“Mama” came the little voice from the backseat, “did you know that Ariella died?”
It was an ordinary Sunday morning, and my two-year-old daughter could not stop talking about the sister she has never met. Her soft, gentle tone was at odds with the harsh reality of her words.
“Mama, Ariella lives in Heaven. We don’t know why she died. God does. I want to go to Ariella’s spot today! Will she like the flowers we bought?”
Her words kept coming and I tried to keep my emotions in check as I responded. “Yes, I do know that she died. Yes, she lives in Heaven and you are right, God sure does know why she died. How I wish I knew too! We certainly can go visit her grave today. I’m sure she’d love the flowers you helped choose.”
A few hours later, we spent some time together as a family at Ariella’s spot (grave). As we prepared to leave and come home, my precious little daughter started to cry. Through her sobs, she managed to tell me what was wrong – “When will Ariella come back, Mama? I want her to come back. I want her to come back NOW!”
I am used to hearing her and her brother say things about Ariella having died, but to see my little daughter crying for her sister just about broke me. How could I explain the reality of stillbirth to my two-year-old? How do I help such a young child work through the grief caused by her sister’s death, the sister who was born still three and a half years before her? It’s the part of parenting after loss that I feel most ill-equipped to deal with, although I’m not sure anything can really prepare a parent for this.
Even in the struggles, I have no regrets about telling my children about their older sister. They deserve to know about her, and like every loss parent, hearing my daughter’s name spoken brings a soothing touch to my hurting heart. I cannot help but smile when my children talk about her and include her in their play – Ariella sure is a lucky girl, she has many pretend cakes baked and many songs are sung for her by her siblings!
My children know even little facts about her like where she was born, that she was the first baby in my tummy and that she had blue eyes. They know that today we celebrate Ariella’s fifth birthday, that we will again visit her grave, have cake, and sing happy birthday. More than anything else, they know she is loved, and always will be their sister. Even if they have never met.