Heidi had a hard day today. Our morning walk wasn’t the smoothest. It was getting hot and Heidi was having none of it. We’ve been working with Heidi on her decision-making skills and talking her through her bouts with negative thoughts. Heidi and Tiffany have similar struggles with self-talk: once a negative thought comes into their minds, it is a short trip to more challenging thoughts. We’ve been able to help Heidi break away from downward spirals with silly things to make her laugh. We used to make her look in the mirror and make a silly face when she would feel sad: the effort to make a silly face was always enough to break the hold. But as she’s gotten older we’ve started working with her to take her own thoughts captive.
Our efforts have been complicated because of Claire’s accident. Heidi has real source for pain and grief right now. The sadness and complaints that comes from not wanting to be outside on a hot day can be a front for other feelings. That’s what happened today. Heidi’s walk was miserable. It ended with a timeout in her room while she settled down and collected herself. We had the same discussion that I’d had with Autumn yesterday: we may not have control over our circumstances, but we do have control over our response to them. Heidi recognized the correlation with Claire’s accident. She didn’t want to cry. She really did have a stiff upper lip; it was her lower lip losing the battle.And it was something that happened at the beginning of our walk pushing her over the edge.
Along our tree covered walk, lilac bushes add some flavor to the canopy. Bright pink bunches of flowers accent the green. We stopped at one along the way to show Claire the flowers. Autumn picked one bouquet off the ground and held it in front of Claire’s face. Tiffany leaned over Claire and said, “Remember these flower Claire?” Her voice cracked before finishing with, “You and Heidi used to love picking up these flowers together.” Tiffany pulled back mouthing “I’m sorry” before closing her eyes as she tried to collect herself. We didn’t know that one other person had been struck with that memory as well. I didn’t find out until after we were home.
Heidi’s stiff upper lip broke when she told me what she’d been thinking at that point in our walk. We had told the girls – and the reason Tiffany mouthed “I’m sorry” – that we wanted to make every effort to not cry in front of Claire. We have reasoned that Claire needs our strength, not to be concerned with our sadness. Heidi remembered this. And mumbling through her tears she told me that when Mommy talked to Claire about the flowers she was sad too, but she “didn’t cry because she wanted to be strong for Claire.” My heart broke for Heidi. But it was going to break some more.
Heidi also told me one of the reasons why she was looking forward to school this year, her first year. She’d had the opportunity to watch Autumn’s triumphant return each day for the last two years, heralded by Claire yelling “Autumn,” running up to her and hugging her. Heidi said she watched this every day and thought it looked fun. She was excited to start school so Claire would do that for her. She’s not excited anymore. She’d rather stay home and help Claire get better.
Feeling my own resolve wavering, I hugged Heidi and asked her if she wanted to help Claire now. I ushered her into the living room to help Claire and then retreated to the bathroom to deal with my own pain. My daughters are growing up too fast. They’re dealing with things that are too far beyond their years. I’m grief-stricken for them. What more could a father ask for than to have three daughters that just want the love and adoration of each other and serve one another to earn it? At the same time it is sweet to have Heidi lean over Claire and whisper, “We’ll get you better so we can play with my doll house together,” and heartbreaking that she can’t do it now.
I love my daughters. They are precious to me and it pains me so to see them go through this. I pray that they will see a victory soon. Because I miss seeing them play with Claire. I miss hearing Claire cry out “Autumn” after school. And I can’t wait to hear her yell “Heidi!”