I was never prepared for the questions our four year old son asked us after Evalyn died.
Why couldn’t your tummy keep her alive, Mummy?
Did she not love us enough to stay?
Was she sad when she had to leave?
He processed her death in the innocent way his mind knew how, and yet, he couldn’t understand it at all. And let’s face it, neither could I. How were we facing a future without Evalyn in it? How was it possible that as I comforted my son in my arms as he sobbed, my arms only felt half full? How could I respond to his questions when in reality there were no concrete answers?
As he has grown up, his questions have changed. At four years of age, he took everything we told him at face value. At nearly seven, he understands that some of our words were used to bandadge his pain rather than be spoken truth. He knows now that Evalyn didn’t float up to the sky from our hospital room. He knows we had to leave her behind. He knows that my necklace doesn’t actually contain ‘stardust’ that she sent down to us although he is yet to understand completely.
Explaining sibling loss to a living child has been hard at times. And I always told myself that those explanations would end with him. I always told myself that Iola, born after Evalyn, would just ‘get it’. After all, we mention Evalyn to her on a daily basis. We see a rainbow in the sky and we say Hello, Evalyn. We change the words of Twinkle, Twinkle so that we sing Evalyn’s star. One of her shelves in her room is also Evalyn’s where Evalyn’s little trinkets and teddies sit proudly. Evalyn is always there, just as we want her to be.
But the other day as we stood staring at a beautiful rainbow, I looked at Iola’s face and wondered what she was thinking. I wondered how she will form her own understanding of who her big sister is. I wondered about how my heart will cope when she begins to ask her own questions.
Why is my big sister not here?
Why do babies die?
Why did I live when she couldn’t?
I realised as I took in those colours that one day I will be faced with those questions again. And I also realised that I will face them the only way I know how.
With a deep breath and a smile.