When Children Grieve
Guest Post by Brooke Grunza
After the death of my son I never expected to live again. I did not believe that the raw pain and emotion I felt learning my son would die would ever go away because a part of me died with him that day. But in time I did begin to live again. And that was so very hard. Each day that I cried less and smiled more was a struggle of its own. I would often think how is it okay for me as a mother to move forward with my life, to smile and laugh genuine laughs and feel happy. I still struggle with that sometimes. Sometimes feeling happy and enjoying the moment is exactly when grief sneaks up on me and I think of my son and how desperately I want to be sharing the moment with him as well. The past and my grief is what connects me to him and that makes moving forward so very difficult.
I speak my son’s name every day. As does my daughter, Lennon’s big sister. Sometimes I think she is following along with me and I worry that I burden her with my grief. But it is true and it is real and it is our life. She learned of death early in her life and it has become a very matter of fact topic that she incorporates into play. I remember shortly after Lennon died, my daughter said to me, “Mommy lets play with my dolls. We’ll pretend I’m pregnant and the baby dies.” And I did. She also needed to grieve and this was a way for her to process her grief at the tender age of 3. She needed to know that it was okay to talk about death and to talk about her brother. I didn’t hide my tears from her because she was always with me. She is the fiery spirit that woke me out of bed and made me live. She is the reason I continued. We talk about Lennon daily. At night we find the brightest star and say good night to it-to Lennon. I have an altar in the living room that holds Lennon’s urn and each day I say good morning and good night to him and kiss the urn. And randomly I catch a glimpse of my daughter doing the same. She isn’t prompted to do so-she just does. I work to incorporate Lennon into our lives so he is not forgotten. I attend events that allow me to dedicate time to just him and it allows me to breath life into his memory. I may not be able to mother him earth side but I am able to “mother his memory.” Ava accompanies me to most events and we talk about how we always have Lennon right in our hearts.
It isn’t fair that my son died and I can be quite bitter about it if I allow myself. It is said that as you begin to move forward there are moments when grief sneaks up on you. Out of nowhere, a simple beautiful day brings reminders of what is missing. What I had not realized is that, even though my daughter and I frequently talk about Lennon and do things in his memory, she too finds moments where she is consumed with grief. At the age of 3 she was so very involved in the pregnancy. She accompanied me to midwife appointments and ultrasound appointments. She helped me convince her dad that the baby in my belly most certainly should be named Lennon. She hugged my belly and laid on it talking to her brother each night. And she proudly helped me paint his room. When Lennon died, I had my mother bring her to the hospital so she could meet her brother. There was no fear or sadness in her-she jumped up on the bed and kissed him. The only thing she saw was the beauty that was her little brother. She has seen me at my very worst, and spent many days watching me cry. She has also seen me begin to live again.
But yesterday I was caught off guard by her grief. We had been listening to a song on the radio, The Good Life, a song that I listened to a lot after Lennon died. It was as if I was trying to force myself to believe that “this could really be a good life, a good life.” And yesterday as we were driving to dinner the song came on. Usually my daughter would say, “Mom your favorite song is on,” but today she said “Mom this song makes me think of Lennon.” And that was it. We both went on singing the song and enjoying the moment and then all of a sudden my fiery little girl so full of spirit broke into tears. When I parked the car and got out to embrace her she spoke through her tears, telling me that she was sad because she missed Lennon and that she wanted Lennon to come back. I just hugged her as tight as I could and told her that I miss him too. I told her that it’s okay to feel sad and to miss him and that we can always love him. Her tears lasted a few minutes but her grief was still there. It is always there, as is mine, and it will sneak up on us at random moments that we are unprepared for. But I am so thankful that I was there for her in that moment. To hug her and make her feel safe and allow her the opportunity to cry out for her brother who we all so desperately wish was with us. It was a gentle reminder that Lennon’s death was not just my loss.