I woke up late this morning and as I was coming out of my room I heard my youngest son talking away. About the time I was in the hall and about to step into the livingroom where he was I heard him say”Pokey” and I stopped. He was talking to his brother and I didn’t want to intrude or embarrass him. I listened as he told his brother about the pictures we have hanging on the wall to remember him. It then got quiet and I stepped into the livingroom.. I should have waited. As I stepped in I saw my youngest standing at Pokey’s memory table touching a picture of his brother and telling him quietly he missed him. When he turned and saw me he smiled and tried to act like he was just there. I didn’t say anything. I knew I had interrupted a private conversation and I felt bad. And I want him to be comfortable and have these conversations with his brother. If it helps him to talk out loud to Pokey I will not stop him or allow anyone to shame him for doing it.
Micheal and Anthony were buddies. When Micheal was home he would make sure to to take his little brother out to ride go carts, get icees, go to lunch. He always made sure to give Anthony a day of attention. Even on short weekend visit Pokey made time. And Anthony looked up to Pokey and looked forward to their times together. It was amazing how Anthony would light up when Pokey said ” Come on Tojo let go do something”. Micheal told me to buy a Hi Ho Cherrio game for Anthony for Christmas so they could play when he came home. For a while it was all Anthony would talk about. How he was gonna beat his Pokey at Hi Ho Cherrio. Pokey talked about it too. He would ask if Tojo had been practicing and I would tell him that Anthony cheats.
When Micheal died we weren’t quite sure how to explain it to our youngest. He is not your typical kid you see. He is mildly retarded with developmental delays. So at 9 ( when we lost Micheal) it was like trying to explain what had happened to a 4 or 5 yr old. We avoided the usual ” He’s sleeping” explanation at the advice of a grief expert. We told him that a bomb had gone off and hurt Micheal really bad and that he had died. But that he was in our hearts and always with us. Anthony thought on this for few minutes and then put it together. He told us and others that a bomb had broken Micheal’s body and it didn’t work anymore. But that Micheal was everywhere now.
Often we forget that no matter how young a child is they hurt and miss those who have died also. It was very important to me that all of Micheal’s sibling had a say in the funeral and were allowed to grieve as they needed to. That included the youngest. So when we were driving to the visitation and he started sing a song he made up as he sang about and to his brother we slowed the car down and let him have the time he needed. And when a year and a half later I find him standing in the livingroom talking to a picture of his brother I let him. And I keep in mind it is healthy that he feels he can talk to his brother.
And the occasions when he needs to talk to one of us about Micheal we let him and try to answer his questions honestly but on his level. And I allow him to say what ever it is he feels or thinks. He has said that Pokey being gone “sucks” and he has expressed his anger at the bad guys. Just as there is not right or wrong way for adults to grieve the same is true for children. It’s their grief and they get to do it their way. The difference is they need our help because they don’t always have the words to express themselves. Sometimes we need to listen to what’s not being said. I’m lucky with my youngest though.. he makes it easier to help him because really has very few filters.