growing up with grief..

Grief has a place in our family.. at our table. Its kinda like a sibling to them.. One that grows and changes right along with them.

Parenting a child through grief is something I never really imagined myself having to do. And most of the time I don’t feel well equipped to do it. Its much harder than I thought it would be.

I am so grateful I am not alone in doing it though.. I feel so deeply for parents that lose their spouse and have to face this alone. ..

Right now its Nicholas. His struggles are deep and loud and real. The disappointment he felt flipping through the most recent yearbook and realizing his sister wouldn’t be in it.. The look of settled in disappointment in his eyes. It was unnerving and unnatural to see that in a boy of his age.

We recently went to our old home. The one we brought Jennifer home to. Nicholas wanted pictures in all the places she had been in her room.. all the places I have pictures of her. And ... he wanted the collar of his shirt tucked in. Not sure what that was all about!!!
We recently went to our old home. The one we brought Jennifer home to. Nicholas wanted pictures in all the places she had been in her room.. all the places I have pictures of her. And … he wanted the collar of his shirt tucked in. Not sure what that was all about!!!

I ached for him. I hurt for him. And I am still not at all sure I dealt with it the right way. Taking it in stride.. as a fact of life.. Just saying yes when he said ” you have to be alive..” A delicate balance of allowing and comforting his pain.. but not too much. I don’t want him to think he has to miss his sister.. and I don’t want him to think it hurts me too much when he does.

And he is 4. A deep, loud and real 4 year old. So he gets mad and has outbursts. He fights back against the answers he hears that he doesn’t want to. I parent him. He gets consequences. New clothes got returned to Target that same night because his behavior was so unacceptable..

but a part of me nudges and whispers..

Hey Mama.. is he just hurting.. scared.. questioning and doesn’t know how to say it??DSC_0797 (1)

I know the levels of understanding he is coming to right now about death and cancer.. I know for him its like his sister just died. We know to be prepared for that… but how do I decipher a language I don’t speak?

As adults we get hit. We understand it, even if we can’t absorb the depths and permanency of death. But kids don’t. So as they hit new cognitive milestones of understanding.. They grieve. All over again. From the very beginning.

We know that.

So then I question myself constantly. To be sure I parent him the way he needs me to. .. but I don’t know. I never really know.

He is my will it matter in a month child. He is the one who started it all right after Jennifer died. And he is the one I am finding myself using it with again.. daily.

I remember.. So defiant .. all my natural consequences used up. Except for his loveie. .. he calls it his friend. .. I hadn’t taken that.

but..

I remember.. I remember taking Jennifers beloved pinkie. I remember her crying for it at bedtime. And I would do anything to give it back to her again. To be able to erase any hurt I inflicted on her.. Because our time together was so limited..

but..

I cannot parent them like that. I cannot parent my living like they are dying. 

They deserve better. So I asked myself if it would matter in a month.. I took his friend. .. we both went to our rooms to cry. Then later he came out of his room. Ready to go get his brother from pre-school without a shirt. He didn’t want to wear it. ..

so I asked. Would it matter in a month if my then 2 year old didn’t wear a shirt. It wouldn’t..DSC_0785

And for the next 6 months it didn’t.

It became how he was known. . And I actually miss that little half naked body proudly and happily walking next to me arms swinging.

Outside Starbucks....
Outside Starbucks….

A lesson gifted to me.. and to all of them from their big sister. To not sweat the small stuff.. but be all in for what matters.

thank you sissy. thank you from all of us. 

and visiting sissy...
and visiting sissy…

I am trying to implement that daily.. well .. many times daily now with him. Asking myself “Will it matter in a month”.  And on the yeses trying to find the right consequence.. And on the no’s struggling to find a way to reach him.. Try to touch his wounded and incredibly guarded little heart.

Its hard. Its really hard to parent in the aftermath of child loss. And with 2 more behind him I know its a long road.

i need you sissy.. for years and years.. i need you to help me

He is trying though.. trying to sort it all out.. And still talking to us about it all. Driving and just stating.. ” I wish Jennifer didn’t die.” Nothing beyond that. He had no idea what made him think of it. He just needed to unload the thought and move on from it. ..

**since I have been sharing lately songs.. How I feel she finds me through songs.. this one just came on.***

He is 4 though.. so there is so much he doesn’t understand about grief.. He just hit the point of questioning his physical reaction. Asking us to “not put on any sissy songs because it makes water come out of my eyes and I don’t know why.”

He wasn’t upset at all, merely stating it. He gave us both a sheepish smile as we hugged him.. water filling our eyes..

i am forever sorry i couldn’t protect the 5 of you from the pain of cancer.. 

Parenting is always hard. I know that. Full of questioning.. and wondering.. And failing. So much failing. But I hope successes too. I hope thats what their little minds capture and remember.. the successes and how hard we tried.

we miss you jennifer lynn

you are still part of our lives

everyday.

and always.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

..until there is a cure. ..

7 Responses to “growing up with grief..”

  1. well. She had such an impact on these little ones. Of course every day is a new minefield of grief for all of you… not every minute but you just don’t know when you’ll trigger one. I don’t know how you deal with all this. You and Tony are doing a really great job of navigating this crazy life. hang in there, kid.

  2. Libby, Your daily journals are amazing and eloquent. I feel like Jennifer or the Holy Spirit are inspiring your thoughts and words. God Bless your beautiful family.

  3. While my eyes still get teary when I read your posts, I am sure learning from them. One thing that I have learned is that you continue to do the best you can, no matter what, and it sure is a hard road to follow. And then “the best you can” changes each day, maybe each hour, as you change and Tony changes and each of your children change. So you just never know what’s coming next or even when next it.

    Libby. . .you are doing an amazing job for your family, and I hope you are continuing to take care of yourself too! You are also helping so many others who are traveling, have traveled and will travel your path. Wish no one would have to travel your path, as I know you do, but sad to say, we’re not there yet.

    Continuing to send much love and prayers to all of you!

  4. It’s been 31 years for us, and the aches and memories remain. Three children grew up with grief. They remember her, though they never really knew her.

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