I’ve never been more aware of shared grief than in the last few months. When you lose someone so close to your heart sometimes it’s easy to forget how that loss effects the other people who are grieving. From the start of this grief journey I’ve felt most connected to my husband and our parents, especially our mothers. They are not only grieving the loss of their grandchildren but also the pain that their own children are feeling that they can’t fix and they can’t take away. Maybe that’s why it feels like their pain is equal to my own when others, although sad and hurting in their own way, can’t always relate to the depth of our sorrow. There are days that I’m thankful for that. Nobody should have to feel this type of hurt.
I’m so thankful for the moments that my mom and mother-in-law have taken to notice our pain or simply acknowledge the effort that we’ve taken to partake in life and joy when they realize it’s not an easy choice for us. Others might not see behind the simple words of support for another’s happy journey, but they do.
My siblings hurt in their own way as well. Sometimes I feel as if it’s almost harder for them. They lived that day (and the months before and after) as emotionally as we did and yet others might not always remember their hurt. They might not always see their hearts in the midst of every day moments. My sister-in-laws have been especially open to sharing my grief and have tried to walk their own children through this grief journey with care and a tender heart. How do you explain the death of cousins to 6-11 year olds? The kids younger than age of 5 don’t seem to really understand the loss, but the older kids very much feel that pain. I think they have been the ones I’ve most struggled to include in a tangible way. I try to remember that they might feel the way I do so often; it’s harder when it’s ignored than when it’s acknowledged. How do we allow them to grieve?
I’ve had some pretty special stories shared with me in the past months. My sis-in-law Melanie sent me these sweet pictures. My niece Emily had a school project about constellations and of all the things she could have done she chose to make hers about her baby cousin Alice.
My sis-in-law Amy made beautiful shadow boxes with/for her kids. She allowed the kids to take them to school to share the story of their cousins with their classmates and ultimately share the story of how Jesus has a place for us in Heaven. They’ve shared the Alice Mae children’s book with their friends. They’ve shed tears for them.
I’m so thankful that my sis-in-laws shared these special projects with me. It’s a moment for me to share in their pain after so many have shared in mine. It helps me realize that they do remember them and that brings equal joy and pain to my heart. Such young children shouldn’t have to feel this pain and loss. They shouldn’t have to know this at such a young age. Yet there is a glimmer of hope in my heart that maybe, just maybe, it will help shape their faith to know and love Jesus.
As their first birthday approaches tomorrow I have these children in my heart as well as they very much miss their cousins as much as I miss my sweet children. Although we’ve chosen to spend tomorrow with only our immediate family, my heart is thinking of all of my family who are missing them as well and pray that they can find a moment to celebrate the joy that we knew these beautiful babies and not just feel the grief of missing them. That has become my prayer for myself tomorrow; to find JOY and CELEBRATION in the day of their birth, in the fact that they were with us for 22 weeks and three hours in our arms (or the arms of their grandparents). I’ve spent a year grieving their loss and I want to spend a day celebrating their life no matter how short.