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.
I would be remiss if I did not share the following... A week ago today, I was in Little Rock, AR for a work weekend away from my loved ones but surrounded by my work family❤️ Toni and James were back at home walking in memory of our First Born Olivia and our subsequent miscarried babies.
We attend the annual March of Dimes #marchforbabies walk in Sacramento with a local non profit focused on pregnancy and infant loss, #sharingparentsofsacramento. This was the first walk without me there. to say that my heart was torn in two different directions is an understatement. To this day I still find myself weeping for our losses. As the years pass it has become easier to share our journey in and through child loss.
If you or someone you know has experienced child loss and/ or miscarriage and are struggling, please encourage them to grieve as they feel they need to and to share their thoughts and feelings as they need to share. there is no wrong way just as there is no perfect way to grieve❤️
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Well tonight brings another Christmas Holiday with the celebration of our Savior and time spent eating great food and opening presents. Over the past 5 years Toni and I have discovered the difficulty of celebrating the Christmas Season in the midst of experiencing immense loss. This year we are mourning the loss of both my Dad and a miscarriage between Toni and I. In our society the holidays are supposed to be a celebration and not a time of mourning and grieving.
Ever since the loss of Olivia 5 years ago there is the constant reminder that she was here on this earth and now she is not. As James (Our Rainbow Baby = Subsequent baby after loss) grows older it is at times a constant reminder that he is not our only child and that there is a gap in our family. Our First born Olivia was born and gone the day of our 5th Wedding Anniversary. We also have had two miscarriages that I come to find out are just as important losses even though they never made it to full term. We should have 4 children and instead James perceives himself to be an only child when looking through the lens of a near 3yr old. His mother and I know better and little by little we are introducing Olivia into his day to day.
There are 4 stockings on our mantel, two of them have names on them for Olivia and James. I catch myself staring at them and wondering what Olivia would look like and sound like next to James. I picture the two of them helping Toni while setting up and decorating the house and our Christmas tree… Is this selfish of me? Am I stuck in the past? Am I not happy with what God has given us in James? I would say a resounding “No” to all of the above. We cherish Olivia and her short life that was lived on this earth. She will always be known as our first born. The Holidays are always going to be a little rough when we remember those loved ones that we have lost.
Geoff and toni Brabec
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