Nine months ago, my daughter lost her little brother and her best friend.  The brother, that she doesn’t remember being in this world without.  The brother, who was her biggest cheerleader, and who celebrated the simple joys of each day with her.  The brother, who smothered her with smiles and hugs.

I find myself so frustrated by a world that doesn’t recognize her grief.  The principal who said, “Now let’s take the emotion out of it, and remember it’s May and she won’t be enrolled until September”.  The psychologist, who told us “she is too young to truly understand relationships, or think of his future”.  The friends, who see her happy in the playground, and say “isn’t she doing great?”  I become angry, and think, why don’t you see?!

I become angry, and think, why don’t we talk about this?  Why do we (as a society) pretend her grief isn’t there?

But then, I realize.  I have a responsibility, too.  I talk about my grief, I talk about the doctors, I talk about Rowan’s life.  I say that I keep her story private to protect her, and that is true.  But maybe some things are worth talking about.

So.. Nine months later, this is 5 year-old grief:

  • She has beautiful moments, where she hears a song, and says “That reminds me of Rowan”,
  • She has precious moments, when she draws his picture and writes his name,
  • She has moments, where she is in search of a happy memory, and needs a story shared,
  • She has sad moments, where she holds back her tears,
  • She has complicated moments, where she plays happily with a friend’s little brother and later wonders why he is here, but hers is not,
  • She has pensive moments, when she asks, “If Rowan were here, he would be walking and talking just like me, right?”,
  • She has painful moments, when other children are cruel,
  • She has ugly moments, when she screams “It’s all your fault”.  And that same child, who teachers adore and friends see with a constant smile, needs to pull my hair and punch me until the anger passes,
  • She has fearful moments, that come at night, when she wakes me up to make sure that I am still there

She questions, and questions some more.  Just like us.  Why didn’t the doctors listen?  Where is Rowan, maybe he is beyond the stars? Why don’t I have a little brother? What would he be like now?  What would my life be like now?

Five year old grief is very real.  Sometimes it comes out in a sweet song, or an angry shout.  Sometimes it comes out in a beautiful picture, in a funny story, or in a nightmare.  But it is there, and she carries it with her.. Every day, just like us.