**Trigger Warning – Death of a child, grief, trauma.**
Death visited me at a young age.
When I was three years old my baby sister Brenda Simone died when she was just 5.5 months old after contracting meningitis.
I don’t remember a lot about that time.
But I do remember seeing her on the morning she died.
I remember my Dad holding her; she had purple spots all over her. I remember the sense of panic.
I remember we stayed at a friends house while Mum and Dad were at the hospital.
I remember when they came to pick us up, Brenda wasn’t with them.
I remember walking around the house crying, calling out for my Mum, unable to find her. I remember eventually finding her – as she stifled cries, and spoke in hushed tones with our neighbour. Trying to bear unimaginable grief, whilst raising three young children.
I remember my Mum would catch her breath, stiffen, and panic a little, when she saw or heard an ambulance.
I remember visiting Brenda’s grave on her birthday and other special occasions. The simple, yet beautiful heart shaped headstone honouring and remembering her. I remember reading the dates on all the headstones, searching the cemetery for other children or babies that had died.
I also remember adoring Brenda.
I remember relishing in my role as big sister to this beautiful little person.
I remember going on outings with my Mum and Brenda. I would walk next to my Mum as I held on to the pram. It felt good to have this time with my Mum and baby sister, while my two older sisters were at school.
I remember dancing around our living room floor with my sisters to the theme music of Ghostbusters, as my Dad held Brenda. She delighted in soaking up the sounds of the music and laughter.
I remember her little round belly and chubby legs. And her long delicate fingers.
I remember how much she was loved. And how much she loved us.
I grew, and lived, and Brenda became a beautiful memory that remained safe and somewhat quiet in my mind.
Many years later, I was on a short holiday with my eldest son and his father, and it was then that I started to feel Brenda showing up in my life in little ways.
One night on this little holiday, something woke me. I’m not sure what, but I sat up and saw two little shimmering lights reflected on to the wall. I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from, but the first thing I thought of was Brenda. Now I’m not saying I saw a ghost, but I saw something, and Brenda came to my mind immediately, which was unusual as I hadn’t really thought of her lately. I don’t know what it meant, but from that moment, she started lingering in my mind.
Around this time I also had wanted to have another child, but my cycle hadn’t returned as I was breastfeeding. And then on my sister’s wedding day, my cycle returned. It may sound strange, but it felt significant in some way, that my cycle returned on this special family day.
Then, just one month later, I was pregnant.
At our first scan we discovered that the baby would arrive around Brenda’s birthday in the following September. And sure enough, nine months later, our second son was born at my parents home, on Brenda’s birthday!
It was so special. And looking back, it was just the beginning of my healing journey. It was like the catalyst, that allowed me to start processing all the things I had felt and experienced during those early years of my life, but couldn’t remember.
You see, I don’t remember grieving for Brenda when I was a child. I’m sure I did to some extent, but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember feeling sad or helpless, or guilty, or angry. But it was all there, inside me….waiting.
In the last 6 years, I have felt, processed and begun healing the wounds held inside my body. I have felt incredible sadness, despair, grief, heartache. I have cried, sobbed, wailed, and screamed. It has been scary, overwhelming, and many times unexpected. I had no idea what our bodies were really capable of holding on to.
It is an ongoing process – healing the wounds held inside our bodies. There is no end point – just layers. All we can do is to keep showing up, and doing the work. And for me, the beautiful part of all this healing, and feeling, and digging, is that it brings me closer to my ‘self’, and to Brenda – to her spirit and her energy. And for that, I am so incredibly grateful.