Remember, She Lost Her Brother Too

“Doesn’t she know I can hear her crying everyday down the hallway. It’s like she’s forgotten she still has other kids here. I know she lost a son but I lost my brother too.”

I could barely see her pink notebook through the pool of tears. It had been 5 months since the loss of my son, her brother. When I thought my heart wasn’t capable of hurting any deeper I found her words.

She was 11 years old. Her little heart was broken and I was failing her.

When she came home from school that day I sat on her bedroom floor with her. I told her what I had read. She began to cry and I held her as I cried too. I told her over and over how sorry I was I had changed and I wasn’t the same. Not in a million years would I want to be anything less than what she needed me to be.

I realized it was the first time in a while I asked how she was doing. Really doing. She told me how hard it was to be around her friends because they were all so happy. It was hard to hear them complain about stupid things that didn’t matter. They had no idea what bad things really meant. They had no idea what it was like to be picked up from school in the middle of the day, to be taken to the hospital to be told your baby brother died.

Another piece of my heart cracked. How I wished I could have taken away the pain she had to bear. It wasn’t fair she had to carry so much at 11. She was old enough to fully comprehend the loss and feel it to her core and young enough to spend the majority of her life with it.

I apologized for crying. I didn’t know she could hear me. She told me not to say sorry, I needed to cry and it was ok to cry in front of her, don’t try to hide it.

I acknowledged how much space grief took up in my life. I explained to her that even though he’s not here, he is still as much my child as she is. Maybe one way we could look at it is if I’m having a hard time and I can’t do something I used to do, we would call it Knox’s time. If he were on earth there would be things I couldn’t do because it would be Knox’s time. I’d have to give him a bath, feed him a bottle and rock him to sleep. Just because he’s not physically here he still needs some of my time.

This was an answer she could understand and accept. My time was divided between all of them, on earth and in Heaven. I wasn’t choosing one over the other. I hadn’t forgotten her.

That day changed us both. She has seen me at my worst and at my best. Hiding the reality of grief from her wasn’t helping her, it was hurting her. She has been my person more days than I can count. We walk this journey hand in hand. Wise beyond her years, I don’t know what I would do without her.

Someday her rite of passage will come. She will be stripped of the only role she’s ever known and enter into the role of motherhood. She will be amazing. Her heart will swell with a love she didn’t know existed when she sees her sweet baby for the first time.

In this moment what she was unable to understand before will become clear. She will fully grasp the depth of pain I have lived with because she now understands the depth of love a mother has for her child.

My hope is that along with her newfound understanding comes forgiveness. Forgiveness for all of my shortcomings while playing dual roles as her mother and as a mother who lost a child.