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Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged and understood.

Thanks to photographer Xin Li and to artist Stephanie Sicore for their respective illustrations and photos.

parenting after loss > Older sibling having a hard time

We lost Aiden 7 months ago when my daughter Jenna was about 3 and half. She took it really hard and we tried to explain, mostly through books. We bought one that was secular and one that talked about angels and heaven. I am not religious but we thought it might bring her some comfort. Well it didn't. She did not understand the concept of heaven but seems to have a grasp on death

Fast forward 7 months later and death is in every part of her life. Her dolls die when she role plays. She plays dead. She doesn't want another brother because he will die (she still wants a sister). She misses her brother and wishes he wasn't all "died" (aka gone).

We initially thought she was young and would forget but now I am not so sure. I am seeing a psychologist and I am thinking maybe she needs some sort of therapy

Has anyone else faced this and has wisdom to share? Sigh...
December 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJ&A's Mom
J&A's Mom, oh gosh it's so hard isn't it? I'm so sorry for the loss of Aiden. And on top of your own grief you are needing to support your little girl through hers too......7 months is raw. I was still in a fog at 7 months so I would assume everything your daughter is doing is normal and healthy- kids deal with things through role play and often go over the same thing many times in order to process it. I think it's a good thing that she is talking about how she feels and is expressing her emotions.

My daughter was 2 when we lost our Shelby and she didn't start to ask questions about Shelby until she was about 4. And then she wanted to go over it again and again. She wanted details, she wanted to see pictures, she needed to hear the same things over.

I'm not an expert, just a mum and a teacher but they are my thoughts, although if taking your daughter to see a psychologist might bring you some peace with what is happening in her world or offer some suggestions on how you can best support her I would do it. Don't forget to look after yourself too xx
December 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterShelby's Mum
I am so sorry for your loss,
I will give you my experience, my older daughter was 9 when her brother died at 34 weeks. It was her only brother...
To some extent she had a practical way of dealing with it, expecting that another would come, and how annoying it was to wait so many months again.
We protected her a lot, so she did not see him, did not go to the funeral.

But she became a "small grown up" really fast. She developed a "pseudo-maturity" in the early months, and I think that only now she is reverting into a child/teenager. It has been 2 years.

We decided to take her to a childpsychologist, because we though it might be good, since she would not open up to us... and she hid everything inside to avoid making me cry... I think it helped, and then she decided it was not doing anything anymore and we stopped going!

I think it is normal what your little Jenna is doing... she was faced with a strange reality, where death exists and it cares not about age! She plays repeating real life situations... It might be morbid, but I think its normal and just a phase... But external help, counselling might not be bad, because it may help you, as her mother, to learn how to cope and respond naturally to such situations.
December 28, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMarta
Our eldest was two years and one month when our little miss s died in utero at week 28. Big-sis knew about the baby in my tummy, and she knew what a sibling would be as here two vest friends just had gotten one each.
We talked about little miss s beeing dead, answerd at our best (and allways the same on the questions)
It was very important for us that she's allways known about here little sister, that she doesn't remember the exacte day that we told here about it. She hasn't been roleplaying death with here dolls as fare as I know, but she talks and explains alot about it. Also in kindergarden, she telles over and over again that everyone here didn't die in their mothers belly, and that's a good thing, but little miss S died and that made me sad.
In periodes she's obsessed with death, we talk openly about death at home- it's what life ends in no matter what we do. She talks openly about death amongst others too, people that usually don't talk about it gets blindsided and dont know what to say.

Our eldest missed here sister, and wants little miss s come to visit "just for a little while mommy, so I can play with here and tell here that I love here"

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is nothing unhealthy about your Jennas grief. She's open, she's trying to understand, she missed Aiden. They understand alot more than we think.
I've been thinking about it several times myselfe, to take our big girl to theraphy, but we never did because she talks openly about here dead sister both with us, here grandparents (she is your grad child eventhough she's dead gramps), kindergarden and the parents of here best friends. The one thing I think she needs more is actually to meet other children in the same situation as hereselfe.
Sorry if I'm rambling.
December 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterScandinavian endo-girl
I have two older living daughters, almost 5 and almost 3, who are processing their little sister's death. They both have things die in their role playing, which I've been told is totally healthy and normal. My older daughter also asks about death, like the meat that she eats, the flowers and plants in the winter, people who have lived throughout history. It's never in fear or horror, it's very matter of fact, like she's just gaining information. My younger one keeps asking when her little sister will be done "being died" and how when she comes back we will be so happy! Or that she's at the hospital and can we go visit her? It's been almost a month of me repeating that she is gone, her body stopped working, it was turned to dust and is now in this urn, she won't be done being dead. And she'll just say "oh" and move on, but then ask the same things later, which I've also been told is totally normal.

I've talked to a few Child Life specialists and a therapist, and they've told me that we should expect the girls to only ask more and more questions as they get older and their brains understand more and they're able to think of it in different ways. If you have Child Life in your area, they were amazingly helpful for me in learning how to explain things and what to expect. I'm so sorry you're having to go through this - it's been extra hard processing my grief while also needing to be supportive of my children's grief and all of their unintentionally painful questions.
January 3, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterwicket
Shelby’s Mum,
Thanks you for your insights. I think I just needed someone to tell me she is ok. I am not screwing her up. It was hardest at the beginning when I couldn’t answer her questions without bursting into tears. I am stronger now but every questions still feels like a stab to the soul.

Thanks for again confirming that it’s normal. I guess nothing about this is normal so I am not sure what to expect. She’s also such a happy kid it’s hard to see her hurting. She is now in the “replacement child” phase and although it hurts, I am glad her brothers’ death didn’t scare her away from babies in general. We also protected her so she didn’t see him or see pictures. I felt that an abstract loss might be easier than a physical one…who knows….

Scandinavian endo-girl,
Thanks for rambling! I hadn’t thought to ask if she talked about it at school or just with us at home. We did notice that she talks to me about it a lot more than she does her father. I think it will help to know how open she really is about him.

I am sorry for your loss, it is such a battle to grieve while taking care of small children. I was lucky to be on “maternity leave” for a couple of months with Jenna still in preschool so I somewhat shielded her from my grief. I will check out Child Life specialists. I was raised in a household where we solve our own issues hence my resistance to therapy. Not sure if they are better off with or without. Hugs to you and your girls!
January 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJ&A's Mom
We lost our first son, he should have been 5 now. We've been fortunate to welcome two living boys since then - one is 3, the other just 8 weeks old. I am thankful that neither of them had to experience the loss first hand. However, we have always told our 3 year old about his older brother and that he died. So recently, our 3 year old has been obsessing about death - he talks about his dead brother a lot, about other people who have died, about death in stories (Lion King, Frozen). He's asking tons of questions and brings up the subjects often. We've tried to be honest with him (we're not religious so we tell him that people's bodies stop working, and that while you can't see them any more you continue to remember and love them - it's a tough message, I wish I could tell him people just go to a better place). Some of our son's statements are sad and disturbing - he's asking if his little brother will die, whether he himself will die when he's sick, whether we could all die together... I've been a bit worried about it and frankly, seeing your post has given me some comfort. I guess he's not the only preschooler processing death in his little head... (of course, I wish none of our children had to deal with that subject in such a personal way). But I'm also thinking - my 3 year old is not really experiencing loss. He never knew his brother, he never saw me and my husband devastated. And yet he is talking a lot about death. So maybe what your daughter is doing is not just a function of grief, but also normal young child curiosity and learning process... Just a thought.
I'm really sorry for everyone's losses... Sending love,
January 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMira
We lost our 7 week old when his sisters were 3.5, and 6. It was a traumatic process where we thought we were having a healthy baby, gave birth to their brother, and all hell broke loose when it was discovered that he had CDH and later on, a genetic condition. We eventually brought him home with hospice care and he passed away 2 days later. It's been almost 5 years since, and we've gone through many different waves with my now 8 year old. She went through a stage where she thought "all human babies died," went through a stage where she was furious with me for not making a healthy baby, went through a stage where she sobbed in the middle of the night, and went through a stage where she refused to even utter his name. I would say we're now at the stage where if she sees a movie that has any sad part at all, whatever emotion she has around this resurfaces and she'll start to cry. It probably happens 2-3 times a year and always catches me by surprise. She still doesn't talk about it like her older sister, but she'll at least listen and add a few things here and there if his name is mentioned. It doesn't feel unhealthy anymore, but there is still sadness there, which I suppose we always all will have in different ways.

My best advice is not to panic. I panicked when she went through her phase of thinking every baby died, and talking about it non stop. I kept the lines of dialogue open, and she eventually moved on from that concept. I also used a book called "Lifetimes" which was enormously helpful for my youngest, but ended up not being so helpful for my oldest as she started worrying about everything around her dying. What I realized as I navigated 2 kids through this is that they each had very individual reactions to the exact same trigger, and I had to be in tune with it. Being in tune meant being prepared to talk through it, and not be worried by the sometimes very upsetting things that would come out of their mouths. I guarantee that this is a phase, and she'll grow out of it. Probably much sooner than you think.

Once you lose a child, you end up in this very fluid space with your living children. We had another baby 1 year after we lost my son, and he'll walk around saying, "I wish my brother wasn't dead so he could play with me." I feel like I've been stabbed in the heart for a second, and then I have to redirect myself and remember that he's talking about it, it's healthy, and we've somehow incorporated him into our lives even though it's not in the way that we would have liked. And then perhaps a few minutes later, my oldest will talk about wanting to be a doctor someday to help other sick kids like her brother. And then no one will talk about it for a month before it comes up again. Your daughter will go through many more phases, just as you will, and you just have to be in tune with them, not feel guilt about the fact that she's been exposed to this, and guide her as best you can. That's really all of us can do.
January 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCaroLilly
My oldest son lost his baby brother when he was two and a half. He used to pretend blankets and things were his brother and ask me to hold the baby. That was two and a half years ago. We recently had a rainbow baby but there was a ten percent chance I might die during delivery due to placental abnormalities. So he heard plenty about death in his young life. Recently his best imaginary friend died. I agree with others that it is normal for kids to include death in their play as a way to process this.
Love to all.
March 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEm
Wow all-
First of all- please let me say that raising kids and seeing children deal with the death of their sibling or "their baby" is just a different and unexpected kind of unfairness after losing a baby. I agree that all of those behaviors are normal and healthy for them. It's their way of coping with and grieving.

My daughter was 6 and my son was 2 when we lost our baby boy at 28 weeks to an abruption. They both did/said/still do say weird uncouth things at times. They were both very aware I was pregnant and felt kicks, sang to their brother, and more when he was in my belly. We were all very excited, then devastated. My daughter came to the hospital with grandparents after my son was born- so she was included in holding and seeing her brother who died. She cried with us and in many ways- has grieved very adult like. The funeral was important to her- she asked to keep a stuffed animal that was with flowers at the memorial, and so on. She requests visiting his grave and needed to be told it's ok to be sad, miss her baby, etc. We made it safe/comfortable for us to always talk about and miss him. We are Christians and have spent a lot of time talking about Heaven, and knowing that many loved ones are there with our baby. This brings us all comfort.

Both of my kids craved the mementos. The box we were given, pictures, a toy that was bought for our baby, stuffed animal the hospital gave our daughter, cards, a photo book, a blanket, the hat he wore, pictures of foot prints, and a loving memorial blanket a friend gave us with our sons birthday, initials, and a bible verse. My kids have both gone through phases where they need/want to look and touch see something that physically proves their baby was real. It's funny- they look, get deep, maybe cry for a moment and are back to very happy. Box is sealed up and comes out at next request.

It's trickier with my 2 year old. He was just too little to understand death. He went to the funeral, and talks about the balloons and flowers and coffin. I was really shocked when at some point he explained it was normal-all babies die-and go in boxes in the ground. He went through a long pining phase of just visiting his bother in an air plane. We explained how that couldn't happen about a million times. We haven't heard the question in months- thought it was resolved (that answer) but we went on a vacation on an airplane and my son was very disappointed/angry we didn't get to see his baby. What really bothered me is when he would say things about wanting to die, hoping he could die soon because he wants to play with his baby brother. Or hoping our whole family could die together. Or when we met someone new with a baby he would right off the bat talk about the cute baby he saw and he has one too but he's dead. Or telling that mom that their baby could die too, because nobody knows when anybody will die. (Not exactly a welcome baby card-but the raw truth). After teaching him that can be upsetting to people, he endearingly told many people he hopes they live until they are as old as a great great grandma/grandpas.

My son does a lot of the role play and acting. He plays dead a lot. It really bugs me but I have to just treat it like the rest of play. He also adopted one of my daughters baby dolls as his own and loves properly caring for his baby. It's very sweet. We will see what's next!

I just want to say you ladies are amazing and our kids dealing with this are so resilient and strong. I'm so proud of you all.
March 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterApril