And they grieve deeply.
Even the most youngest child grieves the death of a sibling. The parents obviously grieve, but many people dismiss or don’t recognize that when a child dies and has siblings the siblings have lost so much too.
I’d like to share a recent experience to express just this point.
Our son died on March 24th 2017. Our other children were 11, 9, 6, 3 at the time of Turner’s death.
This past Sunday my 5 year old son’s Sunday school teacher at church approached me in my Sunday school class and explained that Andrew was upset and crying in the hallway. She explained they were talking about and watching a video of Jesus Christ healing and blessing the little children. In the video they watched Christ heal a baby in the video who was sick and then handed the baby back to its mother. She said it reminded him of “the baby”.
Side note here for a second…
I knew his teacher meant no harm or ill will when she referred to our deceased son, Turner, as “the baby”, but hearing that made my heart hurt and mad all at the same time. My son has a name. His name is Turner. He isn’t “the baby”. While he may have been a baby when he passed away he is still my son and a child just like my other children. This is one of the barriers and hurdles we, as parents, have to overcome and address with others…that our children are actual people who lived and existed. They may not be here physically, but they have names. We want to and need to hear their names when referring to or speaking about them. Use their names please. That is the most respectful and appropriate thing to do.
Ok…now back to the story.
After being approached, I then came out in the hallway to see my son sobbing in another fellow church members arms. This wonderful gentleman was just holding Andrew as he was crying. I cant ever thank him enough for loving my son in that moment when his little heart was broken.
When I talked to Andrew to find out why he was so upset, he just simply said “I miss Turner”. He then asked “why didn’t Jesus heal Turner?” In his 5 year old brain he saw that Jesus healed these children in the video they watched in class, but Jesus didn’t heal his brother. He doesn’t understand why Jesus healed these children but didn’t heal Turner. And frankly neither do I. I begged, pleaded and prayed for God to heal my son. And that healing and miracle never happened. That’s a hard reality to live with as a person of faith.
My mothers heart broke seeing my son hurting because his brother isn’t here. He was 3 years old when Turner died and it’s been 2 years since his death. His 3 year old self was so so so excited to have a baby at home and would love on my belly everyday. He couldn’t wait for his baby to come home. After Turner died it took a long time for Andrew to understand that Turner wasn’t coming home. He thought Turner was just asleep in his casket and one day would wake up and come home with us. He expressed that to me several times and even one time while at his grave.
Seeing your child’s heart be so broken is excruciating as a parent because I know this is a trial and anguish I won’t ever be able to fix. I know my living children’s hearts and minds will forever grieve for their brother and will miss him everyday while they are alive. It is agony walking through life after child loss, but watching my children grieve is a very heavy burden to carry as their mother. And they each grieve differently as well.
Children grieve, too. And even 2, 5, or 30 years later they grieve the loss of their brother or sister. I’m glad my fellow church members who witnessed Andrews grief saw it. They saw that this is a pain that doesn’t go away. They saw just a tiny glimpse of mine and our families daily reality. While Andrew may have only been 3 years old when Turner died, he loved and still does love and miss his brother and nothing will change that. We all miss Turner. Even the most youngest one in our family.
The pictures in this post were taken just moments after our children learned that Turner was born, but he also unexpectedly died. It was an experience I wish upon no parent to witness or experience. We wanted them to meet him, and we are all so glad they did, but in the moment this was gut wrenching and soul crushing to endure and these moments replay everyday in my head.
These pictures are of me and our son, Andrew, with Turner. You can feel the pure love he had for Turner in these moments with him and the sweet kisses he gave him. My daughter, who was 6 at the time, is also in them and you can see the pure agony as she buries her head in her hands while sobbing. This is child loss and how it affects not only the mom and dad, but also the siblings.
If you know of a family who has had a child die, please don’t fail to recognize or validate that child’s sibling and their grief they will have with them forever. Sit with them too and allow them to talk or share their feelings about their sibling who is no longer here. They miss them too.