One would imagine that my sadness level has been maxed out. I discovered the other night that I was wrong. I saw something that that left me breathless and distressed. I discovered my children’s grief Let me explain.
Since my phone was dead, (ugly word) I was bored and was glancing through my husbands Facebook. Somehow, I managed to navigate myself to Instagram. I am not an Instagram person, and I don’t know how it works. Heck, I am even having trouble spelling it! Yet, here I was being nosy when I came across Instagram messages from my daughter. I started reading through them and looking at the pictures she had posted. What I saw, shattered what was left of my heart broken heart. Every 16th of a month, diligently and without fail, my beautiful daughter has “messaged” her brother Joey and attached a photo of days gone by. I never knew. Since I am a foreigner to this social media bit, I am sure my daughter felt brave enough to express her raw and battered emotions and at the same time kept me ‘safe’ from any more sadness.
Her words captivated me. They resonated of a grief sicken sister , trying to maintain a connection with her big brother. “I can’t believe it’s been 4 months, I feel you around…The 4th of July will never be the same…I miss you so much, Bro…” SO on and so forth they continued. Every month, without fail, with more posts in between, she remembered her brother. I went through all of them and felt the tears roll down my cheeks as I became melancholy reliving the moments in the photographs. They ranged from when they were little children playing on the living room floor to the happier days right before he passed. With each picture she wrote him something: “You will always be my hero”… “The worse day of my life is approaching the one year mark” …”Tomorrow your baby sis will be married, how I wish you were here. “ In one posting, she even described that when she got engaged, she had a gut feeling that her wedding should take place sooner than later. She felt guilty for shaking off that feeling and not listening to it. Shock, sadness and anger began to overtake me. I forgot about my children’s own grief.
I was so overcome and consumed with my own emotions that I never really thought anyone else was continuing to hurt and grieve just as much as I was…am. I assumed that my pain would always prevail over all others. Don’t misinterpret me… I KNOW my kids are sad and hurting. How can they not be? They lost part of their own identity…they lost their big brother. They were the one that received the original call and made the long hurried ride to the hospital. They were the ones present when they heard the news. I was hundreds of miles away! They sat for what may have seemed as an eternity waiting to hear Joey would be OK, but instead, They heard the worse. They are the ones that tried to make sense of what the doctors were saying to them. They needed to deal with a nightmare come true. I walked in to what was left. The initial impact had subsided, if only a tiny bit. Once they had a small grip on what had happened, they saw me in the distance walking or maybe running to them. I don’t recall, only that once I reached them, my son fell onto the floor with me, holding me, desperately seeking comfort…only, he had desperately needed it 5 hours earlier….when I was hours away from him. When they needed me the most, when they needed their mom, I wasn’t there. Maybe, I still haven’t been there. I have maintained an aloof image so THEIR pain could start to subside. I chose to grieve alone and in my own darkness. They, in order to not weigh me down, have done the same. When we should be grieving together, we have grieved alone for fear of hurting the other. As their mother, how selfish I have been not to have seen that.
One celebrations days, such as birthdays, Mothers day, etc., my son Anthony has always included something uniquely special in memory of his brother. He keeps him alive for me during the most difficult days. As he cautiously watches me open it, and read words his brother would have said to me, his tears overcome him before they do me. How strong he has been to go through the process of picking something out or putting words to paper knowing whatever it was had to be extra special. My Anthony, my baby boy has taken on the job of keeping Joey a part of the hardest days for all of us. My son…my hero
Then there is his baby sister. There are days when I think, ‘Oh dear God, today it’s the 20th, I missed the 16th!” The other night I realized my daughter never forgets. On Instagram, every 16th, there is a post. There are days when I can’t glance at pictures of him... yet, those pictures are her life line to him. Where it hurts me to remember his laugh, his voice, she has conversations with him all the time. The shirt with his picture that was made for all of us for his service, sits unused, neatly tucked in a drawer (the pain is too extreme). Hers is fading from use. She tells me she talks to him just about everyday on her way to work. I put the volume up on the radio to drown out my thoughts. Events held to honor him are too hard for me. I choose to hide away…she is right there, front and center, with her brother, proudly representing their brother. Why didn’t I know….or maybe I just couldn’t handle knowing. I didn’t want to admit how weak I really am to my children. I have tried to be a force of strength, a buffer from the pain, yet, all along they have been buffering me…protecting me….shielding me from their own pain. My baby girl and boy, have been holding all their pain and fear inside, trying to steer me away from the agony. They are the strong ones…They didn’t just lose their brother, they lost who their mother once was. It is time to bring her back
I shall shield you from the mighty winds, and shelter you from the storm……..