Extreme Grief is strange. The trauma causes such a disconnect between the body, mind, and spirit. And from what I learned, I’m not sure you ever fully recover from it. Extreme Grief can make you do things that your mind will tell you is completely irrational, like holding your child on the escalator instead of letting them stand or triple-checking their temperature even though, it’s clear their fever hasn’t changed. Your mind says one thing, but your heart says another.
The trauma and irrational moments will never cease for me. But usually, in time, I can realign my mind and body.
However, the last few months have been particularly difficult for me with Ellie’s impending Birthday. Impending, has such a negative connotation… but in fact, Ellie’s birthday feels that way to me. Ellie turns 5 on January 22, 2020. And I have been feeling, my mind and body disconnect thinking about it. We talk about Charlie all the time in our house. Ellie’s memories of him are limited, but there. They flourish through pictures, videos and all questions she has about big brother. She knows Charlie loves chocolate (which she will remind us each time that she does not), Star Wars and preschool. She remembers his dancing, giggles, and sledding on snow days. And she often starts questions with, “What did Charlie do?” “What did Charlie like to play with mommy? Did Charlie love paci as much as I do? What did Charlie do for his birthday mommy?” The questions go on and on and I love the discussion they bring.
But now I am waiting… waiting for Ellie to ask, “Mommy, what did Charlie do after he turned 5?” We have never lied to Ellie about Charlie. But answering that question seems cruel. How do I tell Ellie, well when your brother turned 5, he died shortly after.
But it’s true. He did. And now, there will be no more questions I can answer with “What did Charlie do…?”
With Ellie turning 5, we will be in uncharted waters, raising our second child past the age of our oldest. And it is scary.
For most of us, the loss of a child is hypothetical. It is a “what if” in life that we certainly can’t let plaque us. Because likely, it would never come to fruition. But for us, for me… It did happen. It isn’t hypothetical. We experience the emotions, the repercussions for us and for our family and know the truth about grief that no one else can understand nor ever will. And we are living the cost of losing Charlie each day.
And what happens… what if we lose Ellie too? Extreme Grief and trauma don’t just go away, it’s like a chronic illness. Ellie turning 5 is causing a major flare-up. So while my mind is telling me, Ellie is safe, she is healthy and you are doing everything you can keep her that way, my body is in hypervigilant overdrive. My heart and emotions are telling me, “There isn’t a rule that says once you lose one child, you have met your quota for a lifetime. So be aware, watch out! It could happen again!”
That’s the crazy thing about Extreme Grief, even while writing my thoughts, my mind is telling my body it’s irrational. But my heart is reminding my mind of Charlie, the loss and the pain.
I don’t have the answers on how to change my feelings of panic and worry over Ellie right now. But I do know that like the flare-ups that come from chronic illnesses, it can be managed with proper care. So I look to my husband, our therapist and prayer to give me comfort and guidance.
And I try to shift my heart to the feeling of thankfulness for each of the 5 years we spent with Charlie, gratitude for being a parent to 3 beautiful children and hope that we will have the privilege of raising each of them into adulthood here and in heaven.