Something happens when you become a parent. You love more. You worry more. You feel a lot more. For me, parenting has triggered an anxiety over losing a child. Maybe it’s because my brother passed away when I was 14. Or that I finally understand the unconditional, giant love that parents speak about, and the thought of that being taken away is debilitating. My heart can now empathize on the parent level of losing a child, not just with those who’ve lost a sibling.
Losing a sibling is not something that you ever truly heal from. You move on, but every stage of life you reach that they didn’t, takes you back. Going back brings great memories, but for me it also brings pain and fear.
I know that having a little anxiety over letting your children experience new or challenging things is just part of being a parent, but sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy. I don’t want to be that helicopter and overprotective mom who won’t let her children grow up and experience things for themselves. But life is just too scary sometimes, and I struggle with letting go just enough to let them find their own way. Which is happening a lot during age three, where my sweet twins tell me they can do everything “all by myself.” It takes me back to that day almost 16 years ago, when my brother and his friend told my mom they wanted to walk a few blocks to the store by themselves, and my brother never came back.
I daily have a wild thought run through my head about how my children one day might get hurt. For instance, the creeper who was driving around town slowing down at bus stops, or the oblivious drivers who speed through the quiet streets when I’m walking with the twins in the stroller and wearing the baby, or the thought of rattlesnakes in my backyard, or the kids falling off playground equipment or when they are teenagers and want to drive somewhere by themselves… This doesn’t even begin to put a dent in the long list of scenarios that my brain conjures up. I could go on and on. How in the world does anyone manage to raise children and stay sane?
But the one that gives me the most anxiety comes from all the posts I’m seeing on social media about secondary drowning, water safety tips, etc. These are important pieces of information, but I find myself just scrolling past them or clicking away from the articles because it terrifies me. It literally terrifies me. I should be one of the advocates for pool and water safety because I know all too well the dangers.
You see, that dark day almost 16 years ago, the one when my brother had permission to walk to the store by himself… he didn’t go to the store. He went swimming in someone’s private pond instead, and tragically, he drowned. I don’t talk about it often, but it still haunts me. I’m angry with him for lying to my mom, for doing something he knew was trespassing. For not thinking about the possible consequences. I know my mom taught us to weigh those things when making decisions. Our line of communication with her was/is always open. There was absolutely no reason for him to “betray” her like that. My heart just breaks for my mom. She couldn’t have prevented this. It WAS NOT her fault. He was a child. At 15, he was still a child, and HE made a bad choice.
This time of year, my mind can’t help but go there. I can’t help but relive the fear of me or one of the kids having a water accident. Thankfully, they’re learning how to swim, and my brave husband has helped me overcome a lot of my fear around water. But above that, I find myself wondering how will I keep my kids from making bad choices that might end in tragedy?
The answer is that I can’t. I’m not in control of them. I’m their role model and positive example; but at the end of the day they’re in control of their choices. I can only guide them and love them through their experiences. And share the wisdom I’ve learned through losing a sibling and living life after.
Parenting after losing a sibling has haunted me in some ways, but it’s also given me a wonderful perspective. Perspective to take each day in, as hard as that is sometimes in these early years of their lives. I’ve learned to focus on today, and the now, and push those wild thoughts out of my mind. To always kiss my babies and tell them how much they are loved. To tuck them into bed every night. I will hold on to them, but I will let them grow. I’m learning to let go, and this is the hardest thing I will ever go through.