Saturday, February 27, 2010

Practical Things

We all experience grief and loss in different ways. As many of you already know from your own experience, when a baby or child dies . . . a piece of your heart dies with them. Grief takes on a weight of its own, like an awkward garment that doesn’t fit. We want so desperately to shed it, but it takes up residence in places we least expect it to. For me personally, I feel my sadness in my chest ~ simple breathing becomes difficult. I feel sadness in my throat ~ my voice becomes small and fragile. My emotions even affect the taste of things ~ sweet can become bitter.

If grief affects how I experience the world, then it is practical for me to try and find healing through my five senses. I think the reality for my children is the same. Because a child’s age dictates their ability to express or understand grief, specifically directing activities that address their 5 senses may be helpful.

Each of my children learns a bit differently and expresses themselves uniquely from their siblings. For this reason, each of my three children will need to be allowed different ways to deal with their emotions. The following suggestions are grouped under one or more of the five senses they best fit with.

It is my hope and plan after the birth of our daughter, to be able to attach photos, video tutorials, and recipes for some of these projects.


• Create a night light with a photo, name, or image of sibling.

• Create a photo album for each child. Make it their own.

• Create an iron on photo image of lost loved one or sibling. You can make each child a pillow case or t-shirt.

• Give each child a hand or footprint of your baby.

• Have special Christmas ornaments with siblings name on them so their name is not forgotten around holidays or Christmas.

• If you have time, make a video of your child or baby that can be shared after they die.

• Keep framed photos of sibling out where child can see.

• Release balloon, doves or create tradition around significant dates

• Take your child to the cemetery

• Find an insect that is alive and one that is dead. Compare the differences with your children and answer questions they may have.


• Go to the Build a Bear shop and make a special recording. We made recordings of Amelia's heartbeat during an ultrasound visit and placed a recording in bears that we will present to each of our children after Amelia's birth.

• Have your children record their own personal message to their sibling.

• Make a commorative music list for your child.

• Tell your child what you are sad about. I often am asked by my children, "are you sad?" and I am honest when I am. Brief explanations are usually enough for a child. For example, "I miss (name of person.)"


• Bake a birthday cake every year to remember their sibling.

• Make special bread and name it after your child. We named our cardamom braid bread, "Amelia Bread" and passed it out to neighbors and friends.

• Have your child choose a spice that reminds them of their sibling. Make a special label for the spice (we have Amelia’s cinnamon) and use frequently.


• Give your child a scent that they can associate with their sibling. For example, I have soaked a strip of high quality paper with a perfume smelling like baby powder. The same can be done with baby lotion, soap, or powder. This can be placed in their treasure box.

• Plant a flower garden in siblings honor and let your children tend the garden.

Touch or Tactile

• Encourage your child to draw, write, or make a journal of letters to their sibling.

• Give each child a special blanket that represents their sibling.

• Give your child a lock of their sibling’s hair.

• Give each child a hand or footprint of your baby.

• Create a way for your children to help others in lost siblings honor. For example, we are planning on collecting diapers for a non-profit organization and hand deliver then as a family.

• Go to the Build a Bear shop and make a special recording. We made recordings of Amelia's heartbeat during an ultrasound visit and placed a recording in bears that we will present to each of our children after Amelia's birth.

• Make a treasure box for your child where they can keep mementoes of their sibling.

• Make or commission a quilt made with pieces of child's clothing.

There are some things that just cannot be categorized, but are still beneficial.

~You can help family and friends understand what your needs may be so they can help. For example, have family take your children to a park if you are unable to do so.

~If at all possible, keep a routine for your children. When children experience loss, it is comforting for them to have consistency in their lives. For example, make sure they still have a bedtime routine.

~ Let your child have their feelings...even when it may be uncomfortable for you to hear them cry or be angry. Do not tell a child they may not cry or be sad.

~Ask your child about their feelings. Openly share your feelings with your child and invite them to share their feelings. Reassure your child that you are all going to get through this difficult time TOGETHER.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

practical ways to help children experiencing grief

Prior to my career as a mother, I was a social worker and specialized in child and adolescent therapy. I understand the developmental capabilities of children reagarding loss and grief. But as a mother, I stuggle with the reality of how death will enter our lives and effect our children. Knowing that anything concrete and tangible is helpful for a child, I decided to make every effort to help make memories of Amelia alive in our home.

I began to plan ways to keep Amelia's memory alive and found many beautiful resources for parents who have lost a child. However, many of these things are not child friendly. I quickly realized that my need (as a grieveing mother) to protect Amelia's memory may over ride my willingness to share some of these fragile things with my children. I began to ask myself, "How devestated would I be if something of Amelia's were ruined or damaged?" How could I not want to preserve the more fragile memtoes of Amelia for years to come.

So, I began to search for things to do with my children in order to keep Amelia alive, in some way, for them. I became frustrated with the lack of practical and tangible suggestions for children experiencing a loss. I began to brainstorm and make lists of things that I felt were appropriate for any child, regardless of age, who experiences a death. Some are ideas I have collected from other sources while most are a result of things Steven and I came up with for our children. I hope that these ideas will be helpful to you and your family.