Almost three and a half years ago I was thrown into the world of the grieving parent. At the time, I was in a highly alert state, taking words that were said to me and dissecting them one by one. Sometimes people said things that I found confusing, and maybe even hurtful. I started reading…
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“I can do that. I’m the big sister.” She says to her nine-month-old baby brother. He watchers her in awe and with glee as he smiles back from his high chair at dinner, while she sits on her knees and adamantly tries to cut his blue berries in half with her dull toy butter knife… with persistence that only a three-year-old can possess.
She smushes a few with her utensil and places them on his tray. “There you go Liev. I’m a big helper because I’m the big sister!” She exclaims again.
Related: Am I Still A Big Sister?
Her understanding of being a big sister started a few weeks before we brought her little brother home. We picked out Big Sister books and would read them to both her and my belly before bed as we hesitantly planned for bringing home baby number three. A renewed enthusiasm over the special role of oldest sibling has reemerged as of late due to watching too much Daniel Tiger and Doc McStuffin episodes about bringing home baby.
Watching her bounce up and down on her knees and raising her hands into the air with excitement at the dinner table and repeating the phrase “I’m a Big Sister!” over and over, like a broken record I couldn’t help but wonder if she knows she is also a “little sister?”
I’ve never kept her older sister a secret. There are pictures of Nora on display around the house for her and visitors to see. Nora’s urn sits on our dresser and at times, in her younger years, not so long ago, she used to play with it. She even has a Nora stuffed animal that she sleeps with from time to time and will ask for “Nora” the stuffed elephant to snuggle with.
While watching her at dinner I wanted to say, with pride and a smile that, “You’re a little sister too.” But I didn’t. I kept quiet as my eyes longingly gazed at the empty chair that should belong to the other big sister. I didn’t want to confuse my three-year-old or take away the excitement she currently holds for realizing her special place in the family order. Four years later I just wish that somehow Zoe could understand how special she is to be just as much Nora’s little sister as she is Liev’s big sister.
Related: Siblings Grieve Too
I often wonder how much she truly knows about her older sister? Is there an unspoken connection one carries with a sibling with whom you have shared the same womb but never met? Part of me feels that she can feel it. That she HAS to feel Nora in her bones as I do, as she, Zoe was the person to grow into life out of the space where Nora died. That must live on in her somehow, though she never says so with words.
When we go to bed that night. Zoe gathers together her Giraffe family. There is Zoe Giraffe which is her first and main lovey. The tattered stuffed animal at three years is already worn with love that I worry it might be in pieces before their tenth birthdays. Over the past few weeks Zoe Giraffe’s family has grown. There is now a mommy Giraffe, a daddy Giraffe and as of last week a baby Giraffe, named Liev, like her brother. Tonight before bed, I leaned down to kiss her and I notice a little blond stuffed doll is placed within the Giraffe family circle.
Curious I ask Zoe, “Who is this?”
She responds, “This is Nora.”
Maybe she knows she is a little sister after all.
Photo Credit @KerryKreslPhotography