I've shared a few stories of Emma's experiences with processing Jairus's death. But not much about how our 2 1/2 year old, Hazen, is doing. Here's the lowdown on our second born...
First of all, Hazen is 2 1/2 years old, and so his understanding of what is going on with his family is much more limited to the day to day happenings. For a two year old, even the idea of "having a baby" is kind of foggy. Hazen knew there was a baby in Mommy's tummy because we told him so. But all he could see was that Mommy's tummy got bigger and bigger and Mommy carried him less and less. We brought the kids to an ultra sound and upon seeing the images on the screen, Hazen asked when we were going to watch 'Cars.' So, its a little abstract to say that he fully understood what was meant by "having a baby."
Hazen's reactions to the loss of his brother have been minimal. He doesn't really know what he's lost. Which is a blessing for him I think, as it just breaks my heart to think of what a huge difference it would have been for Hazen and Jairus to grow up together, brothers, best friends. But Hazen doesn't know that he should miss that hoped for future so he's fine with it.
During most of our 35 weeks of pregnancy, Hazen would pray every meal and every night for the baby, saying something like "thank God for baby in Mommy's tummy." Then one day Mommy came home and her big tummy was gone. And everyone was sad. But Hazen kept on praying, "thank God for baby in Mommy's tummy." It became a sort of ritual for a number of weeks. Hazen would pray. We would thank him but remind him that the baby came out of my tummy, but baby Jairus died and went to live with Jesus in Heaven. Hazen would nod, and the next day repeat his learned prayer. Eventually Emma became the voice of correction, "No Hazen, there's no baby in Mommy's tummy. He's in Heaven, remember?" Hazen would nod. And so the cycle repeated itself over and over. They always say toddlers learn through repetition. Explaining death is no exception to this rule.
He is learning compassion...sometimes. Upon entering a room and seeing someone in tears, Hazen now walks up to them, offers up a big hug and takes your face in his hands. "It's ok, It's ok." He softly murmurs over and over, patting you on the cheek and whimpering along with you. But simultaneously he's a fiery two year old and so if he has had enough of the melancholy atmosphere he'll just start yelling and having a good old fashioned temper tantrum. It depends largely on how much sleep he's had.
Which brings us to the fact that Hazen is not sleeping through the night anymore. The last 3 nights we've been able to sleep until 5 or so in the morning before he wakes up, but for the last few months, he's developed a new routine of climbing out of his bed (we had to take the side off the crib because he climbed out so often we feared he's fall in the middle of the night) and walking down the hall to our room. He wakes us up and says "hi." We tell him, "Go back to bed and go to sleep," and Hazen replies, "ok." and practically skips back to his bed. You might think its cute, but its not cute when it happens 9-11 times per night. When he first started doing it, we tried to be understanding. After all, sleep disturbances is one of the most common expressions of grief that develops in children less than 3 years old when there is a death in the family. And one morning, 3 months ago, Hazen did wake up and we were gone, and then we came home without the baby. So we figured he had good reason to make sure we were still at home in the middle of the night. But now we're just exhausted and ready for him to get more sleep so we can get more sleep.
The difficult balance with him being 2 1/2 is we never know for sure what is a reaction to the change in our family and what is just normal toddler behavior. Because for Mark and I, everything right now is a reflection of Jairus's death, we sometimes attribute Hazen's behavior to this sense of change in our family that he doesn't understand and is trying to get a grip on. But its not necessarily the case with Hazen. As with his big sister Emma, he just accepts the fact that our baby doesn't live with us, and that's the way it is. So its hard to know how to react and when to react. I prefer to fall on the overly sensitive to his needs side, but my own fatigue and frustration often get in the way of my capacity for patience and understanding. We know that Hazen can tell we are different. And that he is not thrilled about this change. But as far as how much he understands or how he feels about it, we're largely in the dark. Because he can't articulate it and probably doesn't understand it enough to tell us anyway. So we pray for him. And hug him. And wrestle with him. And tell him that he makes us happy. And that we love him. I guess that's all any of us can do.