His Brother Was Stillborn; I Don’t Have to Remind Him…

He remembers his brother. He reminds me often of how much he misses him. He brings Mac up on his own when nobody else mentions him first. I don’t have to remind him… He remembers his brother. He was 5 when Mac was stillborn. I remember his reaction to the news like it was yesterday.

The moment I stepped out of the car and started walking towards me I could see his little eyes looking me over. He took me in from head to toes. He noticed the hospital bands still on my wrist. I smiled at him, but he noticed something was off. I watched as he ran up to me, arms opening for a hug. He slowed down just moments before wrapping his arms around me. It was then I realized how observant my boy was. “Did you have Mac, Mommy?” The words pierced through me like a knife as I fought hard to swallow my tears and be brave for my boy…my boys. Brian and I walked with him hand and hand to a quiet place in our front yard. This is where we told him. “Yes, sweetie, I had your little brother. But… (these words were so hard to say.) Hagen, your little brother isn’t coming home. He went to Heaven, honey.” My eyes filled with tears. I hated that the words coming out of my mouth caused my boy pain. Hagen’s eyes instantly filled with tears. He fell to his little knees and put his sweet face into his hands. This crushed me. We talked openly. Hagen asked questions and we answered the best we could. We were careful not to say things like, “He was sick” or “God wanted him” because to us, we worried it might cause fear in our 5 year olds mind. We didn’t want him to think he would go to Heaven if he got sick or if God wanted him, he would be gone too.

There is so much to think about when you lose a baby or child unexpectedly. I poured myself into books and searched high and low for others sharing their stories so I could know exactly what I needed to say to my little boy. I did the best I could in the situation. Brian and I talked about how to handle things. The one regret we have is not letting Hagen meet his little brother. Hagen has always expressed how much he wished he could have seen him or hold him. I wish I would have known and allowed him to come to the hospital. But, I was scared. I was heartbroken and trying to protect him. I didn’t know how he would respond. I struggled with regret for some time about this specifically. Over time I forgave myself, I realized I was doing the best I could in a really hard situation.

I’ve been given a lot of advice over the years on how I should or shouldn’t talk to my now 10 year old about Mac…about our grief. Most of it was telling me to avoid talking to him, not mentioning it or for me to “act fine” in front of him. I remember watching the almost disappointment on a woman’s face as she said to me, “You know if you walk around sad, he will be sad too. You should try and get over it for him.” Others have told me it does no good for anyone to hold onto the pain.

None of the people offering this advice so freely have lost a child. To those people I’d like to say, we did just fine talking about it and acknowledging pain or sadness when it comes up. I couldn’t imagine how my oldest, Mac’s big brother, would have coped if we took your advice. This is BIG for a 5 year old. You shouldn’t have to go through this at 5… or any age, but he did. And I have to say I’m very proud of the young man he is becoming. I can’t help but recognize it has everything to do with his experiences and how we, his parents helped him learn it’s ok to hurt, it’s ok to fall apart at times. That his pain, this crappy experience, doesn’t mean life is over. Life goes on. It doesn’t stop when we hurt. We have to learn how to cope. We learn how to smile again after such a heartache. My boy knows that…. He is wise beyond his years and in many ways more mature than most adults I know.

I snapped this picture during Mac’s Heavenly Birthday on August 16th. My boy is in deep thought, missing his brother. But, this isn’t the whole picture. He had his moment here and then got up, ate two mini cupcakes and chased butterflies with his sister all while smiling and laughing.

The best advice I could give another mom grieving the loss of her baby or child while wondering how or what to say to your angels brothers and sister is….

  • Cry in front of them.
  • Allow them to cry.
  • Allow them to ask questions.
  • Allow them to bring it up whenever they need.
  • Allow them see you smile too.
  • Show them life can be hard, but they will get through it.
  • Don’t get uncomfortable when they bring it up in public. This isn’t something to be ashamed of.
  • Allow them to grieve however is best for them. Even if it isn’t how other people think they should.
  • Talk to them. Be honest and help them understand it’s ok to not like this.
  • Listen to your heart. You know better than anyone else when it comes to doing what is right for YOUR children.