Archive for January, 2014
I receive a lot of questions from parents who have lost a multiple-birth infant, usually a twin, in utero. It isn’t unusual for a parent (usually Mom) to feel that their survivor is greatly ‘suffering’ from the loss. Moms share that their survivor is ‘constantly looking for a close friend’…..is ‘extremely lonely’…..”can’t keep any friends long term…., ‘always seems to be sad/preoccupied’ and so on. Children before the age of 5 years have very little understanding about what death means. That it is permanent, what death actually means or that (prolonged) grief is a side effect. One family who lost a 4-year old twin in a car crash was trying to explain to the survivor, a brother, that his brother was not coming home again. The youngster listened carefully and then asked, “Does this mean that I don’t have to share my toys any longer?” The 4-year old was not being rude or disrespectful. He was just pointing out his understanding of the situation and if his brother was ‘not coming home again,’ he didn’t have to share his toys.
After 5 years and as they age, of course, the real circumstances around what it means to be dead becomes more clear. If there have been any family pets who have died, it can be helpful to go through the process of burying a small pet (fish, hamster) in the back yard and explain in age-appropriate language what death means.
Parents, of course, realize right from the beginning that death in utero or just after birth has dramatically and drastically changed the future and that a much-wanted child will no longer be physically a part of the family structure. Try not to look at your survivor(s) and project onto him or her the loss and come to the conclusion that your child is struggling to come to terms with this loss. It is a normal part of growing up to have close friends and then have those close friends change from week to week, a ‘secret’ friend, have fantasy play when alone, play make believe, and such. To partake in any of these situations does not mean that your survivor is ‘suffering their loss’ and unable to move forward.
I suggest very gently, to look to your own behaviour as a parent who lost a precious child. How are you doing? What, if any, support systems have you put into place to help you with the trauma of losing your child? Do you have a safe place to speak about what you are feeling and how you are coping, even years later? Have you taken enough ‘you’ time to address your feelings, the unfairness of the situation, your sadness, if (does) the loss affect your relationship with your partner? Do people judge you because you are having difficulty moving past your grief? Is it easier (more acceptable?) to project your grief onto your survivor?
If you can say ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, do think about looking for some professional support counselling to help you deal with your loss. You have a right to be able to speak of your feelings, share openly what you are feeling (including anger), and realize that there is no time frame when you ‘must get over your loss.’ Life, and death, is just not that simple.
Take the time you need even when it may need to include speaking to your survivor about the loss of his or her co-multiple and what it means for you and for him or her. Sharing together at an appropriate time may be helpful to both of you in finding some peace, comfort and understanding.
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