One thing I remember in my foggy, drugged-like grief state after Charlie died, is that the social workers told us that Hailee’s grief would be delayed. Because Hailee was only two and a half when Charlie died, she didn’t understand what happened. The social workers told us that as Hailee would get older and begin to develop a concept of death, she would go through her own grief process over losing Charlie. They mentioned that this usually happens about age six.
As Hailee just recently turned 5, it hasn’t been on my radar to vigilantly look for her emerging grief processes. But we are picking up evidence that Hailee is beginning to go there.
For example, earlier this summer, while Hailee was on a play date with her bestie, Grace, Grace’s mom, Ruki sent me this photo:
In this photo, Ruki explained that Grace was consoling a crying Hailee who was reportedly crying over missing Charlie. When Hailee came home she explained she got upset because Grace said she was going to marry her little brother ,Truman, and so Hailee got sad because her own little brother, Charlie, died, so she couldn’t marry him! Obviously one day we’ll need to talk about the dangers of inbreeding…but besides the point, this was one example of Hailee’s grief emerging.
Then, this morning, Chad called me after he dropped Hailee off at school. He said while driving Hailee to school he looked back and saw that Hailee had tears in her eyes. He asked her what was wrong and she said she was missing Charlie. Sometimes Hailee will “cry” over Charlie as a way to get attention or a way to get out of a consequence for doing something naughty. But this example felt genuine as her tears were silent, and had Chad not looked in the rear-view mirror, he might not have even noticed.
Also, yesterday, after work, my nanny sent Chad and me this text:
“I wanted to tell you, I thought it was so sweet and cute so I hope it makes you happy and not sad! But today when Hailee and Cami were holding hands in the car, Hailee says,’You know, I really miss Charlie. I, like, never get to see him anymore. He used to make me laugh ALL the time.’ Then she goes, ‘He’s just so busy all day. He has to help Jesus listen to prayers and watch over people during the whole day and night! He has a big job!'”
Doesn’t that melt your heart?! Agh I just wanted to wrap my Hailee up in my arms when I read that text. What is striking to me about what Hailee told our nanny is that we did not tell Hailee any of those things she detailed in Charlie’s job description! The only thing I can think she picked up from us is when we say family prayers, we ask that Charlie watch over us. Her sweet little brain is working hard to conceptualize what happened, where Charlie is now, and her relationship with him.
These are just some examples of many that show Hailee’s own grief process is emerging. It’s interesting to watch these processes occur, because as Hailee was so little when Charlie died, and probably remembers very little (if anything) about him and memories with him, I believed she wouldn’t really grieve him. I believed Charlie would be more of a vague idea than anything. I am finding that I am wrong. Even though she was young, Hailee seems to have some real grief reactions emerging to the loss of her baby brother!
I need to be more mindful of Hailee’s experience. I want to seek for opportunities to talk with her more about her thoughts and feelings regarding Charlie and his death. Maybe I should do some things with her that have been helpful for me: like show her photos of Charlie (especially of her and Charlie together), and visit his grave, or say goodnight to him each night when I see the sunset, for examples. I feel sad when Hailee is sad. But I hope I can validate her emotions and help her sort them out as best as her little 5-year-old brain can, instead of trying to soothe her or help her just “get over it.” I want to encourage her to feel a more active relationship with her brother; that he is nearby, caring for her. Because I believe that’s true and I want her to feel that. I want her to know she can cry with me, anytime she needs!
Even though sometimes Hailee is difficult (as most 5-year-olds can be), I am SO IN LOVE with this girl!