Heavy Questions

"How are you doing today Mo?", asked his teacher when we got to school the other morning.
"Do you know if someone goes to Heaven that maybe they will come back here again...?" he asked/said.
The teacher didn't quite get it all.
"What?", she asked me.
"I think he might be asking you if you believe in reincarnation." I said.
She looked at him, "I think that is a better question for your mommy", she said.
"I just wanna know if Maxie and Jakey are coming back here", he responded.
She looked concerned.
I shrugged.
"We have these kinds of conversations all of the time.", I said.

Mo is increasingly interested in his big brother.  He asks me about Max all of the time.  His questions are sometimes heavy and they even make him sad when he thinks about them too hard - which he is prone to do. Sometimes, he is sad for long periods of time and gets frustrated that the answers don't come together the way he wants. Other times, he comes up with other things to be sad about because he doesn't seem quite sure himself of why missing a brother he never met makes him feel so sad.

"I miss Max", he says a lot. "When is he coming back?"
"I don't think he is coming back Bubbah.  We won't see him again until we are in Heaven with him", I say.
 "I want to play with Max", he replies.
"So do I", I say.

Sometimes, he comes up with ideas that he thinks will make me happy, "How about I get on a cloud and go to Heaven and ask G-d to give Max and Jake back to us? That's a good idea. Right Mommy?"
"It is a really good idea Bubs", I say. "I don't know how to get on the cloud, but maybe we can figure it out one day".

It's heavy and Mo is already an emotionally mature little boy. He feels things very deeply. But I don't really see the point in pretending I am not sad about it. It has been so awful to have adults pretending like they don't think it is sad or pretending not to feel their own sadness. I am not even sure most of them are pretending, they've just pushed it aside - to make room for talk about the weather or work or common neighborhood gossip. In fact, I think that as a culture, we have been shoving down our feelings for so long that we actually don't feel that much anymore....even about things that are, without question, very very sad.

Like a child dying.  Or a little boy knowing that he almost had a big brother to play with, but that his big brother died before they ever got to play. It's sad.....and he feels sad. I know that many would not agree, but I really believe that his is an appropriate emotional response that I don't feel the need to shut down.

Ted and I have talked about the luxury so many parents have at being upset that the father died in "The Good Dinosaur" or about any character dying in any movie. "I don't want my child to have to think about that", they say.  Though I'm not really sure you have the choice ...because terrible sad things happen in this life and we aren't always prepared for them.

After Max died, friends with kids were always asking me how I thought they should explain to their children what happened to Max.  Many of them decided not to tell their kids, because it was too much and might upset them.  At times, I have even resented the questions: I don't want to be involved with how you tell your child about death.  It's not my responsibility. Just because my child died, doesn't mean I have to be responsible for figuring out how you talk to your kid about death.  Another luxury as I see it.  I don't really want to have to talk to my own child about death.  And, more than anything, I didn't want my child to die.  I didn't ask for this, but since this is what I've got, I'm just going to be open about it.

Mo has a life that is filled with lots of fun and happiness.  He also knows that there is a sadder side of life - and I can't say I am happy about that. As much as I wish that his life would bring only happiness - I know that it won't.  Every life has its sorrows.  I hope that Mo will know that amidst the deepest tragedies and disappointments, there is resilience.  I hope that he always finds the road that feels authentic and true to him.  I hope that he continues to question the un-understandable, the unimaginable and the unfair. I hope that when life knocks the wind out of him, that he doesn't feel like he needs to pretend that he feels anything other than what he feels. And I hope that he remains the beautiful, deeply feeling, loving, empathetic soul that he is today.


My little guys playing together

7 comments

Anonymous said...

Beautiful sentiments, Abby. Thank you for bravery, always. Would it help to let Mo know they can play together in their dreams and that he can write to Max or draw for him?

Lots of love, and as always, I am sorry for the pain. All my love ♡♡♡ -- Sam Lennon

Abby Leviss said...

Sam - I like those ideas. I think Mo will too. Thank you! Xoxo

Susan said...

Madeleine is frustrated about having a sister whose dead too. Why doesn't she come back? When will she? Why can't I have a sister who isn't dead?

The good news is that they're so young they are sort of impervious to other adults' embarassemtn and disconcertment.

Pity we can't get Mo and Madeleine together for a play xx

alison sonenfeld said...

Mo is a deeply caring, loving and empathetic soul. Your words and message are deeply feeling, deeply loving and empathetic. Mo has these traits in common with his mother. You are continually teaching him that it is ok if he doesn't feel like he needs to pretend that he feels anything other than what he feels, both by example and with your loving support of him.

XXOO

Abby Leviss said...

We can and we will! It might take a couple of years but the play date is coming. Love to you!!!

Kira said...

Thank you Abby. This comes at the right time as its so sad when people discourage children to show how they feel. Humans experience so much pain in life and I do feel like we
Are almost force to not feel much.
Our children talk about Jayden often, specially our oldest. It shocks many but she draws him in every family picture. And the suggestion above has help my girls so much writing cards to their younger brother. I do answer the same way " I also want to play with him honey". Much love to your family. Kira

Susan Chadney said...


Basically that you are handling this as I knew you would, having to explain un-explainable with grace and compassion. And that all the the children should know that there was a beautiful brother who can't be with them. Their attachment to loss is something that will make them more empathetic and make them lead more meaningful lives with gratitude for the warm wonderful, loving family they were brought into. Sadly nobody should have to do these things that you face. But you are a wonderful Mom, they are very lucky to have you.
Mom