I’m not a huge fan of calling someone grieving ‘strong’, because what choice did we have? But this post left me feeling empowered. Maybe anything is possible.
My article on joining a grief group has been picked up by The Mighty. Check it out!
This was the day I was dreading. They say it’s every parents nightmare when they have lost a child, that people will forget.
It’s been five years and they have moved on with their lives. I don’t want to say that we have too, we are learning to grow through our grief. Every day is different.
They were there. They saw us. They were with us. They grieved alongside us. But somehow they forgot him. Somehow they forgot what this did to us as a family.
I know that this is about their character, but it still hurts. It hurts to have to explain ourselves. It hurts that they are so far removed now that they just don’t get it. It hurts that they forgot.
I will never forget him. His dimpled smile is etched in my brain. The feel of him in my arms is locked safely within my heart. For me, he will never go away.
So I was scrolling through the Facebook tonight and reading about a celebrity who had a mishap and their child was hurt as a result. I was impressed said celebrity kept it real and was willing to share that accidents happen. I was scrolling through the comments because let’s face it, the content there is usually better than the story. Then I ran into this little gem.
If you can’t tell, I’m feeling a little unsettled and snarky about this comment. On one hand I get that it’s a joke and said in jest. It was not said towards me or anyone in particular. Hell, I would have said something similar six years ago. Before I knew.
It turns my stomach a bit that she’s repeating what her doctor told her. What an awful thing for anyone that practices medicine to ever say. How absolutely horrified would I be if those words were spoken to me? The implication in them is that if your child isn’t still alive, than you as the parent are to blame.
It’s not funny anymore and I’m horrified that I ever joked in such a manner. Unfortunately we joke about it because we think it can never happen to us, it’s a way of distancing ourselves from that reality that death can happen. To anyone. At anytime. Even our children.
Know better, do better. That’s all that I can do.
Growing up I had a cousin who was crossing the street by the school bus and was hit by a car and died. This happened roughly 15 years before I was born, so I never knew him. I remember seeing his picture in one of those collage frames from the 80’s at my grandmother’s house. I knew his name and how he had died but that was about it. I was a lot younger and it was a different time.
I now have 2 children that were born following the death of their older brother We (thankfully) live in the age where mental health is discussed openly and grief (for the most part) is acceptable. I can talk about how my husband, daughter and I were in therapy and how we’re dealing with PTSD and anxiety. And never ending grief.
The term rainbow baby is fairly new and for those of you that don’t know what it means it is the phrase for a child that is born following a loss or a miscarriage. It’s supposed to signify your ‘rainbow after the storm.’ While the term is not a favorite for everyone, it works for me better than describing my children as the ‘before and afters.’
Rainbows are new. We are living in a time where you acknowledge the loss of a child, even a young one. Their death is no longer swept under the carpet never to be spoken of again. I am raising 2 rainbows right now that will grow up knowing their deceased brother.
We go to the cemetery where there are toys. There are trucks and balls and buses and even Captain America. My rainbow son who is nearly 4 loves being there. He never knew his brother.
Death to him was a foreign concept. He has grown up knowing that his big brother is in heaven. He accepted that because that is all that he knows. Death was not sad to him, just a part of life. Until our dog died. Then death became real. I think it made him realize that his brother was here in the physical sense and is now gone. It made it real and it made it sad.
We drive by the cemetery several times a week and he says hi to his big brother and blows him kisses. Once the dog died the questions started. Is the dog with Benny? Why won’t Benny bring him back? He talks about how he misses the dog and also his brother and he just wants them to come home to play with him.
I never saw this coming. This is all so new and there is nothing in place on how to raise a rainbow baby. I am out of my depth here. Most days I’m just trying to make it through raising my children to be good humans and then bam! The questions start and the grief truck reels in and hits me square in the heart.
I try to answer him as honestly as I can. One of the best pieces of advice I was given by a therapist was to only answer the question being asked. As adults we analyze and obsess over some of our kids questions, but sometimes we just need to remember they are simple questions that only need simple answers. Kids don’t think with the complexity that we do. And my favorite answer sometimes is simply, ‘I don’t know.’ I don’t have all of the answers, even though as parents we feel that we should.
We talk about my son that died and we look at pictures with our kids. We celebrate his birthday because we want to remember that he was here and even though they didn’t know him, he was still their big brother.
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.
There’s a space in my heart. It’s where I go to find you. It’s where I keep all of your things. Sometimes it’s your nursery in the old house. Other times it’s Daddy’s shop where you spent so many hours ‘fixing cars.’
When you were first gone, forgive me, I couldn’t go there often. It hurt too much to open the door and spend time in that space. I honestly don’t remember much about that first year, but I do know that I would just poke my head in, or dip a toe in and I would be hysterical. It was too hard to recognize that you were gone from this world.
As the years passed I found I could open the door and stay in that heart shaped space a little longer. It was hard and I was a wreck, but after awhile I felt it oddly comforting. It was where you were. The memories didn’t hurt as much as they brought me relief. They were a reminder that you existed.
I’m amazed at how my life has grown around this space, how I have been able to function. You have given me such a will to not only live, but thrive. Your memory pushes me every day to find some sort of peace in this messed up situation.
You would be seven this May, such a long way away from the chubby 18 month old that I remember. I need this space now. I need to know you after the five long years that you have been gone. I need to say your name and be surrounded by your things. I want to wrap this space around me like a warm, crocheted blanket. It is my solace now and has become a part of who I am. Thank you for letting me love you my Benny Bear.