Ashes and ghosts

I wonder what our children will make of their brothers.  They are too young to really understand but that will change when they are old enough to ask about the wooden box and the baby photos.

There was a heartbreaking moment yesterday when my daughter was playing in the cupboard where we keep the ultrasound pictures.  My wife was holding onto the photo as my daughter sorted pennies for school.  I walked in as she was finishing and heard her say “all gone now”.  I thought she meant the  boys.

For me I always picture the boys as they were.  I don’t see them as toddlers or the children they didn’t get to be.  I can’t see them in the stories we created for them.  It’s as though they’ve been edited from those mental pictures.

I do see them in the mirror. I see them in our children. I see them in baby photos. I’ve never been haunted by them but I see glimpses of them in the everyday. Sometimes that can be a comfort, that in some way they live on as part of their siblings. Other times it can be a blow to the chest, a reminder of all that could have been.

I don’t want to hide their brothers from them and I don’t want them to be scared by them. I’ve found quite a good selection of children’s books on the subject but we’re a long way from that yet but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the quality of the stories. Some use blunt humour, others have beautiful metaphors and striking artwork. They don’t seek to deny or minimise anything. They are open and honest.

One that really got me was The Colour Thief. It’s not about grief so much as depression. It’s a good visual representation and description of how a terrible sadness can suck the light from your eyes and the colour from life. More importantly it shows that it can get better.

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book is another excellent book with simple images to illustrate what sad looks like. It’s not always a down turned face or tears. Sometimes it can be behind the smiles and cheers of celebration too.

This is me being sad.
Maybe you think I’m happy in this picture.
Really I’m sad but pretending I’m happy.
I’m doing this because I think people won’t like me if I look sad.

There are those that are wary of our attempts to even think about presenting books like this to our children. Far better that they retain their innocence.

I’ll leave Neil Gaiman to tackle that one.

“I think if you are protected from dark things then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up. I think it is really important to show dark things to kids — and, in the showing, to also show that dark things can be beaten, that you have power. Tell them you can fight back, tell them you can win. Because you can — but you have to know that.

And for me, the thing that is so big and so important about the darkness is [that] it’s like in an innoculation… You are giving somebody darkness in a form that is not overwhelming — it’s understandable, they can envelop it, they can take it into themselves, they can cope with it.

And, it’s okay, it’s safe to tell you that story — as long as you tell them that you can be smart, and you can be brave, and you can be tricky, and you can be plucky, and you can keep going.”

Grief may not be able to be beaten but I think it’s important to show that it can be part of our lives without consuming us with sadness all the time.

A Cornish Mum
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9 Comments Add yours

  1. wendy says:

    I have not come across your blog before so I don’t know your story but I think you are right to not hide sadness and grief from your children, like the quote says it’s better to honest now than leave 6 our children unable to understand or cope with bad things when they happen. The books sound really useful and a great say of communicating a difficult and emotional concept to the kids.x #picknkix p.s going to have a look around your blog now..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Thanks. There’s a brain picking link in the reading room page under Books that will take you to a full run through of the book if you can’t find a copy.

      Hope the rest of the blog is interesting for you. I try and temper the gloom with ill advised humour and music!


  2. acornishmum says:

    I agree with you in being honest with children. Secrets always come out and being dishonest with them leads them to trust you less and holding things in that much isn;t good for anyone.
    I can only imagine what you’ve been through… I have a very close friend who lost her baby boy to cot death… and I’ve seen how that impacts her even years later. They grieved as a family, and he is still a part of his family and talked about… I feel that’s how it should be personally.

    Thank you for linking up to #PicknMix

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mrs Tubbs says:

    I think the most important thing to do is to be honest with your children so the boys are part of your family. My mum mentioned, completely randomly, that she’d had a sister who’d died at a younger age from scarlet fever. She’d never mentioned her before and there wasn’t enough time to find out more 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve heard similar from members of my family too. I don’t know whether its cultural or generational.


  4. Silly Mummy says:

    I agree with Neil Gaiman. I am such a big fan of retaining children’s innocence in many respects – I encourage keeping the belief in magic alive as long as possible, and trying to let children be young and not grow up too quickly. But I don’t think you should try to shut children off from reality or from knowing about things that are inescapable, in the name of ‘retaining innocence’. I also believe very strongly that, because children are so intuitive, things like this, big, hard things that leave a lasting impact on the adults in their life, will never go entirely unnoticed by children. Even if they have no idea what it is, I think they will often know that there is something there, something hidden. & I think that is the worst thing for them, because if they sense that there is something, but no one talks to them about it, they will fear it. Children are immensely resilient and accepting, I believe they are capable of knowing about and dealing with loss and grief. I’ve seen Michael Rosen’s ‘Sad Book’. I’m a really big fan of all Michael Rosen’s work and the approach he takes. #PoCoLo

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Morgan Prince says:

    I totally agree, we should be honest with our children. We can’t protect them from everything thinking we’re doing them a favour, they do need to know about the bad things, they need to be prepared. Great post, thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo.

    Liked by 1 person

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