I recently read a blog post about children and grief. Naturally, it stimulated painful memories and I couldn't help but think of the grief my son was exposed to after I lost my brother and then again four months later when I lost my baby. It's not something that most people think about and in an ideal world it wouldn't be necessary, but sometimes we do need to address loss and grief to young children.
My 41-year old brother died unexpectedly in September. We’d always been close and I can say that I felt the death of my sibling so much deeper than other losses I've known. As I've said over and over again, you expect the old-ish and the ill to pass away, but you don't expect to lose your healthy siblings. Losing a sibling so suddenly really makes you realize that your days are numbered too and that any of us can go at any time. You can kiss your spouse goodbye in the morning and never make it home for supper that evening. . .
It was a horrible several months and the horror continued when I lost my long-desired pregnancy in January – four months to the day that I lost my only brother. I’m sorry that my young son has had to witness the depth of my anguish and my heart aches to think of the suffering he's seen at such a tender age, but I thought that it would be wrong to pretend that everything was okay when it most definitely was not. I know that some people thought that I shouldn’t expose a toddler to grief and I stuck with my own instincts, which were that death and grief are just part of life. Besides, I can attest that burying negative or painful feelings only works so long before they manifest in far more damaging ways.
My son just turned three and he sometimes talks about his Uncle and, more rarely, “The Baby.” He knows that they were here, but that they are gone now. We are Christians so heaven, Jesus, and God factor in my explanation and he understands that we won’t see them until we’re there too. I can't stop myself from adding that it will be a long, long time from now.
I think it's important that children, even young children, know when losses occur that grief is the natural result. I'm still baffled that people thought I was wrong in letting my son know that my brother had died or that I had lost my pregnancy. What was I supposed to do? Pretend that they weren't gone? Ignore that they ever existed? Grief sucks, oh it does suck, but it is a part of life and ignoring it doesn't make it go away.
Was I wrong to let him know about death and grief? I don’t know, but the flip side is that one day soon I'll feel comfortable sharing with him that a new life is coming too. . .my estimated due date is the one-year anniversary of the day I lost my last baby. Life is darn funny sometimes, isn’t it?