Brothers and sisters, and even cousins and friends, may be affected deeply by the death of a baby. Children should be told as much as they are able to understand. All adult family members should be open to expressing their thoughts and feelings. This openness will enable the children to express how they feel and to ask questions about the death. It is best not to say things like, “The baby went away” or “The baby is sleeping in peace.”
Children who are too young for explanations need only to be shown love and affection by their parents. They may have some frightening thoughts that they cannot express. Did I cause the baby to die? Will I die too? Will Mommy and Daddy die? Am I still a big sister or brother? Who will take care of me now? They may cling to their parents and do other things to get attention. It is most important for them to know that they are loved and secure.
Older brothers and sisters experience grief reactions that may vary depending on their ages and past experiences. Sometimes they feel guilty because they mistakenly think they may have caused the baby’s death. They may be very sad or may appear not to have any feelings. Lines of communication about the death should be kept open for years because a child’s questions and ability to understand change as they develop. They will need more complete information over time. Often times children are a source of strength for their families. They have written poetry and often exhibit simple, unshakable faith about the pattern of life and death. Some children, on the other hand, because of circumstances of age or emotional makeup, have felt terrible insecurity after the death of a baby. This loss of security can manifest itself as nightmares, bedwetting, difficulty in school and other disturbances. Any such problems should be discussed with the child’s doctor. Other bereaved parents can also offer practical tips and reassurance.