What Happens When Your Child Asks About Their Deceased Sibling?

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Most parents are concerned about emotional and physical development when it comes to their children – when’s the right time to talk about the birds and the bees? How to handle menstruation concerns? How to deal with male puberty?

Some parents take it a step further and try to map out their child’s financial future – will there be enough money for college? Do we have enough savings? Are they expected to stay inside the home past 18? Those are very important and sometimes, the talks come more fluid and naturally than expected.

But what happens when your child asks about their deceased sibling? Then what?

Last night, Bear was being his little rambunctious self late at night. He didn’t want to go to sleep and we accidentally overstimulated him so he was very wired. He kept pointing to the lights we have on our balcony and up to the sky. Naturally, I asked him if he saw his big brother Ethan and he responded with a simple question:

Where?

The innocent question knocked the wind out of me and to be honest, I’m still recovering from it. (I did tell Bear Ethan was one of the stars in the sky.)

You see, it’s been a discussion between Maks and I for the past several years on how to tell our children about their oldest brother who died in infancy, and why he’s included on our annual Christmas cards. I equate us talking about it and planning it out as the famous I Love Lucy labor episode – everything’s all planned and ready to go until it actually happens, then all hell breaks loose.

 

I’m fortunate that for now, Bear is too young to understand the concepts of life and death, Heaven and Earth, so on and so forth. Him being this young is only a temporary advantage. As anyone with children can tell you, they grow up fast and a lot can (and will) change right before you.

Right before Bear was born, we did purchase a book – Someone Came Before You. We barely got through it before we had to put it away. Maybe one day, I can finish reading the book without breaking into hysterics and I can explain to Bear that while he is our second child, he is just as loved and cherished as our first.

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Our maternity shoot with Bear and Ethan Molly Bear.

So, let’s open it up for discussion…is there a way to talk to your child about death?

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Why Mother’s Day is Still Difficult for Me

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First Mother’s Day with Bear.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been bombarded with Mother’s Day as I’m sure the rest of the country, if not world. Mother’s Day sale here. Mother’s Day deals there. Mother’s Day in my inbox. Mother’s Day when I turn on the TV.

Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day. (For a surprising history of lesson of how it got started, click here.)

I should feel excited. I am a mother. This is a holiday dedicated to me. I’ve been celebrating my mother for years and now, I can share a holiday with her that’s for us!

And yet, I don’t feel that way. Not even close.

My first Mother’s Day was in 2012. It was supposed to be my first Mother’s Day. Ethan was prematurely born and died in 2011 and I spent Mother’s Day 2012 with no baby to show for it. I celebrated International Bereaved Mother’s Day instead but it was still somber.

When Mother’s Day 2014 rolled around, my mother declared it was exciting because it was my “first official Mother’s Day,” completely ignoring the fact I had a son before Bear. I quickly reminded her it wasn’t my first Mother’s Day and left it alone.

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And it’s just…unless you have a deceased child, you don’t understand.

There’s always the feeling of something, someone missing. Sure, I can have all of the spa days, nice jewelry, breakfasts in bed, etc. on Mother’s Day. And I’m sure those days will come in the future. But I’m always going to remember there should be an extra person celebrating. And he’s not here with me.

I take comfort in having a strong family and friend support, both here and offline to help me through the day. While it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, it hasn’t been Mushrooms & Roses, neither. And that’s okay. It’s a grief I’ll have for the rest of my life.

Every Mother’s Day, I try to find some articles online that bring me some comfort. This year, I’m sharing them with you in case you need comfort on this day.

Being the Mother of a Child Who Died on Mother’s Day.

The Land of Not OK (she refers to her disabled son but it also applies to bereaved parents as well). This is one of my all-time favorite articles because it explains what I live with everyday.

To all of my angel mamas, you’re beautiful, blessed, and loved. If the world ignores you, I’m here for you. To my rainbow mamas, celebrate your Mother’s Day with your rainbows as you remember your angels as well.

God bless you all.

I Should Have a Four Year Old

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I should be planning a birthday party. I should make sure the cake is made just right. It might be Paw Patrol one. It might be Thomas & Friends. I should have the numerous gifts picked out because although Christmas was just a short time ago, a birthday only comes once a year.

I should have local Mom friends who I regularly meet for coffee because we met at the preschool/day care where our children are best friends. I should be trying to figure out how to tell our parents not to give him that super-expensive toy that he doesn’t need and will probably only play with it once and just put the money in his trust.

I should.

But I don’t.

Because although I should have a four year old, I only have memories.

April is a so-so month for me.

You see, I used to like April. For some reason, it was always my favorite month despite my birthday in October. I guess April represents spring, a new beginning, and it’s closer to summer, which is my favorite season.

And five years ago, well, I didn’t like April that much.

I had my first miscarriage in April 2011. It was like I found out I was pregnant and a few days later, I wasn’t. At least the trip to the ER was pleasant and my EMTs were pretty nice.

I became pregnant with Ethan a short time later and everything was fine until it wasn’t. I went into premature labor on December 12th and gave birth December 13th. I’ve been pretty open about my loss so just check on the Ethan tab if you want to know more of the history.

My miscarriages will forever be tied to each other – my original April miscarriage should’ve been a December 2011 baby. Ethan’s original due date was April 20th.

I’m still friends with quite a few mothers from my April 2012 board. They’re amazing women and I love them dearly. Yet, I’m jealous of them. They’ve had four years with their babies, watching them grow into small children. I had two hours.

I keep wondering what Ethan would be into. Would he like carrots or would he hate them like his little brother? What type of music would he like? What would be his favorite book? I think Noddy would’ve been his favorite cartoon. I always feel a strong connection with this particular cartoon.

Every April I’m reminded that I don’t have a small child. Yes, I have Bear and I love him dearly. Bear, however, is a November 2013 baby. He’s not and will never be an April 2012 baby.

It’s one of those things I’m still coming to terms with and honestly, I think I’ll forever come to terms with. It gets easier over the years. It doesn’t hurt as much, but when it does, it feels like a Mack truck sideswiped me.

So yeah, I should have a four year old. Instead, I only have memories.

 

 

Don’t Cry

It gets better but it’s still pretty shitty.

For those new to the blog, I’ll share this with you: over four years ago, I lost my firstborn, Ethan, due to incompetent/insufficient cervix. That means, my cervix shortened before term and since Ethan was just a few days short of viability, he couldn’t be saved. He lived two hours and peacefully died in my arms with my husband nearby. That being said, if this post might bother you, you can stop reading now.

Let’s talk about the ongoing aftermath, shall we?

I’m forever clothes shopping for Bear. He has too many shirts. He doesn’t have enough shorts. He needs more jeans. We need to invest in a belt for him. We should probably get new socks for him. Hmm…we should probably get more shorter-sleeve and sleeveless tanks for him now.

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Yet, there’s one piece of clothing I could never buy for him:

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Available here: http://gardeningbear.com/wp/product/carters-little-brother-graphic-shirt-gbc-jp-106-toddler-clothing-philippines/

It’s one of those things where I could purchase because technically speaking, he is a little brother. But if I purchase the shirt, I’m going to get the inevitable question – ‘Where is his big brother?’ and that requires an  answer I don’t think I’m ready to explain to strangers.

When people hear you lost a child, they naturally feel sympathy towards you. Let’s face it – no parent should ever bury their child, no matter how old. When the same people hear you have another child or other children, they have a noticeable relief on their faces, as if they were saying, ‘Thank God you have at least that one!’

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(In future reference, don’t ever say that to a parent who’s lost a child. Just don’t.)

But back to the topic at hand…it’s one of those things that you’re constantly dealing with in one way or another – the permanent effects of baby loss. When people hear about a miscarriage, be it early or late-term, they think, ‘Well, they went through something bad then but everything’s okay now!’

Is it, really?

When we mourn the loss of our babies, we’re also mourning what will never be – no first days of school, no playdates, no first crushes, no sporting events to attend, no driving lessons, no graduation dates, no weddings, no births of their children – our grandchildren.

We could be watching a movie and a certain scene will trigger a crying spell. We can hear a song on the radio and remember our babies through that tune. There’s always two sides of our lives – before the loss and after. It’s a very defining moment.

There’s someone missing, there’s something missing. I can have all of the memorial keepsakes, tattoos, special dedications to Ethan, but it doesn’t change the fact he’s not here. It’s also a factor why Bear is so spoiled. We know the pain of suddenly losing a child and we don’t take life for granted.

Someday, I’ll buy Bear’s future sibling that same shirt I wanted to purchase for him. And I’ll probably be an emotional wreck about it. And I’ll wonder aloud that I shouldn’t have to buy it at all because Bear should’ve had one already for him to use.

Until that time, I’ll go shopping for Bear. I’ll contemplate if I should get him a size 3T or 4T. I’ll probably chastised myself for once again buying him light-colored shorts as I watch him happily play in the mud. And all the while, I’ll wonder how Ethan is doing in heaven with his friends.

 

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness: How to Honor Your Angel

October marks Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness (PAIL) month. Over the course of this month, I’ll feature a series of posts dedicated to this month. It’s a bittersweet month for me. Sweet because it’s my birthday month, bitter because I’m reminded of my lost babies (not that I ever forget them).

This marks the final post in the PAIL series for this month. I’m going to talk about the different ways you can honor your angel.

We honor Ethan in a variety of ways. Honestly, we honor him all of the time. Even when we pray, we always include him (and jellybean). But here are just a few things we do:

  1. Tattoos. I know some people love them and some hate them. Maks and I both got tattoos in honor of our boy:

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I know some parents get a tattoo of their angels birthdates, names, and even add wings to signify they’re angels.

2. Balloon release. I know this is up for debate because of the environment factor. We do a balloon release every year on Ethan’s birthday – 12/13.

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3. Memorial jewelry. I had a special ring I wore along with a necklace.
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My ring went missing 😦 but I’m glad it didn’t cost too much. I think it’s somewhere around the house. The stone is Ethan’s December birthstone.

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The birthstone angel part did fall off but the important part – Ethan’s name and birthdate – I still have.

4. We make donations in Ethan’s name. We regularly donate to the L.A. Food Bank and have the donations In Memory Of.

5. March of Dimes. We did this one year and it was a lot of fun (though they are under some controversy as to how the donations are used, so do your research.)

6. Molly Bears. If you had a late loss, you can request a Molly Bear and it’ll be sent to you (though the wait time varies). Molly Bears run 100% on donation. I have an Ethan Molly Bear.

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The below photo was taken during our maternity photos with House of Designs
Mommy,Daddy, Ethan,Yoda

Those are just some of the ways we honor our Ethan. How do you honor your angel?

As October draws to a close, I thank everyone for their support of me and other angel moms. October tends to be a tough month for all of us as we honor our lost babies so we really appreciate your support. For those new to the series and blog, I hope you found the PAIL series posts to be therapeutic as well.