If you are reading this you may know our back story or you may have just stumbled upon this post because you are looking for advice on how to help a sibling understand baby loss. I lost my daughter at 29 weeks in July 2016; she was stillborn. She was also the twin sister of Little Lady who made it through and a little sister to Little Man. Obviously we are not at the point of telling Little Lady about her sister yet as she is only one but Little Man was nearly four when the girls were born and he certainly needed help to understand what had happened.
We spent a number of months preparing Little Man not just for a new baby but for two new babies! He was very excited about the prospect of twin sisters and was always telling people proudly that there was two babies in my tummy. One morning he woke up to find us gone and Granny & Grandad looking after him instead. Later on that day G had to come home and tell our little boy that one of his sisters had passed away and the other one was very poorly in hospital. I will never know to this day how he managed to have that conversation with Little Man.
As a lot of children do he took the information in his stride. He loved going to visit Little Lady in hospital and was a very proud big brother. He didn’t forget about his other sister though and went from telling everyone about the two babies in my tummy to telling everyone how one of his sisters had died. Believe me, his bluntness took some people by surprise but actually I liked it. He was one of the few people in my life at the time who were brave enough to talk about it with me and I liked that. I’d like to think that we have helped him to understand it all as best as we could. He still talks about her now and asks questions which I love.
I want to share with you the top 5 things we did with Little Man to help him understand about the loss of his little sister.
Be Honest – Please don’t confuse this with being brutal. Being honest is so important and our little people aren’t stupid. They need the truth. It’s sad and hard to say out loud for us but as I mentioned above Little Man took it all very matter of factually. I am so glad we didn’t try and hide anything from him now because he talks so openly about it all I think in a way his tiny self appreciated the honesty.
Let Them Ask Questions – Little Man asks questions about his sister very regularly. Sometimes it takes my breath away as it comes out of nowhere but I answer them all the best I can. He often asks why she ‘stopped working’ or what I think she would have been like. I have had a couple of occasions where people have tried to shush him because they are fearful of him upsetting me but I want him to ask me whatever he wants, he knows there are sometimes no answers to the questions but I always want him to feel he can ask.
Use Resources – There are lots of resources out there to help parents support their children through this while grieving themselves. The charity Sands provide a brilliant help sheet all about this topic and provides some really great advice on how to answer those tricky questions or how to explain death. We were also given a lovely book from a fellow baby loss Mummy which Little Man asks to read quite often. It’s a very lovely way of explaining that the baby is with all of us in our hearts and all around us.
Keep the Routine – Normality is sometimes what gets you through these times and kids can be great for that. I think it does benefit them too when there is a lot going on at home. We made his nursery at the time aware of what had happened and he went in as normal. It took him away from the upset and the comings and goings but he was able to talk about everything there too if he needed to.
Involve Them – We held a small funeral for our little girl and decided that Little Man should come. He let off balloons for his sister and was a little ray of sunshine on a very difficult day. He asks to go and visit her grave quite often and we always takes him. He likes to play near her or take her little gifts which is so lovely to see.
I hope this helps anyone who is going through a similar situation. Kids really do get you through the darkest of times but it is so important to not neglect what may be going on in their minds too. I am so proud of how Little Man has coped with everything, he loves to tell Little Lady about their sister and I know when the time comes to talk to her about everything that he will help me.
If you or anyone you know needs support with this, please do visit the Sands website.