Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Big Brother Grief

When I found out that I was pregnant with our second child, the first person I told was our 3.5 year old son. He was so excited to find out that he was going to be a Big Brother. We talked and dreamed out loud about the fun things we were going to do as a family of four. From the very moment that he learned he was going to be a Big Brother, Gideon kissed my tummy, hugged it, sang, and talked to his baby sister growing inside my belly




until Tuesday, January 14th, 2014.

There is no instruction manual on how to convey and express life and death to a child and I'm not sure there is a 'perfect' way to talk to a child about losing a sibling. How we expressed Ava's death to Gideon was unique to us and to our beliefs. David and I were advised to be truthful with Gideon about Ava's death, but express it in a way he would understand. We avoided using the words she's 'gone to sleep' or ' she was sick.' as using those words could become confusing in his mind. Sickness is usually a temporary condition that is treatable and majority of the time reversible. Additionally, all of us have been sick at one point or another and if we said Ava was sick and then died, then the possibility of one of us dying when we were sick could become real and very scary in his mind. Also, if we told him that she went to sleep and didn't wake up we were concerned he would be legitimately frightened that the same thing could happen to him or us. So we sat down with our son and told him that his little sister had died and was in heaven with Jesus now.

We didn't know what to expect when we expressed the devastating news to Gideon. In some ways, I hoped that he would take it with a grain of salt. How he responded surprised us both. His reaction was instantaneous. His face held shock and anger and pain and disappointment and sadness, all within seconds of each other. He got up and half-stomped/half-ran into his bedroom, slammed his door, and cried. It was absolutely gut wrenching.

Shattered hopes and dreams.

Over the first couple weeks Gideon's only comments about Ava were, "I'm not sad, I'm mad." and "I'm mad at Jesus for taking Ava away!" We reassured him that it was OK to be mad and even sad. Those feelings and emotions are a normal part of the grieving process. While it doesn't take the pain away from missing her, David and I continue to reiterate to Gideon that Ava is in Heaven with Jesus and He is taking good care of her. We read him the book, Born to Fly: An Infants Journey to God by Cindy Claussen as a comfort.

Right after Ava died, a sweet friend gave me a beautiful baby blanket. She explained to me that it was for when my arms are aching to hold my sweet daughter - I have something tangible to hug and cry into. Gideon has been very vocal about missing Ava and has been asking to sleep with her blanket during nap time and bedtime. I recently found him curled up in bed, fast asleep with it.

Last month we were decorating a friends birthday box and he told me he wanted his friend to know that the birthday gifts were from Ava too."I am drawing a big smile for Ava, Mommy!"

Gideon still talks about Ava, but in different ways. Instead of kissing and talking to my belly, he now picks her flowers so she can see them from heaven and draws pictures of her.

"This is my family"

"Ava is  eating worms with a friend"

"If Ava was with me, I would share my toys with her"

"Ava is playing with an airplane in heaven"

We talk about Ava openly and lovingly. Gideon often says, "I miss Ava, but I'm glad that Jesus is taking care of her!" She may not be with us physically, but she is in our hearts. She is our daughter and Gideon's little sister.

To those who might say that we shouldn't have told Gideon that his sister died... I think Jessica Watson's reply says it best:  "Denying my children’s right to know about a part of their life, a part of their family, might spare me a few tearful conversations right now but it will not erase the reality of what happened to all of us."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Daddies grieve too.

"Husbands grieve in ways we don't give them credit for. A lot of times it makes me sad how they're almost ignored during times like these. They weren't pregnant, that's true. But they were attached to and loving that baby the day they found out their wife was expecting. The baby is half of us and half of our husbands. Its good to remember they deal with all these things too, it just often looks different on them." -Stefanie Arnold

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Act of Kindness

I pinned this quote a couple weeks ago to my Pondering Thoughts board on Pinterest. Little did I know how soon this quote would become personal. 

Last week, an act of kindness by a librarian at our local library left me stunned. I had gone to the library to pay for a children's CD that had disappeared after Ava died. The librarian offered to put the CD on hold for 6 weeks so that I could try and find it before the replacement fee was due. I mentioned that I had lost my daughter and the CD probably got lost in transit when my son was being shuttled to peoples homes during that time. I told her I'd rather just pay the replacement fee then try to keep looking for it. 

"You lost your daughter?" she asked. "I miscarried her" I replied. Her eyes immediately filled with tears. She reached across the desk, grabbed my hand, held it for a few moments and then squeezed it. "I am so so sorry." she said. "Don't you worry about replacing the CD. I'm going to cover the costs for you. You go home and take care of yourself and your family. You don't need to be thinking about a CD right now." 

I stood there speechless hand in hand with a librarian, tears cascading down our cheeks. 

Mother Theresa once said, "Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." 

I'm learning how true that quote is through my pain and grief. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Born to fly

Last night after Gideon was in bed, he started calling my name. I went to his room to check on him and he requested a big hug and kiss. Afterwards, he looked at me and said, " Mommy, I miss baby Ava. Would you please tell me a story about baby Ava so I'm not sad and cry about her?"

His question took my breath away.....A story about Ava? I was speechless...

In that moment I prayed that God would give me the words to say. Immediately, He reminded me of a powerful yet simple message book called Born to fly that a friend of a friend had sent me in the mail after Ava died. It is a story of an infant's journey to God.

Born To Fly - An Infant's Journey to God

Grabbing the small book from Ava's memorial box, I inserted Ava's name into the text as I read. He smiled from ear to ear as I talked about his sister's journey to God.

I am so grateful to the author Cindy Claussen for using her heartache to be someone else's hope. Her book is an emotional balm for those who grieve: mommies, daddies, and even (little) big brothers.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Grief Attacks

 I avoided the baby girl section of department stores like a plague after Ava died - knowing I would never see her wear all those cute frilly pink and purple outfits. It was just too painful. I avoided the baby girl aisle that is, until last week. I was having a 'good day' and thought I would attempt to try. My friends daughter's one year birthday party was that weekend and I was determined to get her an outfit.  I brought my 3.5 year old son with me to the store and I began to scour  the baby girl section. I picked out a cute pajama set and thought proudly to myself - I didn't cry!

At that moment, I looked down at my son Gideon and he had vanished. I called out to him. No answer. Sheer panic rippled through my body. Where was my son? "Gideon!" I called out louder. No answer. "GIDEON!" my voice cracked and trembled. And then I heard his sweet, innocent voice. " I'm right here Mommy!" I scoured the clothing area and then I saw him. He was holding onto a red cart of another woman and was trying to reach into her cart and stroke the cheek of her baby girl. "Mommy, look!" he said excitedly. "She is just like baby Ava!".

Silly girl. I should have known better.