Thursday, August 27, 2015

He said it.

We had friends over this morning for a water table and outdoor flour paint playdate. My friend has a daughter Claire's age and her second daughter passed away nearly three weeks ago, an hour after she was born premature. We were on the deck and the kids were playing away.

There was a conversation about friends who continued to be pregnant at a similar gestation after our children died and how it's still hard seeing them, and for me, seeing their living child growing and learning. I said something along the lines of "When Andrew died..." because that's what happened and that's often the segway into a story about emotions and grief.

A minute or so later, Benjamin turns from what he was playing with and said, "Did Andrew die, Mommy?"

"Yes, Benjamin, Andrew died."

A couple hours later, Elliot came home for lunch with us (rare treat!). About 10 minutes into our casual lunch and lots of cuddles, Benjamin told Elliot, "Andrew died." It was totally out of the blue, but it's true and Benjamin now knows it.

We hadn't withheld this information before. I'm sure we've explained to him that he died, but we didn't explain what dying actually means, because that's too abstract for a child so young who hasn't personally experienced it with a close family member. He knows he has a brother and that his brother was born before him. He sees his pictures in our home regularly and even picked up his ashes the other day (cue the anxiety). He knows that he is in heaven, but what does that even mean for a child of three-and-a-half years old?

Well. He said it. I wonder what that really means to him and I wonder when more questions will come. Regardless, I'm proud to be a mom who shares love and heartbreak with her kids. After all, it's because of love that heartbreak exists and that itself is beautiful.

6 comments:

Mama Bear said... [Reply to comment]

It's wonderful and heartbreaking to hear their little voices speak this truth. I wonder what they really understand but we have to start somewhere and the conversations about death and heaven and what it all means do keep getting more involved. I hate that our rainbows have to learn about death so young but I hope we are raising honest and empathetic people. It does get a little awkward when Bode tells strangers that Bear died. Because Ella also died and we walk or ride looking for dogs to pet a couple of times a day, the conversations happen quite frequently...

Jenny said... [Reply to comment]

Your last sentences said it all. We're choosing that path of honesty with our kids, too: they need to understand that love and memory are fierce and ultimately life wins. Even if death seems to have won once, it is not final. They need to understand human vulnerabilities, so that they can love generously in the present... not think that death waits only for the old. Innocence is not helpful, but faith and trust have been for our kids.

Laura Jane said... [Reply to comment]

We get "Jack's in heben" a lot. Which is cute and sad and awful.

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

I agree with you. I think it is important for children to see the love we have for their siblings. I think it affirms our love for them and our love for our family. I think it is healthy. It is interesting to hear their understanding of our love for their siblings and watch their connection to them grow in it's own way.

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

I agree with you. I think it is important for children to see the love we have for their siblings. I think it affirms our love for them and our love for our family. I think it is healthy. It is interesting to hear their understanding of our love for their siblings and watch their connection to them grow in it's own way.

SuzyQpon said... [Reply to comment]

My license plate reads "RMBR XXX (abbreviation for my daughter's name)." The other day we were looking for my car in a crowded lot, my son said, "There it is RMBR XXX! I can always find it because of the license plate." I said, "You will be lost if I ever get a new plate" (not that I ever intend to). He glared at me and said "You can't do that, that would be mean." I asked why and he said, "Because that's my sister's and she died." Like you, it hasn't been a secret but also not something we talk about a lot as it's pretty painful and I don't want his whole upbringing to be memories of a sad mommy. I was surprised at how blunt and honest he was. Glad in an odd way - at least he knows something of his sister before him but odd too.