Lessons From a 2-Year-Old on Life & Death

photo(35)This morning as I did my devotions, Kyla colored in her special notebook. Every couple minutes, she would announce what she was currently drawing. Daddy….Mommy….Grampy.

Each time, I nodded my encouragement. Then one caught me off – guard.

“I’m gonna draw Esther’s bave (grave)”

Ouch

Perhaps one of the more painful things to navigate after losing a child is helping siblings understand and process. Since Kyla was only 18 months old when Esther died, she did not understand what was going on. She only perceived that something was wrong in our family, and responded emotionally as a toddler.

From the beginning, we have not concealed our grief and struggle from Kyla. Obviously, we have protected her from the depth of the emotions. She could not possible understand, nor would it be healthy for her to try. Yet we have felt it important to not hide reality from her. Esther is our daughter, and she is Kyla’s sister. We all hurt that she is not here. We remember her, miss her, and honor her life each day in our family. We feel it is important for Kyla to grow up knowing she has a little sister in heaven. Really, there is only so much explaining you have to do with a child. Children absorb so much from what they hear, and they pick up on surprising things. Kyla has started connecting the dots, and has a lot of questions.

Here is where the problem lies…how do you explain something to a child that is almost impossible to understand as an adult? Sometimes I find myself in tears, trying to find the answers to little Kyla’s questions. Sometimes I feel my heart whispering the same longing questions to my heavenly Father. Some of the things she says are adorably cute, yet deeply painful to hear.

photo(13)As Kyla is growing, she is starting to make more and more connections. Christmas day was one such time. I saw a new understanding and curiosity as we pulled into the cemetery. “Baby Esther,” she exclaimed as soon as she saw the entrance. Within moments, I found myself trying to answer Kyla’s questions. I attempted to explain that Esther’s body died, but her spirit was alive with Jesus. Suddenly, that day, just saying “Esther was with Jesus” wasn’t satisfying anymore. She wondered why did we come often to see Esther, when she was clearly not here.

So many times I have felt inadequate to rightly teach my daughter about these concepts. Yet we have continued to pray and ask God to direct our words and actions in these situations.

When we told Kyla that we were going to have another baby, we found ourselves at a whole new level of curiosity. Her immediate reaction was, “Oh, baby Esther is in momma’s mummy!” (We found her!) She seemed delighted to finally have this issue resolved. We tried to explain, but every time we talked about this baby in momma’s tummy, she would say, “yeah, baby Esther.” Adam brought in some of our baby gear for a few days, and every day, Kyla would squeal with delight, “For baby Esther!” And every day, my heart would sink as I continued to say that Esther was still in heaven and she wouldn’t get to ride in the stroller. But our new baby would.

The questions continued and we kept giving the same answers, hoping that once again, something would start to sink in. I remember the day I heard Kyla list out our family members in her bedtime prayers – “Mommy, Daddy, Me, Esther, Baby in momma’s mummy.” I smiled as I realized that she was getting it, yet cried inside that she had to.

Still, we have some interesting moments.

Like when I asked Kyla what this baby’s name should be, and she calmly replied “Esther!”

Or the day when we were rocking in the chair and she suddenly said, “Be careful, baby momma’s mummy! And Esther died. We can’t see her…Esther went to heaven…be careful. Why Esther in heaven?”

Or when we watch clips of babies growing in the womb (which Kyla loves!) and she happily says, “See? Baby your mummy! And baby Esther!”

Just the other day we went to visit the grave as a family. As soon as we drove up, the wheels started turning as usual. Kyla said she wanted to go see Esther, then started whining, “can’t see her, can’t see her mom!” We went through the whole explanation again. We have 3 kids in our family – Kyla here, Esther in heaven, and new baby in momma’s tummy. We come to the cemetery to remember Esther and put flowers there because we love her and we are looking forward to seeing her in heaven…Kyla nodded as if understanding, then looked over at Esther’s grave again and said, “Uhhhhh…..” Adam and I chuckled at the giveaway reaction that she clearly didn’t get it. We enjoyed some time of solace as a family walking around the cemetery and letting Kyla ride her tricycle. When we were ready to leave, we asked her if she wanted to ride some more at home. She replied, “I want to ride my bike at Esther’s bave.”

photo(34)You know what? It’s okay that Kyla doesn’t quite get it. The beautiful thing is that she always finds a place of contentment just trusting mommy and daddy.

The truth is, I don’t get it either. I wish my girls were playing together on this Saturday morning, instead of big sister drawing little sister’s grave. Yet I am learning that there is also a place of contentment for me…And just like Kyla, it comes through trusting my Daddy.

What an amazing concept. Sometimes my girls seem to be the ones teaching me…

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A BIG Milestone – 16 Weeks and Baby is Alive!

16 weeksYesterday was our 16 week checkup. Most of you know it was in our 16th week that we lost little Esther.

I will not attempt to convey all I have battled through the last couple days. Let’s just say that when you’ve been through a traumatic experience, your mind can play nasty tricks on you. Monday, I cleaned my way through the anxiety. Literally. I cleaned and washed clothes, then cleaned some more. Then I went to bed at 7:45. I could not seem to get a grip on my thoughts. I felt like maybe we were going to relive all of the horror again. I awoke in the morning, struggling to decipher dream from reality, after wrestling in my sleep with the same fears. As I went into the bathroom to shower, I was convinced that my stomach had shrunk, another bad sign.

Sometimes my head tries to play through the worst case scenario, to guard myself from the possibility of some horrible shock again. I know this doesn’t sound very faith filled. I wish it wasn’t such a struggle. Yet I believe God is seeing us through one day at a time. I am thankful He is patient with me as I am learning to trust Him in a new way.

As we drove to the doctor’s office, I opened my Bible app on my phone and this verse was right there:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

I knew this was for me. I read it over and over and over and did my best to believe God was speaking it to me.

Walking in to the doctor’s office, we went through the motions of a normal appointment, but for me, it was anything but normal. When I stepped into the bathroom to leave a urine sample, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I looked awful. I mean, I dressed nice and did my hair like normal. But my eyes were swollen from crying the day before, and there was a certain paleness to my face that just looked unnatural. I hoped that nobody read into my flat affect or sunken in eyes. We walked into the exam room and I tried to remind myself nothing was wrong. I felt so exhausted that I laid down on the table to wait! (Really, I was a mess! Ask Adam!)

Soon the Nurse Practitioner I was seeing came in with an observing student. To my delight, she said “Let’s listen for the baby first.” The Doppler went down on my tummy and in an instant, the sound of life came whirring from the device. I could hardly believe it. 156 BPM. Our baby was and is very much alive. Just to prove it, he/she did some kicks that we could hear too!

I’m still adjusting to the shock of everything being okay(Strange, I know). But I am really, really glad that it is.

I love this baby so, so much. I have a renewed since of hope and I am dreaming of the day I hold this little one, breathing, kicking, and screaming in my arms.

This is a huge milestone for us to cross and I am thanking God with all my heart we have made it here.

Psalm 138:8 The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

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