Thursday, August 6, 2009

Walking With You: Sibling Grief

Walking With You was created to help support those who have lost a child. Together we share our stories, helpful information, scriptures, encouraging words, prayer requests, and more. Thank you to those of you who have joined us for the past few weeks...for courageously sharing your stories. If you haven't joined us yet, and would like to, you are more than welcome.

This week for walking with you, the subject is the effect that losing our baby has had on our children. This is something I have thought about blogging about, and just haven’t been able to do it yet, so this is an encouragement to go ahead and discuss this subject.

My daughter Eliana has two older brothers, Caedmon, who is 4, and Jayden, who is 2. As mothers, none of us want to see our children in pain. We all long to protect them and shield them from the hardest things in life for as long as we can. At the same time, as hard as it is, we all know that it is through these difficult times that God can mold them into the little people he wants them to become. Compassion and empathy are traits that are deeply significant to me, and I have often prayed and hoped that my children would learn to show them at an early age. Perhaps it is through this loss that God will answer those prayers.

Caedmon had begun praying for a baby before we became pregnant, and when we told him the news, his face lit up like the sun and he said “Is it really true, Daddy?!” He was so delighted and excited. We explained to him that a lot of time would pass before the baby would be born, but it would be here before he would turn 5 in September. He showed love and concern throughout the pregnancy. His aunt had experienced two miscarriages and he was somewhat aware of this, so he did have an inclination that babies don’t always survive.

We let Caedmon help in sharing the news with our family, and we began talking about it with our 2-year-old son Jayden. He didn’t understand quite as well, and since we had our house on the market a lot of our books were in storage, including the children’s books about having a new baby. I hadn’t gotten to get them out yet before we found out Eliana was no longer living, but I wish I had had the chance to read through those with him.

Caedmon would talk to Eliana every night and hug and kiss my tummy good-night. Jayden would sometimes do this too. Caedmon also often talked about the things he would do with his new sister as we remembered together about what it was like when Jayden was a baby.

The day that we found out the bad news, I was thankful that the boys were not with me at the Drs. office, for the first time in all our appointments. After we made the decision to have labor induced that day, we came home to pack and to talk to our boys. Besides the actual labor and birth, that was the hardest things I have ever had to do. My husband did most of the talking, both of us crying, and yet I was also still in total shock. Caedmon immediately began to cry inconsolably as we tried to explain to him that she was already in heaven with Jesus, happy and complete. As Caedmon cried, Jayden was still just happy we had gotten home and was playing with his plastic dinosaur. Mark continued holding and talking with Caedmon, while I went to go call my mom.

When I left the room I knew that Jayden did understand some, because he followed me into the bedroom, climbed up beside me on the bed, and gave me a hug. He looked at me with the sweetest, concerned expression as I was calling my mom and telling her what had happened.

My mother-in-law had come over to take the boys for us, so she began talking more with Caedmon as Mark and I numbly packed our things for the hospital. He eventually calmed down with his Grandma. We were surprised by the depth of some of the things he said through his tears. We had a pet rabbit who had died a year previously named Velvet. He had cried hard that day as well, and remembered that feeling and experience, saying “First Velvet, and now my Baby Sister!” He also said that he wanted to die too so that he could go to heaven to be with her. That just broke my heart.

During our time in the hospital leading up to the delivery, I was very concerned about our boys, and how much I should let them be involved in things after she came. We spoke with our nurse and looked at some reading material, and thought and prayed about it. Our decision was to have them come to the hospital and see their baby sister, and to fully experience the funeral and burial.

I am so glad we chose to do this. I was afraid the way that Eliana looked would be upsetting to them, but they didn’t even seem to notice that she looked different, or show any signs of fear. She was perfectly formed, but her skin was dark with some bruising and tearing, and when they saw her the next morning, there were other things about her appearance that were beginning to change. Still, they touched her hair and looked at her, Caedmon asked some questions about her. Jayden just looked at her curiously and seemed a little confused, but not afraid. I don’t think seeing her caused them any trauma, and was a good experience. The only thing I regret is not having Caedmon hold her. He didn’t ask, but later cried because he had never gotten to hold his baby sister.

To help the boys say good bye, we had them each draw a picture for her that they placed under her in the casket. We called it her little bed, and they helped to “tuck her in” when it was time to close it before the burial. Caedmon also placed in her casket a gift he had made for her out of beads, and a plastic monarch butterfly. In an earlier post I mentioned that when we were reading a book about heaven, it asked to think about the most beautiful thing you have ever seen, and Caedmon said “a monarch butterfly.” This was so cool because I had already been thinking about butterflies and it was like God was confirming that symbol for Eliana.

At the hospital, Caedmon had also taken his own pictures of Eliana on his digital camera. In the car on the way home from the burial, he asked for his camera and looked at her pictures until he fell asleep. For many nights afterwards, he would cry, and ask for his camera when he went to bed. We could hear him in his room saying “I love you” to his baby sister, and giving a kiss to her on his camera, hoping it would reach all the way up to heaven.

Each night he would be very sad whenever he told me good night, because he used to be telling Eliana goodnight in my tummy, and it was a big reminder that she wasn’t here anymore. I still let him kiss my tummy and say I love you if he needed to.

One thing that has been difficult is the huge baby boom that is going on in our circle. Many of my friends in my mom’s group at church, my two sisters-in-law, two of my cousins, my two high school friends, and apparently a large portion of our city are all pregnant, or have now had their babies. I had no idea my son was as keenly aware of this as I am, until one day he had been acting up and in general having a bad day, and all of a sudden he just said, “Babies, babies, babies. There’s babies everywhere; at the splash park, at the mall…I see them all the time!” I was so surprised that he was feeling exactly the same way as I was! We don’t always realize how grown up our little one’s thoughts really are. We were able to talk about how we miss our baby when we see others, but we are also so happy about all the healthy babies that are born and it helps us to remember that God has given two healthy babies to our family already, and we can pray for Him to bring us another one someday. I have truly felt this myself, as each of my friends has their baby, I experience a sense of relief, and a little bit of healing, to see that God is still the miracle worker and I am truly happy for these other special women while at the same time missing my little girl tremendously. I really feel this perspective is helping Caedmon to cope as well.

We had read that at Caedmon’s age, he might not understand the permanency of death, but for the most part, he seemed to get that. I think it helped that we had already talked a lot about the promise of heaven when we die as believers, and he had a good understanding and assurance of that. We explained to him that God shows special grace to little babies who never had the chance to believe in him, and takes them straight to heaven too. He was sad that he couldn’t see her, but glad that she was in heaven and he would see her again someday. (In November of last year he had placed his trust in Jesus.) If anyone would like to read a great book that discusses the assurance of heaven for babies, I highly recommend Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur. This is written for adults, but if you know why you believe what you do, it is easier to explain it to your children.

There was only one time when it seemed for a moment that Caedmon didn’t understand. We’ve had our house on the market for 6 months, and were hoping to have moved into a bigger house before Eliana would be born in August. This week we went to an open house. After we left, we were saying how we like that house, but it didn’t have as many bedrooms as we wanted. Caedmon said “Well, me and Jayden and Eliana can all go in one room together!” I was so surprised, and talked with him again about Eliana going to heaven, and he again seemed to understand. I later realized that we haven’t been to very many open houses afterwards. Before she died, we had been going every week, and saying “This room could be for Mommy and Daddy, this room could be for Caedmon and Jayden, this room could be for Baby Sister…” His mind had automatically reverted back to that time before, when we were all so happy, trying to make room for a new little bird in our nest.

Some other things with Caedmon are, he often draws pictures or makes sticker pages that include Eliana, or he says they are for her. Sometimes he makes something and says “This is a picture of Eliana, just for you Mommy.” He knows how much I miss her and doesn’t want me to be sad. Another thing he has been doing lately is talking in baby talk, I think he thinks it somehow makes him more lovable since we miss our baby and love her so much. I have been trying not to make too big of a deal of it, but remind him that we love him so much because he’s our big boy and has been learning and doing so many big new things.

Jayden, for the most part, has seemed to sail through and do okay. He has shown love and sensitivity toward me, and has seemed a little sad and quiet at times. He has also been much more attached to me since I came home from the hospital. Occasionally he still says “baby in mommy’s tummy?” and I have to remind him that his baby sister isn’t in there anymore, because she went to heaven to be with Jesus. I feel so sad that he doesn’t get to be a big brother yet.

I was so looking forward to seeing each of my boys fall in love with their baby sister. I just knew that she would teach them love in a new and special way and bring out the tenderness of their hearts. Although it isn’t in the way I had expected, I really believe she has done just that, and will continue to be a source of love in their lives as they grow. It is in this way that God is beginning to answer my prayers for my boys, that they would have tender, loving hearts and will learn how to show compassion to others in a meaningful way.


  1. You have done so many nice things to remember your daughter. Your little boys seem to absolutely adore their sister. She is very very beautiful!


  2. Wow. My heart is just breaking for you and your little boys. I find kid's responses to loss so fascinating. It's almost like they still have a connection with those that have passed. Eliana was beautiful. Thank you for sharing her picture. Were you able to get any of your three children together?

  3. It is so hard to watch our children grieve. It sounds like you have done many wonderful things to honor the memory of your Eliana with your children. What sweet, soft hearts they have! Thank you for reccommending that book...I haven't read that one, yet. Praying God's continued comfort for your family...

  4. It sounds like you have done a wonderful job of helping your boys grieve the loss of their little sister. I am finding that as my daughter grows up, the questions about her brother change. I am sure you will find the same is true. And the book you recommended is on my shelf...I hope to get to it soon. (HUGS) and blessings - Danielle

  5. I just added a picture for you, Bree! We just got a couple shots like this one at the hospital, and then of course some when Eliana is in the womb.

  6. What a great post. Thank you for sharing!! That book is definitely a good one.