This morning at breakfast, Patrick (6), who was only two when his sister was killed, reminded me, in the most innocent of ways, that he is still hurting and that his sister is at the forefront of his thoughts much of the time.
A couple of years ago, I might have described our collective family feelings as those of fear, hurt, and sadness. Today I consider our home to be a place of love, safety, happiness and yes, at times, insanity. But every once in a while I’m reminded that the hurt still lives under the surface and we must face it head on if we’re to continue the journey forward.
Patrick loves to make word search puzzles. Last night, we made one with all the names of the people in his family. Mummy, Daddy, Ian, Eric, Patrick, Grace, Elena and most importantly (in his words) Stefanie – his face always beaming with pride. It’s touching to see how he remembers her without prompting, and this is one of his ways of including her in his world.
This morning, during breakfast, he decided to draw a picture of all the people in the word search. He proudly told me who was who and noted everyone was holding hands and smiling, all happy to be part of his family. I knew that Stefanie was the last and I knew that the arrows meant she was in heaven, as he always points up when talking about her, but I wasn’t prepared for his reaction.
When it came time to tell me about Stefanie in the drawing, he burst into tears and clutched my neck in a death grip.
We were already running late, the school bus was coming, Elena needed a diaper change, the girls had to be dressed in their winter coats and I still needed to brush my teeth and my hair before walking out the door. But Patrick needed me to be there without rushing his feelings, reassuring him everything was okay now, that Stefanie was fine too.
Our morning was now thrown into a tailspin and I could barely contain my rage at those bastards for their role in our lives. My only option, to weep silently while I held him, all the while worrying as I watched Ian’s face, full of concern and hurt, surely thinking the same things I was.
As gently as I could, I reminded him that we would see her again to which he cried deeper because it would be longer for him than for me -lets hope so.
He asked again about how she died, details of their relationship before she was killed, all the things he couldn’t remember and expressed how angry he was at himself for forgetting what it was like when she hugged him.
So today, I am heavy laden with sadness and the anger has resurfaced. The elephant that lived on my chest for so long is back, and once again the process of getting through the day begins.
For Patrick, I can only be glad that he’s expressing his emotions, not hiding his pain and coming to us in his sadness. As far as his mental health, I’m not worried because otherwise he’s a ball of pure love and joy and is able to express himself in many ways.
But as he ran into school, now reassured and excited about music class, I was left with a heavy heart, wishing more than anything I could change the circumstances of our life and not always have that dark shadow lurking in the background.
Tomorrow will be a better day.