Sibling Grief – The Sister Who Lives In The Clouds
We had no idea on how to respond to our grief, or how much of it we should show in front of the children.
They had so many questions, questions which were similar to ours but we had no way of answering them.
Their Dad (from a previous relationship) broke the news. But I knew from very early on I wanted to be gentle but honest with them. At the time one was a week away from turning 7, whilst the other was 4. Ages of innocence. I didn’t want to steal that from them. Our innocence in adulthood had been stolen; it didn’t seem fair to strip them of theirs too soon.
The evening of her death we were numb, we wanted to sob into each others arms, but we wanted to give the children reassuring cuddles. We did bed time as a family. It had been the job of my husband for a while due to being so poorly in pregnancy, and then of course everything that went with having a premature baby, and expressing in the evenings. Normal seemed to no longer exist in our house.
Opening the curtains out onto the night sky and searched, I’m not sure what we were searching for; but we waited. Ahead of us we saw the brightest star.
“There she is, she’s arrived.” my daughter said; she was trying desperately to be brave about everything; she’s always been older than her years. The children began to wave up to the sky, to blow kisses.
“Night night Melody” “we love you” “we miss you” they said to the night sky. It wasn’t something we had encouraged; we knew we didn’t want them to think death was temporary or that there is a better place.
Actually having that said to us is not the most helpful of things to be said to a bereaved parent.
The First Questions
As we parted ways to different rooms, I stayed with my son, tucking him in, giving him a kiss, asking if he was OK. I remember him asking if he could have some milk – breast milk, I hadn’t fed him for two years. Everything was so confusing, her death, talking to my children about death, my body breaking in an unseen way.
Of course I said no, I had no idea of that was the right thing to have said, there’s not a section in the parenting book for grief feeding.
We cuddled we chatted.
“Can Melody come back down a ladder to play?”
It broke my heart to hear this innocent question. I knew then I had to be honest, to tell him that she couldn’t, it was a nice thought, but sadly not possible.
He began to cry again, I comforted him the best I could. Nothing was right.
I kissed him, tucking him in and said good night.
I had no idea what I doing.
I took myself into my daughter’s room.
The level of bravery astounded me; it still does (of course for both of them). She took on such a mature role.
We hugged, we chatted.
“Will you have another baby?”
It took me by surprise, I had no idea, it was definitely not something that was on my mind at that time. “I don’t know sweetheart, I really don’t” I really didn’t know.
“Well, if you do you could give it Melody as a middle name” she added, she’d thought so well. She knew her sister was gone, yet she wanted to remember her.
“We’ll see, I’m not sure what we’ll do.” I replied. Honest because I didn’t know. I was forcing myself to not cry, to get through the night; I had no idea on whether I ever wanted another baby.
“Does this mean you and John will have sex?”
As you can see it is a conversation I can never forget. Because in a moment of hell, this girl unknowingly brought a smile, she/they began the process of putting us back together.
It was something about these conversations I knew we’d be okay. We didn’t know how but we knew we would be.
Parenting after loss has been a complete eye opener, it changes so much. But parenting through the initial grief, isn’t the easiest. There were decisions that had to be made, whether they were right or wrong. There’s no rule book, but at the same time there really isn’t a right or a wrong answer.
When planning the funeral, we had no idea whether to take them to it or not, whether it was the right choice.
I grew up in a world where children weren’t to go to funerals. But hers wasn’t an “ordinary” funeral. There was never meant to be a funeral.
We’d looked into child care, but we were then told it was wrong, that we should take them.
We were confused. We had no idea on how we would be at the funeral, how we’d react. It wasn’t normal.
But actually aside from not being able to succumb to our real grief, it was a good decision to have them there.
Together in Grief
I don’t regret it. My eldest insisted on reading a story she had written, she was always drawing pictures for her baby sister, it oy seemed fitting that she did something for her funeral.
I cried my son put his arms around me. We held hands as a family walking from the church hands tightly gripped.
We made a decision to have a private internment. Just us. A chance to tuck her in, in the only way we were able to. We each placed flowers in her grave.
It was our time together.
An Honest Grief
Over the years we have been pulled from one direction to another for how we should be dealing with grief with our children.
We’ve been honest, without being harsh.
They knew death was final, and that she’d never come home, but the gentler approach felt better,
Melody had hosepipes when it rained or leaf blowers controlling the wind, or when the thunder was loud, we’d said she could have been.
Many comments came out about how we reacted in front of our children to our loss; some were negative, some positive.
But I’m glad to have been honest and open with them. We couldn’t have denied her existence, albeit a short time, she still lived, they met her and bonded with her. Now they bring her up often, mostly without prompt.
Five years later they teach their younger siblings about their sister who lives in the clouds. And my eldest daughter has even done an assignment which Melody featured.
Never underestimate how a child will react; they may well surprise you and everyone else around them. It is very difficult parenting through the loss of a baby.
There were days where I’d not want to get out of bed, many people assumed I did but in reality, I had to get up. I, we had to carry on living.
For them, for her and for us.