I was pregnant with Hudson at a boom time among my friends and neighbors. I had more friends than I can count who were pregnant with me in 2008 or thereabouts, let alone all the moms I met here in the neighborhood after Hudson was born. It’s a little over two years later, and naturally, many of those same friends have already welcomed their second children or are currently pregnant with them. As one after another of Hudson’s contemporaries welcomes a younger sibling, my heart breaks again and again at every picture of them kissing their newborn brothers and sisters on the foreheads or holding them gingerly in their laps under the watchful eyes of mom and dad. This is a picture we will never take with Hudson and Jackson. How is that possible? How did we get here?
I already struggle mightily with how we will help Jackson and our future children have a relationship with an amazing sister they never got a chance to know. I have been heartened by the stories people have shared with me here and elsewhere about grown adults who still actively remember and embrace their siblings who died before they were born. I fervently hope that we will know the right things to do to cultivate that kind of relationship without risking our younger children feeling overshadowed by Hudson’s life and death, and the enormous impact both will have on our family and our lives forever.
One of the things I grapple most with is how we will talk about Hudson with Jackson and our other children when they are very young. This is still so far off, but it is still something I think about every day, and since kids often begin to understand things far sooner than we realize, I’d rather “start as I mean to go on” if possible, at least until they get old enough to talk intellectually about things like death and what happens to us when we die. I’ve read entries on several other grieving mama blogs about these conversations they’ve had with both older and subsequent siblings of the child who died, and everyone’s approach is very different, as it should be.
My biggest problem with this, of course, is that I have no idea where Hudson is, if she is anywhere, or what has happened to her, if anything. I know what I would like to believe. I know what makes me feel better to think about. I know how much comfort I get from the little things that happen that make me feel like she is with me. But I have no idea how to talk about these things with a small child who wants to know where his big sister is. (And I am still rather disbelieving that I will eventually face such a terrible circumstance.)
My inclination right now is that when they are very young, the most important thing is for our future children to feel, from a very early age, like they have a special relationship with Hudson. This may very well mean that for some period of time, I will have to be okay with talking to them in some kind of concrete language about her, even though there is nothing concrete about our ideas of what happens after we die. It just seems like it would be so much easier for them to feel close to her if they perceive her as being somewhere specific (heaven?), always close to them and watching over them (like an angel?). These seem like fairly straightforward ideas for a child to latch on to (if not fully comprehend), at least from my 10,000-feet point of view. And maybe it will also give them language with which they can talk about their sister with other people, which I think will be very important for all of us. And later, when they are more intellectually curious (and capable?), maybe that will be the time to start thinking and discussing things from a more spiritual perspective, along the lines of how their dad and I don’t really know where people go after they die, but that we feel Hudson’s spirit with us all the time in special ways, and that she is their sister no matter whether she is here on earth with us or not.
Argh. (What an understatement.) I really can’t believe that I have to think about this. And yet I must. This is my life, my family’s life. Hudson will always be the big sister. Forever.