His name was Steven and he was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. I was just shy of five years old and can still remember holding my second little brother for the first time. My first thought was boy is he heavy! There is a picture of me smiling the biggest smile while I sat beside my other little brother as he held Steven for the first time too. That girl was feeling pure happiness.
Steven lived only 18 days in this world. He had been part of our family for much longer as I recall vividly my mom’s pregnancy and waiting for his arrival. His life may have been short but his impact remains to this day. Every birthday, holiday, wedding, baptism, and funeral I think of him and feel him with me. Kind of like a guardian angel always on my shoulder. I talk to him a lot, always have. And please don’t think I’m out to lunch here because I know a lot of folks who do this too! Talking to loved ones who have passed is a tool that can be helpful in getting through the pain of loss.
The little girl in that picture no longer exists. Part of my mind changed forever the day he passed, and life became something that was very different from what was supposed to be. There are images from that day which my mind can never forget. Trauma damages the brain and we know this scientifically from scans taken of PTSD patients. One of my friends who also does public speaking on her trauma experiences will tell you without hesitation that it is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I worked with people with brain injuries for years and for a long time couldn’t wrap my head around this concept. We think of TBI as a bump on the head from an accident, not from trauma. But researching the science has converted me to this thinking. I know that my brain was damaged that horrible day and even though I have learned ways to deal with it, what was broken will always be so.
Sadly, several of our family’s friends have also lost children at a young age, so my parents in some ways had to relive their nightmare over and over again. But I am proud of the fact that each time it happened they stepped up to give support and comfort. Only those who know the pain of this kind of loss can truly understand it. I can’t say I totally get it as I’m not a parent but experiencing what we did in our family gave me the compassion and empathy to connect with people who go through trauma. I can’t say I wouldn’t trade it all for the chance to have Steven here with us, but the reality is nothing can change it so you just keep going. Finding a way to make it in to something positive was not easy but it was necessary.
It’s been 40 years since I held that little baby in my arms. Thanks to the trauma therapy I received (EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) I can finally look back at those moments with a smile rather than sadness and anger. The flashbacks to his death don’t happen as often and when they do, I can tuck them away quickly to my long-term memory which is where they should be. Living in the present instead of the past is something I never thought possible but here I am finally doing it. What I will never do is forget my baby brother and I try to live each day in a way that honours him. I believe my advocacy is the best way to do so. That short, little life means something special because it gave me the voice to help others. Some people live a lifetime and never make that kind of mark. Steven did….in 18 days.