is gone and try to figure out what is next. And that can seem very overwhelming.

Anna reminds us to measure time slowly at first, break it down to make it more manageable. You shouldn’t try to figure it out all at once.

But we always must go on. Even though we don’t want to and the grief is so heavy. We must make the choice to keep moving. And keep doing the next right thing.

#thisischildloss

This Will All Make Sense When I am Older

We have little ones, so naturally we have seen Frozen II. I think I am more excited than my children are for when this movie is released on DVD. Disney has wrapped so much feeling and emotion into an hour and 43 minute movie. Now that I have memorized all of the songs from Frozen II (we play them on repeat constantly), I am desperate to watch it again. The lyrics are so unbelievably poignant and speak to me on many different levels.

If you haven’t seen the Frozen movies, the premise of this particular song is when the snow man, Olaf, is trying desperately to make sense of something that makes no sense. He was created by magic in the first movie, so he is younger and is seeking knowledge. He also tends to be very dim witted (yet lovable) and seems to think that age equals understanding.

Last Friday I turned 40. And even though I had been listening to this song over and over on repeat for the last month, I didn’t realize the message in the lyrics. And how absolutely absurd and hilarious they actually are. I can tell you that no matter what age you are, everything will absolutely make no sense.

The more that I have tried to rationalize the awful things that have happened in my life, the more I have realized that that is not possible. With age, the only thing that seems to make sense is that nothing does. I have changed my thinking from an ‘Everything happens for a Reason’ type of person to a ‘Shit happens’ type of person. Because sometimes things that happen that have no meaning or reason.

When we try to justify something tragic, we do harm to those involved by disregarding the severity of the situation and their feelings towards it. The only one that we make feel better is ourselves because we are creating distance between ourselves and their tragedy. I have been guilty of doing this and I’m sure it’s just a survival instinct, along the lines of ‘that couldn’t happen to me.’ I am now of the mindset of ‘know better, do better.’

I have learned that death, love, loss, tragedy and human emotion don’t make much sense. And I’m making my peace with that. It’s a process to retrain your thinking, but a sudden tragedy will do that to you. Thank you Disney for recognizing how silly of a concept trying to make sense of the insensible is.

#thisischildloss

 

 

Damn it, Facebook!

So it’s a new year and I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed loving all of the great New Year ‘intentions’ when a memory pops up. Hit me square in the gut. Or more likely, the heart.

I cannot believe that this was 8 years ago. How happy and carefree we were. How excited we were!

I can start a new year, a new decade, hell I could change my name and move to a new country and this would still be my reality. I would still have lost such a huge part of my heart the day my Benny died. Two steps forward and five steps back. Such is grief.

I just know now to roll with these sucker punches when they happen now. I smile and try to think of my little guy. I hug my babies a little tighter, smile at a stranger, make sure that the ones I love know it. There’s a calm in being able to control the few things that I can.

I don’t like the word ‘resolutions’ so, I will talk about intentions. This one about sums it up for me.

Happy New Year to my fellow loss friends. May this year be a good one for remembering our children.

#thisischildloss

2020

I’m not sure anyone actually enjoys getting older. Tomorrow marks the beginning of another decade and on January 24th I will be entering my 40th year. I was born in 1980, so my birthday always coincides with the year. Each new decade, I am a decade older.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been dreading this until recently. How the hell am I that old?? It doesn’t seem possible. I look in the mirror confused by the same eyes that have looked back at me since I was a young girl. Sometimes it feels weird to be in my body. And then I look back at pictures and memories and I’m floored by how much I have done. And how much time has passed.

I always dreaded getting older. My mom died young at 49. The thought of losing everything scared me. Then my son died at 18 months and the term of dying young seemed relative. None of it makes sense.

About a year ago a fellow loss mama shared with me that she loves getting older. And I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t ever thought of that attitude as an option. But now as I look back on the last decade, not only am I happy to be getting older, because of every day is a gift, I cannot wait until midnight.

Everything is numbers for me. And these last 10 years have SUCKED. I continue to feel like my 30’s weren’t so great, ok, they were awful. I am convinced that if I go into my 40’s with an open heart and mind, I may have a fighting chance.

No, there are no promises this decade won’t suck too. That’s ok. It just feels like I grew up. A lot. And maybe I can be better prepared for my 40’s to suck because I’m not only taking the sorrow with me, but the growth as well. And that’s something.

So Happy New Year. In this moment, I welcome my 40’s. We’ll see how I feel about it in 24 days.

Grief & Social Media

I lost my mother at the age of 16, back in 1996, during the birth of the internet. She died before you could share her obituary on Facebook and receive condolences from across the world. There was no GoFundMe started to help our family cover her medical costs associated with breast cancer. There weren’t any support groups for me to join online where I could meet other motherless daughters. It just was.

Fast forward to 2013. I was removing my 17 month old son from his car seat, when I reached in to turn off my car. We were both hit. I survived, he did not. This story was covered in the news, incorrectly over and over again, ad nauseum. But this wasn’t 1996. The news wasn’t only on television.

When we got home after saying good bye to our son for the last time, there were reporters everywhere. They followed us to a neighbor’s driveway as we tried to see our daughter. We had to sneak into our house through our neighbors yard, into our back door to avoid them. One of the first things we did was take down our Facebook pages. We did not want the press to have access to our family photos. We did not want anyone to find out on our social media accounts about the accident. It didn’t matter. It happened anyway.

I just recently signed back onto my own Facebook account after almost 6 long years. I couldn’t shake the feeling that people had access to our photos and could take whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. I honestly felt like I had to hide, I’m not sure from whom? Maybe being on social media again made it all the more real that my son had died. The whole mess with the media just felt like a huge invasion of our privacy and it’s taken me a long time to get over that.

Going back to social media came with some other pitfalls. Do I share my grief? How much do I share? Will people just roll their eyes at the mom whose still crying over her loss from 6 years ago? I mean, she had 2 other babies, can’t she just be happy?

I am happy, but I am also grieving. And boy do I share it. I never in a million years thought I would be able to allow myself to be so vulnerable. But here I am. Blogging. And running a Facebook group. And sharing my feelings on my personal page. Because grief is a huge part of who I am now. And as much as that sucks, it’s my reality.

One of the best things that came about from getting back onto social media for me was connection. I have met so many other moms and dads going through what I’m going through. Suddenly, I don’t feel so alone.

Hours after our accident, friends of ours started a ‘YouCaring’ (now GoFundMe) site. We didn’t even know thetr were fundraising platforms for our situation and had no idea this was even going on for several days. Then all of a sudden we were given access to not only money, but so much love. We poured over the comments from complete strangers. It made it a little less worse when we felt all of that love. We watched as our community reached far and wide and embraced us.

We were able to create a book with all of the beautiful comments shared on our sons obituary. We have every single thing written about him/to us from friends, family and strangers alike. It’s pretty amazing that we get to keep those sentiments to reflect on, because we certainly weren’t in a good state of mind to view them when it all happened.

It’s interesting how social media has shaped my grief process in the present vs. the past. I’m not saying it’s all good, because for me it’s certainly been complicated. All that access to information is bittersweet when you’re trying to deal with a delicate situation, such as sharing the news of the death of a loved one. But it can also be a platform to share memories too. I’m honestly not sure if I prefer my pre social media grief or not. I just know that either way, grief is complex. And it sucks.

I’m Not Ready

I’m still in October. I am not ready for November. It seems to have snuck up on me this year. How does that happen?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around Benny being gone for just 5 years and now on November 8th, it will be 6 years. Again, how did that happen?

Not being ready seems to be a theme with grief, so it’s a feeling that I know all too well. A very unwelcome feeling. I wasn’t ready to say good-bye. I’m not ready to accept that it’s been nearly 6 years.

So I’m not ready for Autumn, or possible snow next Friday. I’m not ready for Halloween to be over and November to begin. I’m not ready to admit to myself that yet another year has passed and it’s been almost 6 years since I held you or kissed you.

So if next Friday, would like to give me another month or 2 to catch up, that would be great. Because I’m just not ready to face November 8th yet.