How do you begin in telling your sunshine about the loss of their baby sibling?
Eleni had just turned 18 months when Holly died. As with most things in life, it was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing that she was too young to understand the pain but a curse that she would never remember meeting her baby sister.
I have always been in awe of Eleni. She seems wise beyond her years and can deliver such empathy at the exact point to which it is needed. Only the other day was I sat in tears missing Holly during a 'grief dip'. Eleni came up to me and in the most gentle way, put her hand to my cheek and said, 'You want Holly back? Holly is in the stars for you.'
It was at this point that I began to think about what I would tell Eleni next. I always knew that it was important for Eleni to grow up being aware of her sisters absence but knowing how to go about was proving difficult. Was she old enough to understand more? What words do I use so that I wouldn't scare her? But as hard as I could try, the reality of baby loss just can't be sugar coated.
It was on the way to our annual Christmas remembrance service at the Crematorium that I decided to divulge further. I told Eleni that Holly had a poorly heart which couldn't be fixed. It was because of this that Holly now lives safe in the stars and not with us. Eleni listened intently as if it was just some story I was telling and how I wished it was just that.
A few days later Eleni relayed the story back to my husband and I but this time finished with the question, 'Daddy fix Holly's heart?'. Argh. How my heart broke as I told her that no one could fix her heart and then I watched my husband walked away with silent tears in his eyes.
Understanding baby loss for an adult is hard enough, let alone for a toddler whose life should only be filled with smiles and laughter. It was as the reality of understanding sibling loss began to sink in that the new door to my grief was beckoning me in. I had been avoiding it since my son had been born 15 weeks prior and it was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
Seeing Eleni with her baby brother is just so special. I adore seeing the Eskimo kisses that she gives him and the pride in her voice as she declares him as 'her baby'. I laugh when she tells him off for pulling at her hair and when she rolls her eyes at him crying again. I love all of these things so much and I know I am so lucky to have the both of them but it still doesn't stop my heart from aching. From aching every time I see sisters together. From aching every time my mind wonders to how Eleni would have loved teaching her little sister to walk right about now. From aching at the thought of my two daughters never sharing clothes to make-up as they would get older. From aching at the reality that Eleni will never experience having a sister as she should have done.
Eleni will always have a special place in her heart for Holly but however many times that someone tells me Holly is still her sister and that Holly is still here, it is STILL not how it was suppose to be. Holly is still not here the way that baby sisters should be.
So while I worry over how to tell Eleni about Holly, I think that there must be no right away about it because it is all just so wrong. So I am left with depending on my instinct to tell me how to navigate through sibling loss and how to support her with my very grateful but empty, broken heart.