Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Budding Emotions

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about our tentative agenda to visit the funeral home that handled Andrew's cremation and urn. Wow, happy Tuesday, everyone. What a downer of a post this is already. The days leading up to his birthday seem to keep me in a funk of gloom. Thursday's post will be about my mom-blogger Chicago event, but today and tomorrow? They are about Andrew.

I'll explain the details of that visit in another post, but this one is specific to our grief affecting Benjamin. For the very first time, Benjamin expressed concern for our emotions. It was heartbreaking and beautiful. I read in child development books and observed other children for years now to know that by 9 months, children most assuredly can read certain emotions, especially from people they spend the most time with.

In Benjamin's case, that would be Ray and myself. I just never thought much of it, because I have a hard time reading B's reactions to us when it comes to emotional understanding. When I'm happy, clapping, and praising him, he smiles. Big. When I redirect him and tell him the cord in the corner that he insists on putting in his mouth every single day is dangerous and that, no, he is not allowed to chew on it, he doesn't react. He turns away and proceeds to chew. Stubborn? Maybe. I also question whether he understands that my reaction is one that is negative and that I am asking him to change his behavior.

I know he's learning, but it's just a matter of seeing the fruit. We don't always see it, so we tend to forget that he can and does understand emotion.

Back to the funeral home.

I spent the majority of our time in that trigger-filled place crying, because I was just there two years prior in the very same room, dealing with the very same thing. Benjamin was a happy clam and wanted to touch everything and crawl around... that wasn't going to happen. Something about it being a place of mourning... something about it being a place we picked up Andrew's ashes... something about the respect of loved ones. And I won't deny the ick-factor of those places. 

When we left, I stood in the parking lot, holding B and bawling. Then we put him in his carseat and sat in the front seats bawling some more. Got home, cried some more tears. Par for the course, obviously. That's why we'd put this off for so long. 

It was about Benjamin's naptime and he was showing all the signs of exhaustion. Rubbing his eyes, yawning, sucking his thumb, and cuddling close to our chests. It's what he does. We're familiar and he's a pretty good napper, so we walked upstairs and placed him in his crib. This usually goes off without a hitch these days, especially when he seems really tired. But...

Crying. We picked him up after a few minutes and he couldn't take his eyes off us. He didn't want to crawl or touch anything, but to be held. More yawning, and another attempt at the crib. More crying.

This went on 4 more times before we determined he was genuinely concerned about us. He was extremely clingy and wouldn't let us leave his eyesight. Through our tears, we turned on music and began dancing. We wanted to cheer him up and find a way to let him know we were okay and we would be okay. That it was okay to take a nap and be away from us for awhile. He smiled, giggled and finally went down for a nap.

I have plenty of babyloss friends out there that had older siblings when they lost their babies. These siblings watched their parents in despair and without a question, understood this sadness. This was B's first real experience in dealing with us crying in front of him. We had no idea it would affect him, but we make no apologies about it. So this is what it's like parenting a child after losing your first.

Seeing the concern on the face of a 9-month old was the most beautiful and heartbreaking thing we've experienced in parenting Benjamin thus far. Ray and I reflected aloud about seeing our own parents cry. While we feel it's important to show vulnerability in parenting, it's also hard to watch your heroes (essentially) crying. They are meant to be strong and impenetrable. They can fix everything and handle it with ease. At least from a child's perspective. But there's also a fine line to draw that we want Benjamin to see in us as parents, in using Andrew's life and death as an example.

We want him to know compassion. We want him to know his brother and to know he had a brother that now lives in heaven. It's important that the death of his brother not be a little-known topic to him. While we don't want sadness to overshadow his life, we do want him to celebrate the life of a brother that came before him. Every year we will celebrate Andrew. As unfortunate and sad as the circumstances may be, we want him to love others and love them in their sadness. As a child and as an adult, we want him to be bold, act in courage, love others, and show compassion. Maybe Andrew is gifting him some of that. A bit earlier than we ever thought these life lessons would be taught, but important nonetheless.

Andrew's birthday is tomorrow. The tears are welling.


Anne said... [Reply to comment]

This gave me goosebumps, sweet boy.

Shell said... [Reply to comment]


Brooke said... [Reply to comment]

This is heartbreaking and beautiful. I think the best thing you said is that you want Benjamin to love others even when they are sad. I think about the people in my life who didn't turn away from me even when I was in the darkest places of my grief--who could love me through it. Those are special people, and because of Andrew, Benjamin will undoubtedly be one those people who aren't afraid of others' grief.

LauraJane said... [Reply to comment]

I agree whole heartedly with what Brooke wrote. What a wonderful, loving, beautiful boy you have in Benjamin. That he was genuinely concerned about your heartache and that he wanted to give you the comfort in the same way you give it to him. Every day.

I love that Benjamin will know all about his big brother. I love that Andrew has Benjamin for a little brother. I wish they had met, and more than anything, I wish Andrew was here with you today instead o being missed and mourned and loved from afar.

Party of Three Heads said... [Reply to comment]

this was so beautifully written.. and truly touched my soul to the core... I'll deff have a piece of dessert for your beloved Andrew tomorrow! xoxo

Di said... [Reply to comment]

The bond of a son for his parents is equally as important as the bond for his brother. To always know his brother and miss him along with his parents is such an important thing, his compassion and love will be deeper because if this, already showing that he has these traits, such a great little guy. Wish that he got to meet his brother. Thinking of you today xx Di

Solange, Nik, Caitlin and Oliver said... [Reply to comment]

I've been thinking about you for a while, knowing this day was coming fast. I wish I could hug you and cry with you.
Benjamin is such a sweet boy. It's amazing what children are capable of feeling at such an early age. He will know about Andrew and miss and love him with you both. We will be having a sweet treat for Andrew's 2nd birthday tomorrow.

Mama Bear said... [Reply to comment]

It is an honor and tribute to Andrew to raise a strong and compassionate boy. Happy birthday to Andrew and peace to your whole family.

Darcey said... [Reply to comment]

When children are involved in the grieving it takes on a whole new meaning. As they age it changes with them, and changes my husband and I as parents and how we handle things. Sounds like you and your hubby are well down that road and doing a great job of tackling it and molding him into a wonderful little boy. Have to admit I hate that our children have to know such a deep and profound sadness at such a young age...innocence lost in many ways and I hear it and see it every day in my 3, 5, and 7 year old desperately missing their brother...heart breaking.

So many tears, and being 2 weeks behind you I can feel it building as well. Thinking of you and Andrew and hoping that Benjamin's love can help you celebrate your first born son...2 years, unbelievable!!!

Addi's mom said... [Reply to comment]

I often wonder what Mason will think of his mother who cries over his dead sister, but I'm hoping he learns compassion and understands on some level just how important Addi is. I hope she is important to him and that he understands its ok to cry and crying is powerful. I can't believe it's been two years. I can't believe any of it. I just want them back so much. My mind is mush, but I'm loving your Andrew with you.

Gina said... [Reply to comment]

This was beautiful. My boys definitely read my emotions too and did so at about 9 months. I'm glad you have him to hug when you are sad, although I'm so sorry for what you are going through.

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

Your boys are lucky to have you. And you them.

Lots of love and thoughts sent your way.

Rachel said... [Reply to comment]

I think our grief will always be a part of their lives so maybe they won't recognize it as grief, just a part of love. I like to think that Livia will be more compassionate because of all of the extreme emotions I put her through in the womb. That is so sweet that your boy is already showing empathy. I'll be thinking of you and both your boys tomorrow.

Molly said... [Reply to comment]

Sometimes I get so upset that grief is such a huge part of Sloane's life. But then as her counselor put it, by remembering and honoring Hayes, it shows her how much we value and love our children. And she will realize how valued and lived she is. As will B. That, among other gifts from their deceased siblings. Sigh.

Renel said... [Reply to comment]

I was thinking of you and Andrew and opened up blogger and here was this beautiful post. Oh it is so hard managing your grief and parenting simultaneously. I have to believe our children will be better for it, more compassionate and empathetic. The way you want to protect Benjamin and hold his heart is tge way he wants to hold your heart in tge only way a 9 month old baby can. It is a balance, one I had to learn immediately since Kai was an older sibling. The death of a family member affects everyone, even those not yet born because it shapes our families and the way we parent and that loss is a huge piece of our life story. Benjamin will never grieve the way you do, but he will be shaped by your love for Andrew and that is a beautiful thing. Sending love to you and your family.

Nygel said... [Reply to comment]

It's so hard managing the grief that is always there and parenting at the same time. I have often felt that Mason understands when I'm sad. It's little things like him grabbing one of my fingers or snuggling up close to me......comforting me when I really need it. I definitely believe they understand.

Sending so much love your way and thinking of your sweet Andrew ♥

Heather said... [Reply to comment]

My heart is with you today and everyday. I think of you and your family often. Happy Birthday to your sweet Andrew.

(The babyloss mom you met this summer)

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Oh such a tender post. I think it is more than appropriate for Benjamin to see your tears, and your reaction to his concern was perfect. We are sad but we are okay.

My thoughts are with you today.

SG said... [Reply to comment]

What a sweet boy (and lucky to have such wonderful parents too). <3

Rachel said... [Reply to comment]

I have been reading your blog for about a year and a half now, but have never commented. I think you and I have very similar senses of humor. My daughter was born Dec 4th, 2009....and her 1st bday party was on Dec 5th 2010. I just wanted you to know I was thinking about you and Andrew today on his 2nd birthday. Thank you for writing what you do, in the way you do.

Jessica said... [Reply to comment]

Makes my heart melt! Thinking of you and Andrew.