Almost 7 years ago, at the end of August, I lost my 35 year old brother, Kyle. My mother’s youngest child, who had 5 older siblings. I am the oldest of those 5 siblings – my mother’s children. Kyle was born after my mother remarried a man who also had 5 children, so reality is that Kyle had 10 siblings and he was so loved!
I remember calling my mother every day after Kyle died just hoping and praying she would sound better, but she didn’t. I would drive the 2 hours each way to visit her, but she had little to say to me. I remember thinking: Snap out of it Mom! You still have 5 other children! Aren’t we enough? I missed my brother too and I was grieving hard myself. My Mom became obsessed with where Kyle was .. started talking about visits from him. I thought to myself, Kyle’s death is going to kill my Mom or worse yet, make her lose her mind.
Fast forward to August 4, 2013 when my beautiful and healthy 27 year old daughter just dies, for no apparent reason, leaving two older siblings. Clarity happens. All of a sudden my heart was filled with so much understanding, sympathy and love for my mother. I get it now, Mom. It would not matter if you had 19 Kids and Counting, our hearts are designed to love all of our children and it is impossible to just close the ranks and fill the empty spot with your surviving children.
In the early months, it’s devastating, numb, confusing and painful. You exist in autopilot. Your ability to be present in a world which is forever changed becomes a huge challenge. I remember asking myself Who Am I? And … Where Is Amy? Surely she cannot survive without me! I must get to her. I must comfort her. She cannot be in Heaven without me. She needs me. That was my honest mantra playing in my mind.
Then I started having horrible nightmares where I was with Amy and we both knew she was going to die. There were no elements of peace in that knowledge. Peace was no where to be found as my faith was shattered and I desperately needed the reassurance that my precious youngest child was ok. No, better than ok.
Meanwhile, every day for 3 weeks, my husband and I would get up each morning and arrange to be with our older two children. We ate dinner together each night — outside — even in the rain. We could not sit at our family dining room table. Through the fog, I remember thinking, should I take the leaf out of the dining room table now and make the table smaller to add more room in the dining room? No.
My son still calls us every day. His sense of peace was shattered on Devastation Day. We try to get together for dinner at least once a week. We make a toast to Amy at every meal.
I get it, Mom. You still loved us during the early months after your own personal Devastation Day. You were in shock and in great despair. It is impossible to look up from your life in those early months and smell the roses.
Yet like some of the clueless well meaning words that came my way to count my blessings and be grateful I still had two other children, it was impossible to look beyond the pain that overtook my soul. Yet, I swear I did embrace the fact that I needed to suck it up a bit and be present for my other children, but only because I remembered how I felt after Kyle died. However, there was no hiding my dead eyes from my kids and I am sure, just like me, they were worried they had lost their Mom too.
I love my children and I do everything I can to show it, but I am grieving their sister. Our grief is different, yet the same. They grieve the loss of their relationship with Amy and how that relationship affected their daily life: they feel the void every blessed time we get together, order a table, attempt to honor a birthday or holiday and worse … get through Devastation Day after one year of mourning our sweet Amy Marie. They grieve differently.
I have heard other sibling say time and time again that after they lost their sibling that their parents were never the same. I get that too but at the same time that comment frightens me.
My Mom has been forever changed by the death of her youngest son and now her sweet granddaughter, who always showed her so much love and attention. On my birthday, which is the same day as my Mom’s, my Mom had the birthday card displayed which Amy had given to her last year. Amy would always write the same thing on the bottom of the cards she gave to my Mom, her grandmother: “Thank you for my Mom.” I get it, Mom, I get what it’s like to live without one of your children. There are no adequate words to describe the pain and 5 children can not make up for 6 children.
Always remembering Kyle and always remembering my sweet Amy.