When a pregnancy ends due to miscarriage or stillbirth, the potential siblings of the infant may be experiencing some deep emotion. They have lost somebody, too. While you may be reeling with your own painful feelings, it's important that you give your children permission to grieve and give your loving support and understanding.
Parenting experts recommend a parent involve their children in preparing for the arrival of a new child. Assuming you have followed this advice, your child already felt an emotional bond to your pregnancy and the baby you carried. The loss of the infant is bound to bring feelings of distress, but also some curiosity. The best policy is for you to try and get your children to open up about their feelings in as honest a manner as possible.
Psychologists recommend asking your children open-ended questions that provide leeway for discussion. Be prepared to listen for as long as your child wants to speak. Your might want to ask questions like, "How do you feel about what's happened to the baby?" or "Is there something you'd like to do for the baby?"
It's important to give your child an honest account of what has happened to the baby. State the facts and try not to use euphemisms for death since these have a tendency to confuse children. For instance, avoid using phrases like, "We lost the baby," "the baby has gone on a long trip," or, "The baby is watching over our family, now."
Children are literal. It's much healthier to give them the sad news in a forthright manner. That means saying something on the order of, "The baby has died. Her heart no longer beats and her body can't work anymore. That means she isn't with us like she was. We will always remember her and feel our love for her, even so." These direct and plain-talking explanations are very helpful in getting your child to assimilate the sad facts, the first step in the grieving process.
Give your child a listening ear for any questions he may want to ask. The younger your child is, the more likely it is that he will need to ask you the same questions many times. Every time you repeat your responses, his understanding deepens. It might be very painful for you to have to address the same topic again and again, but this is something important you must do for your child. Your honesty, patience, and openness are integral to his ability to cope with the difficult concept of loss.
Sometimes, the grieving process is so deep that you feel your child needs more help than you can provide. Such help may come from other family members, close friends, social workers, teachers, or mental health care professionals. Here are some of the signs that your child may need some extra assistance in getting through the grieving process:
*He acts as though nothing happened
*His grades start to fall and he fears going to school
*He talks about suicide
*Seems very anxious
*Acts out with violence toward people or animals
*Poor interaction with the family
*Shows signs of drug or alcohol abuse
*Performs delinquent acts
*Loses interest in socializing with friends