I have written often about the struggles that come with being a grieving mother. The loss of my daughter can be all consuming, especially during this busy season that has included the anniversary of her passing, the holidays, and eventually yet another birthday where Olivia is missing.
But what I don’t talk about as often is the incredible toll the loss of Olivia has taken on her brothers. Their experiences are vastly different, and yet they both struggle with the loss of their sister in their own unique way.
My oldest son, Wyatt, was Olivia’s twin brother. He knew his sister more intimately than any of us did because of that bond that started very literally while they grew together in my womb. And because of that (and the tremendous loss he suffered when she died at their young age of 20 months) he struggles a lot to this day with living a happy life in spite of missing his other half.
My younger son, Landon, on the other hand, was born about a year after Olivia died, so he never got to meet his big sister. Despite being the spitting image of his sissy, he feels like he got robbed of ever knowing her, and that breaks his heart. He has a lot of questions about what she was like and talks often about how sad he is that he has only ever seen pictures of her.
Their grief is different and yet both are completely valid and very real. They both suffered a huge loss and they will both have to navigate through life with the undercurrents of that grief shaping how they live.
I hope as their mother that I am teaching my boys how to live a joyful life in spite of the tremendous loss we all suffered. I tell my boys often that it is possible to miss their sister terribly and still live a really happy life. I also remind them that Olivia would want them to live happily and to honor her in the way they love one another.
It is equally important to me that my boys know it is okay to be sad and to miss their sister. There is no shame in the days when the tears won’t stay away and their little hearts ache for Olivia. My husband and I spend time helping the boys to know how to grieve in a way that won’t be harmful to them in the long run. We tell them to let the tears fall, talk about what’s on their mind, and then do something to help their heart feel better. That could be spending time with their family, taking a hot bath, seeking out a friend, or just getting a big hug from their dad or I.
I think that’s good advice for all of us and something that I practice in my own walk with grieving my daughter. I used to spend so much time bottling up my own feelings because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get back up if I ever let it take me over. But now when I feel the grief coming, I embrace it. I let my tears fall. I hole up for a while when I need to. And then I do something to pull myself out of it.
What have you done to help yourself or your children grapple with a big loss in your family? Please feel free to share any tips or tricks you have learned in the comment section or send them to me via email - email@example.com.