Season of Change, Season of Grief

Summer is officially over and school begins tomorrow. I am grateful that August is over. Each year August is a difficult month as it is the month when my oldest son, Christian, became an angel. This year is a particularly difficult one. My heart is grieving the loss of him, intensified by grieving my life as a mom to preschoolers, toddlers and babies. My children no longer fall into these categories. The loss of so much has left me completely bereft.

For the past ten and a half years part of my identification, okay lets be honest, most of my identification has been mom to preschoolers, toddlers and babies. With my oldest son never to surpass Kindergarten and my youngest son, Nicky, just starting Kindergarten, this angelversary has me feeling more lost than ever.

The start of Kindergarten is a milestone in both the child and mother’s life, especially a stay at home mom. It’s a time when each gains new freedom. For the child it’s a sort of freedom he has not had before. My son Nicky has never spent consistent full days apart from me since his birth. This will be a first for him. I have not had consistent full days of child free time in the past ten and a half years. Just as he will grow and blossom, I will too. The woman who became a mom almost eleven years ago is no longer the same person. This is a beautiful and sad thing all at once.

Many moms experience a sense of sadness when their youngest child goes off to Kindergarten. My grief further complicates these emotions. The largest thing I am mourning is that I am leaving behind the mom I was when Christian was alive. When he was still here I was a mom to a Kindergartner, preschooler and toddler. Now both my boys will be in elementary school. By the end of this school year, they will surpass the amount of years Christian spent enthused by learning. This is downright terrifying for a few reasons. He was my guide on how to mother. Sure Anthony, my middle child, is almost eight years old but his personality is way different than Christian’s. You can see the gleam of mischief in Nicky’s eyes a mile away, just like his brother. I was supposed to learn how to handle that while raising Christian. Not only that, but in five short years they will both be out of elementary school. They will be forging ahead into a school their brother never had the chance to attend. Tears prickle my eyes thinking about it. I will no longer be able to make parallels between Christian’s life and theirs.

All of this makes me mourn the door that is about to close. Every time life changes it is a reminder of just how much it has changed, just how different it is than expected, just how much we miss my Christian. During big life changes it hurts even more than usual.

I am leaving behind an identity of who I was, as my first child knew me. I am leaving behind an era and in essence a piece of me. I am NOT leaving behind my son. My head knows this, my heart knows this but it still hurts to leave the piece of me behind that was defined by his birth and growth. He was the first to make me a mother to a baby, toddler, preschooler and elementary schooler. Anthony will be the first to make me a mother to a middle schooler.

Moving into uncharted territories is always exhilarating and scary at the same time. Gone is a life that I will never return to. My day no longer dictated by nap time. No more mommy and me classes. No more afternoon visits to the playground or the library “before your brother gets home from school”. Gone is the life as my first born knew me. I guess it already is though. Growth and change are never easy but always necessary. So I will carry on and carry him with me. I will spread his love, light and messages. All the time feeling a mix of proud, devastated, honored to have been his mother and angry to have him taken away from me. Love to heaven…

A Single Red Balloon

Your classmates moved up to middle school yesterday. They reached a major milestone in their lives. It is one they will remember forever. You weren’t there in the flesh. Yet floating right next to the row of seats was a single red balloon. A powerful reminder that you were there in spirit. Your friends’ faces lit up with smiles as their names were called to receive certificates and awards. Under those smiles some of them saw the balloon and it touched their wound. You will forever be remembered as the boy who died right before first grade started. Over the past few weeks of seeing your friends it has become clear that this event has touched all of their lives. Those who were closer to you struggling with the idea that one day they can be on a playdate with their six year old buddy, saying they will see him on the first day of school, and the next day he can be gone. The uncertainty and fragility of life plaguing their six year old selves.

Your own brothers are obviously not immune from this either. While we openly discuss you and our emotions surrounding losing you, I often question how they truly are feeling. Sometimes they are transparent in their feelings and other times it is a mystery. Leading up to yesterday’s moving up ceremony many emotions coursed through me. As the mother of the family, I believe this means that many emotions coursed through the entire family. Unfortunately when children are younger their emotions often manifest behaviorally. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) states that children under 5 may, “cling to a parent, return to behaviors common to being younger and show signs of fear”, among other symptoms. These are behaviors that I have seen present themselves in my youngest son. The NIH states that children 6-11 may, “have nightmares or problems sleeping, have outbursts of anger and start fights”, among other symptoms. Again, I have seen these in my 7 year old. These behaviors are also common in children who have not seen and experienced what they did. The uncertainty and fragility of this situation plagues me as a mother.

Child loss sets a ripple in motion that affects many people, some for a lifetime. Your brothers are forever at risk to falling prey to their emotions. The fear this ignites in me is raging. What if one day they turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the pain they experienced when they were younger? We will always give them unconditional love and support but what if that’s not enough? This is where my trauma manifests itself. In knowing that nothing can be controlled, my fears arise. Uncertainty, fragility.

There is no telling where time will take any of us. We have learned that nothing is guaranteed. Life is precious and each moment truly counts. We can’t control anything. We simply are not that powerful. All we can do is use the past to guide us in the present. We can let the visual of that single red balloon remind us to do our best to stay present and appreciate life. We can carry on your spirit by spreading kindness and love. We can recognize that the uncertainty and fragility of life is truth, but not let it take over. Love to heaven…