My 4 ½-year-old just crawled into my bed, yawning and stretching.
“Good morning, sweetheart.”
“Good morning, mum.”
I had just woken up a minute before she turned up at my bedside and was still in the land between asleep and awake. The next thing caught me by surprise.
“Mum, if only my sister wasn’t dead,” followed by a moaning sound.
“Yes, dear, that would be nice,” I reply and gently pulled her closer.
“Mum, did Mimi love me?” (Mimi is the name of my mother – her grandmother – who died from suicide 4 ½ months after her sister’s death.)
“Yes, she loved you very much.”
“Why did she have to die? How did she die?”
Silence. An internal sigh. What do I respond?
Weighing the different options in my head, she’s already repeating her question.
Still, I’m grappling for an answer and I can’t think when she talks.
Telling the truth would be my choice but only if it’s age and situation appropriate.
Finally, I answer by saying “I will explain this to you later” and try to distract her continuous questions along the lines of “but why…?”.
Even though the sea of my grief is calm, I had to learn to live with the gusts of wind that come from the outside. Through her perspective I learn about a delayed form of grief, a yearning for her sister, a consciousness which only started to dawn around her 4th birthday.
She’s just representing one kind of gust of wind. There are others, which still catch me by surprise.
Today I saw two pregnant women and noticed a tinge of sadness at the fact that I won’t be pregnant again. We won’t have a sibling for little miss bliss.
Our preschool is holding a parent’s evening with the topic of ‘siblings’ this week. I decided not to attend, even though the teacher assured me that the talk would include the topic of one-child families.
And yet, you might say: ‘But you’ve got one.’
Yes, I have one.
Still, sadness over the yearning to mother does not magically get cured because I have one.
The day ended with my daughter stroking my stomach.
Pensively she drew her fingers over it and spoke softly:
“Are you sure there isn’t a baby in your tummy?”
I lovingly looked into her eyes as I replied: “Yes, we are sure.”
“Have you looked?” she continued hopefully.
Hugging her tight I felt her head leaning softly against my shoulder.
“I’m sorry, possum, there is no baby in here.”
And even if there was a baby, I can only echo the words of a fellow loss-mum on Instagram: “Life isn’t magically better when a new baby comes. In some way grief resets due to all the things we do with S that we never got to do with R.”
There is no ‘Life is magically better when…’ or ‘Grief is magically over when…’.
Shifting to an understanding and acceptance that the emotional relationship will never cease when the physical body is gone makes it easier to accept the ebb and flow of the sea of emotions. I don’t want to call it just grief because truthfully, my life was full of emotions before my losses, grief included.
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And… most important:
Talking about the daughter and sister (or mother) that isn’t physically here does not have to mean ‘not moving on’ or ‘grieving’ – for me, it means
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This article was first published April 6, 2016 in Still Standing Magazine.