Harry is usually the most emotionally vulnerable at night when we are lying down for bed. And he is a talker. He falls asleep talking actually, mid sentence sometimes. I was extra tired last night and just wanted him to go to sleep. He kept talking about memories and wondered why he didn’t remember things from when he was younger. I half-explained cause I was half-asleep.It was quiet for a moment when he said “Mom, I just want to talk about one more thing.” My tired reply was “Oh, Harry, after this we are going to sleep.” I almost told him we could talk about it tomorrow, but something in his voice sounded kind of serious.
He said “I just can’t remember about how Jackson died. I know you’ve told me, but I keep forgetting exactly. Can you tell me again?”I have explained it to him many times as age appropriately as I could, but last night felt different. Like he was ready for a little bit more information.
I explained to him that some children are born sick, and Jackson was born sick. I explained to him that when Jackson was 4 that we found out that something was wrong with his heart, that it was larger than it was supposed to be and it was having to work extra hard. This is a side effect of PAH, which when he is older I’ll explain that to him. He asked me how we knew that about his heart, and I told him we had it x-rayed and had to stay in the hospital for a little bit. Then I told him that Jackson came home, but his heart wasn’t able to work well and one night it stopped. Most of that was information I had already told him. But last night he asked me why we didn’t help him when it stopped working. My broken heart cracked a little more. I explained to him that we did try to help him and that we called an ambulance and went to the hospital, but that sometimes when a heart stops working you can’t make it work again. And that is a hard thing to grasp for anyone. I explained that he was asleep and safe at home with Nanny and then Grandpop while we were trying to help Jackson. He asked me if there were enough doctors and nurses in the hospital to help him. I told him yes, that the room was full of people working extremely hard and fast to save our Jackson but again, sometimes you cannot get a heart to start working again. Harry said “I was asleep and all that happened and when I woke up you were home like normal.” I said yes, and that he asked for Jackson like he did everyday, but that day we had to tell him Jackson was gone. I told him I knew he didn’t understand because he was a baby similar to Kellan and that now he understands a little more. He nodded. And I said when you get older you will understand even better. He seemed satisfied with our conversation.
I always struggle when giving him more information because I know it hurts, but it hurts anyway and I’d rather him know the truth. I asked him if he had any memories of playing or being with Jackson and he sadly said “No.” I have always expected that he wouldn’t remember exact memories because he was 2.5 years old when Jackson died which is not that far away from Kellan’s current age really. He then told me that when he sees pictures or videos he remembers a little. He may or may not, but it comforts him to see them. After we were quiet a minute, he said “I just feel like crying because I loved him and I miss him so much.” This is something he says frequently. I always assure him that crying is normal and okay, and that I will always hold him while he cries if that’s what he wants.
What continues to astonish me is the profound effect losing a sibling at such a young age age can have on a child. I listened to a podcast awhile ago about birth order, and they said one reason sibling grief is hard is because it’s traumatic for a child under age 5 to lose their place in the birth order. It makes sense. Harry depended on Jackson to lead him as they did their little lives together. Harry did not know of a life without him. Then Harry was left with a gaping hole of that love and leadership when Jackson was suddenly gone. I became his primary playmate, and it just wasn’t the same.
We are having a cuddle day today because I see Harry’s brain working overtime trying to process what we talked about last night. He said he feels tired, and he is a little overly emotional about things. For school, we’re just going to snuggle and read books. Thank goodness the wild child Kellan will nap for a solid two hours, and those hours will be dedicated to Harry.
After losing Jackson, one of the harder things for me is to see my sweet Harry grieving. It’s not all sad everyday. Children grieve so differently from adults. He plays, he has fun and he enjoys his childhood. He has had an innoncence taken away from him though in that he has had to deal with loss and death at such a young age. I just pray that I am being a good mom to him and helping him as much as I can.
In Jeremiah 29, verse 11 God says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I do not understand all the heartache and pain we experience and why things happen they way they do. I cling to that verse because I know God IS faithful, and that is what keeps me going.