Oh Lillian, my brave and heroic first born.
“Today Layla turns one!” I excitedly exclaimed to my older daughter, Lillian (age 9) as I came down the stairs, holding my Rainbow baby birthday girl. I already had her dressed in her first birthday pink and purple tutu and first birthday onsie. I was so proud. I put her on the floor to begin taking endless numbers of pictures. It had been nearly ten years since I celebrated Lilly’s first birthday and I was very eager to get the day started. The day was March 25, 2016.
“And Joey would have been two.” I hear Lillian mumble to herself. My son, my angel boy in heaven. His due date would have been on March 25, 2014. The irony of it still amazes me. To a nine- year old, a “due date” means that is the day that a baby comes out no matter what, not realizing that a baby is born anytime around that date. To Lillian, her brother and sister share that day together.
I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at Lillian, her eyes brimming with tears that she was fighting back. She was trying SO hard to stop them from falling onto her sweet cheeks. She was trying very hard to be brave for me.
Oh Lillian, my brave and heroic first born. Oh how you mourn his loss still so much. In the midst of my pain and grief, I forget that Lillian grieves too. Children feel it too.
My Mom heard all of this happen and quickly jumped in and sat next to Layla. She gave me a look with her eyes to go ahead and take some time to myself. I went upstairs and decided to take a shower. I feel safe in showers, so I let the tears fall. Sometimes I wonder where all my tears come from? They seem to never run out.
Oh Lillian, my brave and heroic first born. The day I told you that our Joseph was in heaven was a day that I will NEVER forget. The way you buried your face into Daddy’s shirt and sobbed like I have never heard before. The screams of anger that came next and the confusion about what happened. The fear on your face as you wondered if that meant I would die too? But what I remember the most was what you did next, the courage you had to reach for my hand and hold it. To look at me in my heartbroken state and say, “It is okay Mommy, I love you so much.”
Children grieve too. Often times, children express this grief in much different ways then adults. Our instinct as parents is to protect them from this pain. However, children need to grieve too. I came back downstairs and looked at Lillian’s swollen eyes. Mom was consoling her and then it hit me: If a child can love, a child can grieve. All those times I tried to hide my pain thinking I was protecting Lillian made me realize that I may have taught her to do the same. We can’t hide pain; it will eventually come out. Children cry, but they often show their sadness in other ways.
An example of this is over the past three years, Lillian expressed her sorrow in ways I did not recognize at first. It wasn’t the normal grief reaction. For the first six months, she drew a lot of drawings and taped them to the top of her walls so her “angel brother” can see them when he ‘floats in her room with his wings.’ She prayed and wrote him letters on these pictures, telling me he always visits at night when she is sleeping. I never questioned her. Some time later, she stopped that behavior and I thought she was okay. But she wasn’t. As I look back, I see all the different ways she continued to try and desperately to cope.
Oh Lillian, my brave and heroic first born. Her grief was unlike mine. Weeks would go by in-between outbursts of crying. Anything could trigger it. Grief for a child is such an intense feeling that for Lillian it would come out in short intervals. She didn’t always cry. There were times she expressed a lot of her pain with her funny side. She would act silly and it seemed she was trying to balance the times of crying. Later I learned that children do that when in grief. I just I never realized it. She mourned her brother whom she would never meet on this earth. A month after Layla’s first birthday I found myself laughing so hard at something Lillian had said, until tears poured down my face. I told her she could win an Oscar with her humor.
She said, “I will win an Oscar, Mom. Comedy helps me when I miss Joey. I don’t like crying anymore, so when I feel sad, I like to be funny. Being funny is my way of helping myself and letting the pain out. Maybe I can help others who are sad someday. Maybe when they watch me on TV they will laugh instead of cry”
I don’t doubt for one second dear Lillian. Not one single second that you will do this one day. You will make lots of people laugh.
Oh Lillian, my brave and heroic first born Thank you…
…for your bravery
…for your ability to express your grief in the ways you knew best
…for holding my hand
…for filling my arms when they were so empty
…for not letting me hide my pain from you on those darkest days
…for never hiding your pain from me
…for loving me and your daddy the way you do
I am so blessed. So very blessed.
Thank you, God, for holding all my children in your great and mighty arms.
Oh Lillian, my brave and heroic first born.
Love and Peace,
Lindsay Gibson, Owner Healthy Mom Happy Baby LLC