What hurts the most

I sit on the couch holding the baby. John’s searching hulu.

“What do you feel like?” he asks.

Something mindless,” I think. “Whatever,” I answer.

My son cries out from his bedroom.

“Mommy, my tummy hurts!”

I glance at the clock. It’s after eleven. I think about the last few weeks: the stress, the travel, the diet, the lack of schedule. Hoping he isn’t coming down with something, I hand the baby to my husband and go check on him.

One look at his contorted face and I know why his tummy hurts. It’s the same look he had when I sent him out of the basement the night of the accident. I check his temperature anyway, but am not surprised to find it normal. I lie down beside him on his narrow bed and pull the covers over him as he burrows into them.

“You miss Tiggy, don’t you.”

The tears start flowing.

“I can’t stop thinking about him.”

During the day, Bear seems to like to talk about his little brother. He likes being reminded of the things Mattias used to do and say. Nothing can bring a smile to his face faster than a sentence starting with, “Remember how Tiggy used to. . .”

I hold him, let him cry and summon the courage for the next question.

“What are you thinking, sweetheart.”

“All the blood, mommy. I can’t stop thinking about all the blood.”

I start crying. My whole body heaves with tears for what my children witnessed. Dear Lord, give me the words he needs to hear, I pray silently. But no words come. I’m not sure I could speak them if they did. So I just hold him until our tears begin to subside.

“You know, all that blood just came from a cut above his nose.”

I don’t know what made me say that, but Bear pokes his head out from under the covers and looks hopeful.


“Yes. He just needed a couple of stitches for that. That’s not why he died.”

“Do you feel things when you are knocked unconscious?”

“No, sweetie. You don’t. He didn’t feel anything. No pain. No fear. The last thing he knew was playing with you and watching a movie.”

For a moment, he seems relieved.

“Would you like me to bring in the picture of him?”


The answer is immediate.

“His little dragon? I could bring in his little dragon for you to snuggle.”

“The only thing I want to snuggle is Tiggy.”

Anger takes over his face and he throws himself back into his pillow with renewed sobs.

“Why couldn’t it have been me? Why?!” he demands.

Though I’ve thought the same myself many times, it shocks me to hear it coming from my seven year old son.  I don’t know what to say or do other than hold him closer.

“I know it would have hurt, mommy. I know it. But I’m bigger than he was. I probably would have lived and just needed stitches. I probably would have lived, but he was just too little. Oh why couldn’t it have been me?”

“It wasn’t your fault, sweetheart.”

“I was holding him, mommy. We were sitting in my sleeping bag and I was holding him. Why couldn’t he have stayed? Why couldn’t I just keep holding him?”

“It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It just happened.”

“I know. It’s because Adam and Eve sinned.”

I take a deep breath. I don’t really know where to go from here. I just want to take all his hurt away.

“It was a horrible thing that happened. It was a horrible thing to see. We’re going to remember it for a long time. Mommy keeps thinking about that, too, and sometimes it is hard to make those thoughts go away. They scare me and make me sad and angry all over. It’s going to hurt for a long time. But some day, the hurt will start to go away. You’ll think about him and all your good memories and they will make you smile.”

His tears stop, I think from exhaustion. For a moment, I think he might have fallen asleep but then he rubs his nose on the sleeve of his pajamas.

“Can you think of any happy memories?” I ask him.

“I can only think of the last time I held him.”

“And I’m glad you have that memory. Tiggy loved you so much. It is so special that one of your last memories of him is of just snuggling and loving each other.”

He turns his head and looks at me as if this were a new thought. He has spoken often of holding Tiggy that night, always with a hint of sadness. This is the first I realize that the memory is tied so closely to the accident.  He smiles just a little.

“What were some of his words, mommy?”

I think for a moment.

“Nanny. Num num. Chickie chickie. Puppy. Hereyougo. Mo. And on his last day with us, he said his name for the first time. ‘I Tiggy,’ he said.”

“Did he say ‘doggie?”

“Yes, sometimes. He pronounced it ‘goggie.’ But mostly he said ‘puppy.'”

He laughed as he added to the memory.

“Everything was a puppy, mommy, except the chickens. He called cows puppies. And goats. And pigs. You could tell him and tell him but he would still call everything else a puppy.”

I laughed.

“Yes. Except horses. He had just started calling horses ‘whoa whoa puppies.”

He laughed and laid back down.

“Tell me more things I remember about him, mommy.”

“Remember how he used to sit on Scrambler and you guys would push him across the floor? His eyes would get so big and he just grinned.”

“Yeah, he loved that. And I would push him on the hill sometimes. But when he got to the bottom, he would sometimes just sit there and I would sometimes pull the car back up for him so he could go down again.”

I don’t say anything for a moment, hoping he can enjoy the memory.

“He had a short little life, but he was so lucky to have you for a big brother.”

“Now the baby gets to be lucky.”

“Yes, the baby is lucky to have you for a big brother, too.”

“I’m going to teach him to say ‘chickie chickie.’ And ‘vroom vroom.’ I miss that.”

I see the sadness coming over him again. He is so afraid he is going to forget his brother.  I’ve tried over and over to reassure him that he is old enough to remember. That some memories will fade, but that he will always remember the important things. He will always remember Tiggy.

“You know, when the phone rang, it was a very nice lady in Washington who wants to make a memory quilt for our family. She can put pictures on it or make it out of his clothes. Maybe something to wrap around you when you miss him and want to hug him, or something to hang on the wall to look at.  She can even put pockets in it to keep some of his favorite things.”


“Yes, really.”

He smiles. I don’t know where his thoughts are taking him, but it’s a nice smile, a hopeful smile. His night ends on the floor amongst all his siblings who haven’t wanted to sleep apart since it happened, but he is peaceful.

My night ends staring out the kitchen window crying not for my own grief but for that of my children. And once again, I hope and pray that love truly is enough.

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0 Responses

  1. Oh Dana what a wonderful momy you are!! I thank God for the love and words he gave you to talk to your precious son and I cried reading each line you wrote. Iam praying so hard for this path your family is walking together !!! What a beautiful big brother tiggy has ! I love you dear sister , my heart just wont stop aching with you !!!!

  2. I hardly know what to write. I thank God that He is giving you wisdom in the midst of all this. I thank Him for the memories that you all have. I will pray for Bear. I have a son that is about his age and one that is Tiggy’s. I have thought many times about how difficult it must be for his siblings. I am going to pray that God take those awful memories away and that He use this in a marvelous way in Bear’s life.

  3. Thank you for all the sharing you’re doing. I know its hard to write… its hard to read. But I want to know how best to continue praying. I’ve been praying for your children, but I will pray more specifically for Bear. The memory quilt is such a great idea. I’m so glad someone is doing that for you. Keep breathing. Sending an e-hug. :’-)
    Alison recently posted…Merry Christmas!My Profile

  4. I am so glad that through this tragedy, your children have you on which to hug and hold on. So many families have tragedies and it turns so sour with no support from the parental units for the children. Your children are lucky to have you, Dana. Every one of your children. I’m glad that Bear was able to share with you what was bothering him and that you were able to help him start to heal.
    Jen R. (emeraldsunshine.org) recently posted…Garden PlansMy Profile

  5. Dana, I never knew I could feel so much for a family I don’t know. I am a first time mom to a little boy just a bit younger than your little Tiggy. They seem so similar, and my heart just breaks for your loss.

    Reading your posts makes me think a lot about how the hard parts of motherhood do not include sleepless nights, giving up alone time and the other things you think about before a child enters your life. Motherhood goes so, so much deeper, and helping your children through a loss like your family has suffered is one such example. I can’t imagine a greater challenge than having to balance your grief with making sure your children are OK, but it sounds like you are doing a truly remarkable job. You shine as a supportive and compassionate mother, and I hope I can do the same when my children need me to.

  6. In His infinite grace and mercy, He will blur the images. Be sure to scrapbook his life and have all your children write their memories in it. That way you’ll never forget anything. It’s hard, but it’s so cathartic . . .

    You did a great job with this conversation with your son. God is giving you the words, and I have no doubt He’ll continue to sustain you all.

    Praying . . .

  7. I am so sorry that this happened to your family!! I will definitely say a prayer for you and your family. God bless you and help you to put one foot in front of the other. HUGS!!

  8. I know this sounds so strange, but that was so beautiful. You handled it so well & I know it’s the Lord giving you the strength to help your children with their grief while you are grieving as well.

    Praying strength & good memories for you all.
    Michele recently posted…Autie Christmas PoemMy Profile

  9. I read and cry again for you all. I wondered how it has been for your little ones. I know that there is a grief process full of anquish and guilt and anger and fear and I supposed that they are each going through this in their own way. I am so glad you all have each other to hold on to, for the bonds of love are so strong in your family. You are so good and strong.
    Phyllis recently posted…The Seventh Day of Christmas- Christmas-New Years Eve CrackersMy Profile

  10. your words to your kids are full of love and giving them time to heal by letting them sleep together and talk when they need to…i’m really touched by how much love i hear in your words here.
    praying for God’s love and comfort for you and your family.

  11. A few years ago a friend of mine lost her son. She went to a grief counselor with her entier family and it really helped them. I think she found the counselor through her funeral home. Maybe something to consider?

    In the meantime though I think what you said for your son was perfect. The Holy Spirit is truly at work. I am praying for comfort and peace for your family.
    Elena recently posted…My Daily Domestic Clips 12-30-2010 amMy Profile

  12. Praying for you again, still. My heart breaks and re-breaks when I think of you and your family. I haven’t had to experience this pain, but I have had pain and I know God has been faithful then, and He is always faithful, and so He must be faithful to carry you and your family through this now. Perhaps time does help heal, perhaps it’s time and God, time in God, time in God’s arms? I will continue to pray for you all. God bless.
    Amber @ Classic Housewife recently posted…Post Christmas PostMy Profile

  13. My dad, who died just a little over a year ago at age 83, witnessed the death of his brother. My dad was three years old, his brother was seven. Although he was only three at the time, my dad never forgot his brother. It shaped the man he became right up until his death.
    I’m only writing this to assure your Bear that he will not forget his brother. His were the last arms to hug him.
    Life became more scary to your kids, but also more precious. The precious memories will be what linger.
    I hope that even though you want nothing more than to hold your darling boy in your arms the thought of him will always bring you joy.
    Praying for you.

  14. Dana…Remember what we talked about, regarding the stages of grief? Let them come. Each of you will experience them slightly differently. Start the journals with the kids that they wanted. There will be a special place for them.

    I will be finishing the design this weekend on what you and I discussed, and hopefully start on it next week. There are lots of special things about the design that have been given to me. (*trust me* … I couldn’t have come up with it on my own)

  15. As I was just vacuuming and praying for Bear, I reflected on the fact that I said I would pray that God would use this in a marvelous way in his life. Sigh. That was a dumb thing to say. I don’t think that marvelous is something that can be used here. But I am praying that God uses this awful experience to draw Bear to Him.

    I am sorry for my hasty words.
    Annemarie recently posted…My DadMy Profile

  16. I am so, so sorry for your loss. It is devastating reading your blog, and my heart aches for you and your family. May you and your husband and your children all be a comfort to one another as you find your way through your grief. You have made me appreciate my own daily blessings more than I thought possible. Hugs to Bear.

  17. I am so very sorry for your loss and have been praying for you since you first posted about the accident.

    Bear sounds like he has such a tender heart. What a blessing it is to have a mom who cares so deeply for his emotional well-being. I pray that God will give you the right words for him (and your other children, also) and that he will be comforted by The Comforter as he works through his grief.
    Laura @ Homemaking Joyfully recently posted…I’m still around!My Profile

  18. I shared your story with my mother. She lost a child at 5 months, a brother born years before me. She lost him over 50 years ago, infact. And, she asked me to tell you, the wound does heal, but it leaves a scar, that will always be tender.

  19. walking this road with you dear sister, with prayers and lots of hugs,

    been almost 9 years here and still some healing needed, I know it sounds strange but walking this path with you is helping, there was so much stuff I kinda just kept inside and so much more crying that needs to be done, it wasn’t really right at the time for me to just let it all go, everyone here was looking for me to be strong

    so even years later, to not hold back a tear or a memory is good, thank you

    blessings, Penny Raine
    Penny Raine recently posted…tamales anyoneMy Profile

  20. What a wonderful outlet for you to be able to write about you and your families grieving. My mother and I cried with you and Bear, and we are both praying for you. Your words are so healing. God is using you through this horrible tragedy, and I am thankful for meeting you through your blog.

    I was not born yet when my mother lost her first-born. She has never fully healed since she wasn’t allowed to grieve. I have grieved for a brother I never got to meet. Reading Penny’s comment, and knowing how your words touch my mother I know that good has come of this.

    I am so sorry for your pain, but thankful for your willingness to share it with us. And though Tiggy has been taken from you, you are able to give. Thank you, and know we are praying continually for you.
    Lynda recently posted…Happy New Year!My Profile

  21. WOW! Just wow, is all I can say as tears are streaming down my face. I am so sorry you are having to go through this. It is just not fair for any of you. Please know you and your family are in my prayers and I am so impressed by your grace in handling this devastating time.
    Peace be with you and your family.

  22. Thank you for sharing these tender moments with us, Dana. I am so truly blessed to be able to read about your journey and your sweet family. Crying with you and sending big hugs.

  23. It is okay to just cry together. Even our children know that sometimes you just can’t put into words all that is in your heart and thoughts.

    Continuing to lift you and your family in prayer, Dana.

    Much love,

  24. Dana, I’m so thankful that Bear has you. I think of all the years, in all the modern countries, where children weren’t allowed to grieve, and parents were told to forget. What an awesome mother you are. I have an eight year old with a very tender heart and I don’t think I could have gone through that conversation with him and survived. A friend of mine was hoping to adopt but the courts decided to give the child back to her parents. It devestated the family, especially her little boy. Something I heard her say to him has always stuck with me, and is what you told Bear: ‘she was lucky to have you, you loved her, you changed her life’. His love made Tiggy’s life a joy. My friend’s son is now 17 and he has the heart of a father, so tender and loving. My kids FLOCK to him. He’s also one of the most joyous people I know. Tiggy changed him, too, and not just his death. We’re all praying for you here, all of you.

  25. Dana, I to have sat here and cried while reading this. So many things have come about this year at Christmas with those that I love and we don’t understand the why’s but we can hold tight to the memories that we were allowed to make. Hold your children close and let the healing tears be shed together. You are a great mother and an encouragement to feeling helpless but in prayer for you. Your little will also be special to you and be held close to your hearts.

  26. Your journey must be so hard to share in this vulnerable way. I am so thankful that you ARE showing how God is giving you grace for every moment. It gives hope, bears testimony to how our strong Father’s arms are bearing you and yours up through this valley.

    I’ve been praying for you this season. May God continue to give you peace and healing.

  27. I wish with all my heart that I had some magical words that would make all your grief disappear. We lost an unborn child this past year and my heart is still grieving….your loss is so much harder. Two things I know for sure is that time…it helps and God is in control and isn’t going to leave your side. I know it doesn’t always feel like He’s there or that He cares. And often words like that sound trite….but they are so true. The God of heaven feels your pain and He cares. You and your family are in our prayers.

  28. My mother’s heart just aches for you! I can’t tell you the reason the Lord let this take place in your family… but I can so relate to the struggle to keep them all safe and thus surrender my questions to him.

    My toddler a very busy boy even today did a fall ( dive) off the couch right on the top of his head as his whole body spiraled. I don’t knwo ow he didn’t get seriously injured. He has had more accidents then any of our others ever have and two of the worse which took place in some of the most stressful times we’ve ever had as we took care of our infant that had some special needs for her first 4 months! I felt so unable to protect everyone. Little things that I’d done in the past to deter bodily harm to them I just can’t do with a needy baby in arms.
    Having to surrender some control over the household has been such a test of faith!

    Sometimes things just happen! The last serious injury was CRAZY and so unpredictable! He stopped abruptly in our back entranceway and bent to point at something at floor level ( an old scar in the vinyl flooring) and I was still stepping over the threshold and my knee bumped him sending him forward with force and of all things he hit is forehead on the brass hinge on the garage doorway that is to the right of the back doorway. It made a type of puncture hole in his forehead. Lots of blood and pain. Ugh!

    I do think your story has helped other families work harder to go over their homes with purpose of making changes to their arrangements but most certainly we can not know the mind of G-d concerning why He takes some of our little ‘chicks’ and not others.

    I hope I didn’t blather too much ~ blush.

    Prayers for your grieving family.

    Jacinda Montalto
    Jacinda recently posted…Financial BlessingMy Profile

  29. Dana,
    Your beautiful Tiggy was covering his little brother with his kisses before this terrible accident. Then big brother Bear held and hugged his little brother Tiggy before the accident. Those good memories will not disappear. Your family’s love will always emanate and that sweet mark will persist and continue on.
    You and your family are in my prayers every day.

  30. I don’t even know you or your family but I’ve bookmarked your blog and check in every so often. Like so many others I hope that you can feel the virtual blanket of support and prayers and warmth. I think of you often. You are an AMAZING mother. This post is overflowing with sensitivity, patience, raw honesty, sadness and the true meaning of God’s love shown through a mother’s love. I can only PRAY that if a horrific tragedy such as this ever comes to our family, that I can be a mother/wife/person like you– courageous, brave, honest, real, loving and committed.

    Thinking of you.

  31. My heart aches for you and your family. I just have to say that I am so impressed at your openness with your grief. Your ability to listen to your kids, let them grieve and encourage them through it. You’re doing a great job in the midst of the worst of circumstances. My prayers are with you.

  32. I didn’t read through all of the comments so maybe someone else has mentioned this….when we lost our dear son 2 years ago my children grieved very deeply….much like what you are expressing.

    One thought seemed to bring them comfort. I explained time in heaven to them…how a moment in heaven is like a lifetime here…so for us here on Earth we will wait a lifetime to see dear Timothy again, but dear Timothy will only be without us for a moment.


  33. Dana, I cried when i read this. You are doing such an awesome job helping your family through this crisis. What you are doing is helping your son with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of the symptoms he is showing are PTSD and you are doing exactly the things a trained therapist would do. Fernside center for grieving children in Cincinnati has an excellent newsletter which might be useful to you. You are doing such a wonderful job! You are an inspiration! God bless you!

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