Help for bereaved parents with living children following the death of a baby.

All of our circumstances are different when losing a baby. I have spoken with many bereaved parents over the years. Some who, like us lost their first baby and others who already had children when ther baby died. 
Whatever your family circumstances, the death of a baby is just as devastating. But what do you say to your living children? How do you explain something that seems so against nature and that we can’t even fathom ourselves? How do you help your other chldren, when you are struggling yourself?

Of course not talking about what has happened with your living children could leave them feeling isolated and confused, as no matter how hard you try, they will inevitably pick up on your hurt and devastation.

This section is not just for those who already had children when ther baby dies, but also for those who go on to have further children after losing their first child. 

We have been in contact with the wonderful charity Winston’s Wish. The leading childhood bereavement charity and the largest provider of services to bereaved families in the UK. With their vast experience of working with bereaved children and families, we wanted to see if they had any recommendations for reading etc to pass onto parents to help siblings following the devastating loss of a baby.

Winston’s Wish often receive calls from parents who have lost a baby to their helpline (see bottom of page for number) both from those who have children struggling to understand why the anticipated baby has not come home and also from those who never knew of their sibling (ie. a baby that dies before the sibling was born). Even though these children may be born later, they still need a sense of the fact that their family has a special shape and that they had an elder sibling.

Please see these resources below and don’t hesitate to contact Winston’s Wish should you wish to talk with someone or need any further help or advise:

The Child Bereavement Charity has a range of reading materials and resources to choose from suitable for all age ranges. 
These are the books that have either been suggested, or that we know of that may help following the loss of a baby:

An excellent resource for children when they try to grasp the concept of death and understand grieving, recommended for children who have faced or are facing loss, but also for any child even before an urgent need presents itself. Presented in a respectful and unthreatening manner, this book will prove immensely valuable for children and their families.

For children aged roughly from 4 – 10

The pictures tell of a going-to-bed routine and the words show the Small character testing the love of the Large character (would you love me if I was a crocodile?’. Large always responds with unconditional love ‘I’ll always love you no matter what’. At the end though there is a subtle change when Small asks ‘what happens when we’re dead and gone, does love go on?’. Large opens the window to show Small the stars and explains that although some of the stars died a long time ago ‘love like starlight never dies’. Sweet, comforting and not too demandingly about death.

Rory’s Star is aimed at pre-school children and tells the story of a baby lost to cot death. It is brightly coloured with simple illustrations and explores how a family copes. We meet Rory the new member of the family and follow life before Rory’s death. We meet Rory’s big sister and see how they enjoy going to the park, walking to nursery, just being a happy family.
Then, suddenly Rory has gone, everything changes and Rory’s big sister has to adjust to life without her brother. 
The illustrations try to show the confusion at the time when Rory is found, and capture the awfulness of the situation. We see Rory’s sister standing; confused about what is happening then we watch the family try and make sense of life without Rory. We hope that the book is able to provide some words and pictures that a family could, in their own way relate to, allowing parents to sit with siblings and talk using a language they understand. 

The Fairy Caretaker explores the choice that some families make to have, and visit a gravestone when their baby dies. This can be puzzling for young children, and sometimes upsetting as they witness their parent’s distress. The book does not hide away from gently describing the strong feelings families experience. This book creates a magical view of these special gardens, where gems and flowers are added to the grave by The Fairy Caretaker. Little Violet wanders amongst the baby headstones, and between them notices small doors and lots of tiny people each with a different job to do.

This book would be suitable for children between the ages of 2 and 7, who have experienced the loss of a child in the family/extended family/friends. It is based around the practice of burying a baby/child or their ashes and placing a grave marker there. It may be less suitable for families who have experienced early miscarriage.

Other books that deal with the deaths of various family members, or even animals can still be very helpful to children – especially when a parent can explain the link between this story and what has happened in their own family. For this reason these books may be helpful:

‘Why is Miffy so unhappy? On her cheek a tear is bright. Do you know why she is crying? Miffy’s grandma died last night.’ So begins this book about bereavement for the youngest child. Miffy is sad and Grandpa Bunny is sad, and all their relatives are sad. Miffy decides that Grandma looks quite comfy tucked up in her coffin, and everyone helps carry her to a wood where she is buried. Miffy often takes flowers to Grandma Bunny and says ‘dear Grandma’, hoping grandma understands. Dick Bruna’s simple pictures and rhyming couplets will bring comfort to young children who don’t yet comprehend death but who sense the sadness of those about them.

When a close friend or family member dies. It can be difficult for children to express their feelings This book helps boys and girls understand that death is a natural complement to life. and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings for them to have following a loved one’s death. Titles in this sensitively presented series explore the dynamics of various relationships experienced by children of preschool through early school age. Kids are encouraged to understand personal feelings and social problems as a first step in dealing with them. Written by psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas. this book promotes positive interaction among children. parents. and teachers. The story lines are simple and direct – easily accessible to younger children .

For slightly older children, there is: 

When Fox dies the rest of his ‘family’ are absolutely distraught. How will Mole, Otter and Hare go on without their beloved friend? But, months later, Squirrel reminds them all of how funny Fox used to be, and they realise that Fox is still there in their hearts and memories.

This book uses the analogy of the waterbugs’ short life under water as human’s time on earth and their emergence as dragonflies into the bright sunlit world above the water as human’s life after death. It is designed to provide adults with the opportunity to talk about death as being part of the life cycle, which can be a reassuring way of explaining death to children.

You can have a browse through more books and resources here:

Click this link for some really helpful insights and information to help older young people understand and deal with the death of any family member includng the death of a sibling.

We hope this information helps, but if you would like to talk to someone for advice, don’t hesitate to call Winston’s Wish helpline 08452 030405 (Mon to Fri 9 to 5).

We also thought this website was wonderful and had some really great articles, links and advice on the subject of helping both parents and siblings:
Have a good look through all of the menu’s down on the left hand side as there are quite a few pages and articles that look really helpful.

If you have any further suggestions or links that you feel may help others, then don’t hesitate to contact us.