“As grieving moms we want to …[make] a memorial, and [start] an organization, and [write] a book…It’s okay if you don’t do that.”-Ashlee Proffitt, podcast episode 144
We have been memorializing Millie through the garden, although I have found in the time that has followed our loss, my real priority and purpose is to take care of Mon Cœur, and now Mon Amour.
Ashlee’s most recent podcast featuring Michele Benyo, founder of Good Grief Parenting, was very timely.
“Childhood is the best time to learn about grief.”
Michele explains that childhood is the best time to learn about grief. Teachable moments include learning about life and death with flowers, pets, and people. Understanding and facing these losses helps build the coping framework.
Mon Cœur has built a strong framework for coping, and at four and a half shares candidly her curiosity about death and loved ones we’ve lost. She says things that sometimes even catch me off guard.
This morning she asked to light a candle for Millie.
“Can I sing her happy birthday?”
“It’s not her birthday, baby.”
“Ugh – I thought it was her birthday. I want to sing it.”
“Okay, you can still sing her happy birthday.”
She sang loudly, so Millie could hear her.
“Can Millie sing, too?”
“I bet she can. We just can’t hear her.”
“How old is she? Does she get bigger?”
“Golly, you have some good questions. I am not sure how that works. I don’t know if people get older in Heaven or if they stay the same age.”
“I think they get older. Like old people get older.” Pause. “I want to … be with Millie. I miss her.”
Pause. Deep breath. Exhale. “Come sit on my lap.” Another deep breath. “You miss her, huh? I do, too. The problem is, if you go to Heaven to be with her, you will leave Daddy, and Mon Amour, and me, and Mooma, and Sissy and all of our family and friends. And then you’d miss us right? It doesn’t matter where we are, we will always be missing someone who isn’t with us. You have important work to do here on Earth before you go to Heaven to be with Millie.”
These conversations sometimes knock the wind right out of me. How do I validate her loss and grief? What’s the right answer to her questions? Am I saying the right thing? Am I talking too much?
“They are grieving whether you see it or not.“
Michele mentions kids process through play. Give them opportunities to talk about it. Kids need opportunities to talk, and even if they don’t have anything to say at the moment, knowing that it is okay to talk about death, feelings of grief, and remembering loved ones out loud, then it will lay the groundwork for them to speak up when they are ready.
We talk all the time about Millie. We still pray for her every night during prayers.
This past Christmas, we hung a stocking for her.
We were just looking at MC’s baptism pictures, and I was naming everyone in the picture and I pointed to my belly and told them, “And that’s your sister, Millie.”
This afternoon MC asked about her eye color. “You have blue eyes like your Daddy.”
“What color were Millie’s eyes?”
“That’s a really good question- one I often wonder about too. I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” (Complete with incredulous tone of a four and a half year old)
“No I don’t. Millie’s eyes never opened.”
Time has allowed me to accept what is. These questions, while they will always be difficult, are easier now for me to confront.
This may sound crazy, I feel blessed to be living in a time when it is acceptable to share our feelings around such traumas. The resources that have been available for me as we navigate our grief- and its ebbs and flows as we grow as a family- has been so valuable.
Ashlee’s podcast episode spoke to me, validated how I am navigating communicating with MC, and gave me some points to ponder.
One point that really gave me pause to consider is: the parent grieves her loss and is also walking this path and grieving through her living child’s feelings of loss.
In this moment, MC is feeling a true curiosity and grief in missing her younger sister. And I walk alongside her doing my best to validate her curiosity and grief and answer her questions as best I can.