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Helping Children Grieve the Loss of their Sibling

whitney October 16, 2013

Although I have grieved not being able  to have children, I have never grieved the loss of my own child. I have grieved with friends who have lost babies. But I can’t say that I did the best job following up with them. While I wanted to, I didn’t want the awkward conversation to over shadow our time together. And my thoughts and attention were always on the loss that the parents were feeling. Not really even considering how the children were handling the loss. And I feel horrible.

This a great series because it brings to light infant loss. It’s always easier to talk about things when you have information and guidance from others who have walked this road.

I’m 17 weeks pregnant at the writing of this post (18 weeks when it’s actually published), and we haven’t told our children yet. My children are 4.5, 3, and 18 months. The 3 year old might understand, and the 18 month old cried with me while I got sick in the bathroom but obviously didn’t really get it. But my 4.5 year old would definitely understand. And that scares me. I don’t want my daughter to hurt and experience real world pain at 4.5. But it’s also not fair for me to keep this blessing from her. She will be over the moon excited. I already know that she will be hoping the baby is a girl.

I can’t shield her from the hurt and pain of life forever. But I can help equip her with truth from Scripture. I can also have books and resources available to help her work through her grief should something happen. I pray that you find this useful to minister to the children in your life who may be grieving.

Important Points to Remember

1. Death is a part of life. We don’t have to wait until someone dies to talk about life and death. We can use every day life experiences to introduce this to our children. It’s Fall here in North Carolina and we’ve been talking about how some of our plants that were blooming and beautiful are now wilting and dying. It’s not the same as a family member passing away, but it’s a good introduction.

2. Be honest. State the facts in an age appropriate manner. Don’t say, “The baby is sleeping” or “The baby has gone away” and personally I would try to avoid “Heaven needed another angel”. Even if a child doesn’t fully understand what death is, they can comprehend the concept of still being here or not here.

3. Understand that grief looks different for different people. Not every child will grieve the same way. While some children will cry and grieve the way they see others reacting, others will bottle up their emotions. They may act out as they sort out their emotions, test boundaries, and deal with the fear of possibly losing someone else. Do not be alarmed if during play time they act out their feelings. They may pretend to reenact part of the funeral. They may pretend that their baby brother or sister is right there playing with them.

4. Let them talk or draw pictures to help them communicate their feelings. If this is a new experience for them, they may not be able to express what is going on in words. Pictures or other forms of art would be excellent to help them express themselves. Others will bring up the loss in conversation daily. Even with strangers. They will want to share their loss with the check-out person at the store, the bank teller, the coffee barista. Anyone who is willing to listen will hear about the loss of their baby brother or sister. Please don’t discourage this. Is is awkward? Sure. But they are simply trying to process what just happened in their world.

5. Don’t hide your own grief. This may be the hardest for grieving parents. We naturally want to stay strong for our children. But on more than one occasion, I’ve heard parents talk about how they started crying in front of their children and their child said something that ministered to their heart. God has a way of using our children in their innocence to minister to us. Especially in those moments where we think we should be ministering to them.

Scripture to Remember

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”   Matthew 5:4

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. “Matthew 11:28-30

“The Lord is near to those who are broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

“For You formed my inward parts, You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

Resources You May Find Useful

First Candle: The Grief of Children After the Loss of a Sibling or Friend: For Families, Teachers, Caregivers, and Friends

Focus on the Family: How to Help Your Child Grieve Series

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2 Comments

  1. […] You can find the rest of the post, including points to remember, Scripture and resources, today over at Modern Alternative Pregnancy. […]

    Reply

  2. […] Whitney Cornelison of Modern Alternative Pregnancy writes a thorough and well-thought-out post on helping children grieve the loss of a sibling here. […]

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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