• Danielle Delomas

Siblings: They Need Support After Loss Too

{ It’s October, which brings us Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. As a mama to two rainbow babies and as a bereavement doula, this month holds a special place in my heart and in my work. All month I will be sharing pregnancy loss and infant loss information, stories, and resources. }

Losing a child or experiencing a miscarriage is difficult for the whole family. It can be especially hard for siblings - no matter their age. Not only will they be grieving the death of a sibling, but they will also be coping with their parents’ range of emotions as they mourn.

It can be an incredibly confusing time for young children. You might notice some changes in behavior, appetite and mood as they adjust. Bear in mind they will be watching their parents closely for cues on how to react.

One of the best ways you can help your kids navigate this unexpected life change is to keep talking with them. You will need to explain what has happened, and what it means to your family. If they are younger, you might need to explain it more than once. If you find it is too difficult for you to talk right way, that’s okay. Ask a trusted relative or friend to talk with your kids for you. They might need to explain to your kids that while you are a little too upset to talk right now, you love them very much and will be able to talk soon. How much you share with your kids might depend on their age, and whether or not they have experienced the loss of a family member or relative before. When it comes to having difficult conversations with younger kids, less is more. Start with the basics, and if they need more details they will likely ask.

When talking about death with kids, it is best to keep the conversation straightforward and avoid metaphors. Phrases like "baby is sleeping" or "we lost your baby brother" might be easier than saying "died", but these phrases can be confusing or even scary to young kids. They might begin to fear bedtime or worry about losing you. Try to help them understand that their sibling has died, that it is permanent and it makes you very sad.

It will be hard for them to understand, that's okay. Do not be afraid to show them your emotions, and be open and honest when they have questions. Make a point of reminding them that this death is no one's fault.

Remember that siblings might need to put their grief into action just like any adult would. Encourage them to come up with their own way to remember baby: drawing a picture to frame and display in your home, picking out flowers to lay on baby's grave, or baking a cake for baby on their "stillbirthday" are just a few ways siblings can get involved.

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