As time goes on and as my family gets older, I’m thinking a lot about keeping Oberon present in our lives. It was so easy in the beginning because he was my whole world. Every moment that I had any energy was focused on him. My pregnancy after loss was entirely wrapped up in my emotions grieving him, loving him, and trying to find ways to be the mom he deserves.
When my first rainbow, Everett, was little, he used a lot of the things we had been given for Oberon, and that gave us an excuse to talk about “big brother Obie” all the time. Now that Everett is nearing two years old, those items are much less common.
Soon we are expecting another baby, and it has me thinking a lot about how different this sibling experience will be for Everett. From stories and pictures of his big brother to a needy, crying, newborn little sister who is a constant presence in his life. Of course, it will be much more natural for him to form bonds and relate to his living sibling, but I need to also do my best to keep connected to his lost one.
1. Celebrate all the birthdays.
We plan to continue celebrating Oberon’s birthday every year. It won’t be the same as a birthday for a living child, but it will still be an important day – every year. For our family, that means spending time together (preferably outdoors), making birthday cake, wearing yellow, making Obie’s Bees, and donating to charity in Obie’s memory. Every kid deserves to have their birthday celebrated – whether it’s in simple or grand, intimate or public, traditional or new.
2. Consider another annual celebration day.
Birthdays are great, but they only come once a year. If there’s another date important to your family, consider starting some traditions you can share with loved ones. Maybe a due date, a holiday you enjoyed while pregnant, a holiday specific to bereaved parents (International Bereaved Mother’s Day, Day of Hope, Pregnancy And Infant Loss Remembrance Day), or something else entirely. For my family, we celebrate the day we took Oberon home from NICU into hospice care. We didn’t think we’d get to spend time with him in our home, and being able to do that was very meaningful to us.
3. Wear remembrance items.
Whether it’s a special necklace, a meaningful article of clothing, or even a tattoo – wear your heart on your sleeve from time to time. I love it when Everett fiddles with my Obie necklace or when he points to my tattoo. It gives me a chance to talk about Oberon naturally in the course of the day. When he points to my ear and yells, “bee!” I can reply, “yes, my earring is a bee for your brother Obie!”
4. Read about grieving and baby loss.
There are books out there that deal with grief and loss in general, and even some that focus on pregnancy and infant loss specifically. These are good to have around either in the usual pile of books or set aside for special circumstances. In our house, we have them intermingled with all the books because we see grief as a normal and necessary part of our lives. Other families choose to keep these books for when their living children ask about their sibling or about death in general. There is no right or wrong way to share stories about grief and loss with your children, but it’s always nice to have a resource.
5. Include all the kids in family photos.
This one can be tricky, and it isn’t for everyone. I’ve already had moments of guilt when I forgot to bring something for family photos and I’m sure that will only get worse as time goes on. That said, it can also be very healing to include all your kids in (at least some) family photos. Whether that’s a Molly Bear, an initial, a photo of your child, a piece of jewelry, or something else is up to you.
Photo credit: Abby Alger Photography