Today, I (Toni) felt my heart break. After so many months of picking up the pieces and clumsily holding it together, it came undone. James, now 3, caught me off guard and in a random statement told me he didn’t have a sister. Realizing that this is coming from 3 year old mindset trying to process why he can’t see his sister, I softly stated that he did indeed has a sister and asked him why he thought he didn’t. He looked up at me with question in his eyes and said, “But I don’t see her. Where is she?”. My eyes quietly filled with tears and I told him, “She is in heaven.” James responded, “But I want to see her.” I looked down at him and felt the tears fall. “I want to see her too”, I told him. I stood in the kitchen where this short conversation took place and felt my heart crumble while James was already off and playing with one of his toys.
This was the first time that James has brought up his sister on his own (at least with me). Geoff and I speak of Olivia with James often and look at her pictures. He has always known he has a sister. But today he showed that he is just beginning to process and question why his sister is not here. My heart broke wishing that we didn’t have to have that conversation and this was just the beginning. I so wished that Olivia was here playing with him on the floor.
Some people wonder when the grieving period ends. It doesn’t. Grief never ends but takes on a different shape with each new stage of life. We learn to live and move forward with it. We are now embarking a new stage of life as James is starting to verbally try and make sense of everything. And James makes sure he constantly communicates this to us (“why? why, mom? why?”). This is a new shape of grief; helping James process death and loss appropriately for his age. We want to teach him it’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to grieve. It’s not something we want to hide from him. And we will teach him that death is not the end. We will see her again because we have a hope founded in our faith and relationship with Jesus that we will one day join Olivia in heaven and be in the presence of Jesus for eternity. Death and loss are a reality in this life. We had a daughter who died. James has a sister whom he has never met and can’t see. So until our time here on earth comes to an end, we will long for her. This is our reality.
Geoff and toni Brabec
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