Parenting while grieving


Having my child die was something that never crossed my mind as a real possibility. When my first born was brand new, you stare into their eyes and express your undying love for them and you think, “I don’t know what I would do with myself if you died” but if you are like me, you don’t really think it’s going to happen.Having to tell my 3 year old that his 7 year old brother died was almost as horrible as being told that there was nothing that could be done to save our 7 year old son’s life. Our 3 year old seemed to take the news as expected but we realized that he didn’t truly understand. Research says that children don’t really understand death until they are about 4.5 years old.Having to parent a child who needs you for pretty much everything and grieving simultaneously feels almost impossible in the beginning. My mind was distracted with feelings of sadness, questioning if I could have done more, shock, denial and anger that my son died. I couldn’t control when I cried and my 3 year old felt frustrated because he wasn’t always thinking about it like I was. He would throw me off guard by asking, out of nowhere, “mom, does brother still have bones?” It would throttle me to my core. Another time, we were playing play-doh and he asked me if he could make a tube like his brother had in his mouth at the hospital. It would stun me because I never knew how much he thought about the events or how much he understood. When those topics would come up, it would painfully remind me that he does remember the trauma.We try to think about the good times as much as we can. It has been painful to think that the child my 3 year old idolized and loved, is gone. When our 7 year old first died, we were obsessively looking at pictures and videos of him and our 3 year old felt left out. We quickly reminded him that while we are so sad that your big brother is gone, we are so glad you are still here and that made a huge impact on him. It was so very true too. The only way I can get through this life is one day at a time. When I think about any regrets I have, mostly over silly stuff, but mistakes nonetheless, it destroys me. When I focus on what my forever 7 year old son doesn’t get to do, it agonizes me. I’m very early on in my journey and I’m doing the only thing I know how and that’s to take the punches as they come. There are days that the waves of grief wipe me out and I go to how much I hate that my son will never have a girlfriend or go to college. It will always break my heart.I was reminded right after our son passed that he only ever knew love and security in his life and that gave me peace beyond measure. Some kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from or are abused and that was never the case in our precious boy’s 7 short years.