I have to think that my childhood experiences with death helped me evolve. But, now, in reality I think it really helped my younger son who was only seven when Rocky died and who couldn’t understand the sudden, quick disappearance of his brother. How could he when we didn’t even understand it?
From my experiences as a child, having no one give me information in the midst of many childhood tragedies I knew it was important to engage my younger son and be open. He was a quiet boy who kept a lot to himself, always relying on his big brother.
So I felt a needed to be open, to give him a few words about death knowing he was uncomfortable asking or couldn’t find the words.
Sometimes I would see him picking up a picture of his brother from our bookcase and holding it close to his face starring at it. Then he would put it back and walk away. What was he thinking?
I have to say as a mother dealing with the loss of a child it was extremely hard for me to step up out of my own suffering to center myself, calmly take a deep breathe and pause, to sit and talk with a small sad confused boy. When I just wanted to be alone.
After his brother died I spent a lot of time giving him his favorite backrubs at bedtime. This is when he would lay on his stomach and feel comfortable to ask a question or talk about random moments the boys had together. Then there would be a silence for quite awhile and then he would ask about important worry he had.
He even wanted to know if Sizzle, our chocolate lab knew Rocky died. I told him Sizzle did know and now Sizzle was his dog to take care of – I think this made him feel that he could do something to help, instead of having this feeling of abandonment.
I told him it was ok to cry when he was sad, that was what people did. He saw his father and I cry when something came up and I would try to explain and show him it was nothing to be ashamed of – this thing called grief and how brave he was-
Don’t get me wrong it was really hard to sit at night with him and be patient when I wanted to go to sleep and comfort myself. I see now by forcing myself some nights to move my grief over for him it helped me tremendously.