The hearts and minds of children are quite possibly one of the most extraordinary things I have ever experienced as a mother thus far. It would be Hunters strength that began my astonishment of what a child is capable of, but it would be Hunters older brothers’ journey through what we went through, that continued that amazement.
I wondered how Chase would grieve the moment Hunter was diagnosed. I knew there would be so much to explain but at the time, I really had no clue how much. As we continued every day, I saw in him, a way through this all, a shining light that would guide us through every excruciating step.
Chases mindset was ALWAYS “Hunter’s going to be okay.” Inside my mind lived a million thoughts of everything that could go wrong. And it was a simple day of Hunter being put to sleep for a lumbar puncture where
chemotherapy would be inserted through his spine, that changed so much for me. A turning point in our journey. Chase calmly walked over to the hospital bed Hunter laid in, as his eyes were slowly closing shut. You could tell Hunter didn’t want to be put to sleep, he fought it this day. Chase laid his hand on his head and gently rubbed his crazy little hairs. He just stood there with his hand on his brother’s head and he began to pray. His words were innocent and therapeutic for everyone in that room. He simply ended it with “thank you for always taking care of Hunter.”
These things our kids fully understand and know, yet as a 20 something year old woman, I stood there not being able to grasp how he was so trusting and so confident that everything would just, “be okay.” Kids are extraordinary. And I knew then, through that prayer Chase said, he would indeed grieve immensely one day if we ever lost his brother. But it would be different than the way I grieve, and I would need to prepare myself for those differences.
Kids don’t look too far in to the future. Most honestly believe, everything will be okay. Maybe that’s proof as parents we’ve made them feel safe and be able to trust in a good outcome. But it’s a scary thought when something earth shattering happens and even we can’t give them the reassurance that we’re also looking for.
Chase is the type of child that lives and feels in the moment he is currently in. For example, his hardest times are nights. He shared a bedroom with his brother and the endless fun they had before bed time every night could leave me chatting about it for hours. We often became angry some nights because they would be full of energy, back and forth between beds, giggling, and causing all sorts of trouble. Their nightly prayers were said together, they would sometimes sleep side by side, and if one of them woke in the middle of the night, we wouldn’t be bothered because they would figure it out together. I believe this is now the time that Chase feels most alone. He is immediately reminded at bed time every night, he’s alone. I cannot begin to feel his own pain and suffering as a sibling, now suddenly not having that earthly bond that he was so used to. And at his age, just trying to grasp it, and the finality of it all, makes me sick to my stomach as his mother.
People try to reassure him and explain to us “he still has a brother.” And yes, we are fully aware of that. But you cannot deny that how he has a brother now, is completely different than what he was used to. He is eight, and we can’t expect him to understand it all. In fact, this is something no eight-year-old should have to understand at all.
Grief for a child is complex and different than what we feel. They are trying to rationalize what’s going on in their own minds while also viewing a very vivid picture of how everyone around them is grieving. Chase doesn’t like to cry, and I cry a lot. He seems unconformable when I tell him stories of Hunter that make him sad, he likes to concentrate on the happy stories, and watch the funny videos. His interest is never in the hard moments we have in photos and videos of Hunter. They’re too painful for him.
He’s always reassuring everyone that Hunter is “safe, loved, and healed.” His outlook is so uplifting. I honestly think he’s where we get most of our strength from. Sometimes I look at him and see pieces of Hunter. In his eyes, his nose, his crooked smile. He’ll say something silly and it will make me think of Hunter, they were so much alike in their humor. He does so much good for us, we try to constantly keep awareness of how HE needs to grieve also, so that we’re filling up his cup too.
I think as children navigate hard times, they tell us a lot of what they need if were open to listening. I can say, Chase and us as parents, have had new aspects of our relationship with him that we never imagined outside of grief. I think that’s hard on all of us sometimes. We have never seen parenting as an easy job, but now we have this huge part of it that not many others do. If something ever happens in your child’s life that causes them any sort of grief I hope you could look at it like we do. This is a huge piece of who Chase will be. He’ll have rough edges, complex parts, and an understanding most kids his age do not. But I believe with everything in my heart, the grief he experiences and continues to navigate through will make him more extraordinary than he already is! It will have taught him resilience, acceptance, a brighter outlook, and a better understanding of the pain and suffering of this world. I know its nice to think of our kids living in a bubble and shielded from the horror of this world. But it’s the children who have seen it first hand that will do something bigger because of it all. Grief doesn’t always have to make their life harder, it can make their life better. And that’s how we’ve chosen to journey with Chase through HIS grief.
Chase and Hunters very last photo together.