Many parents wonder if they can show their deceased baby to their other child(ren) and if all that grief and tears won’t be harmful.
It makes sense that this is also on your mind. You want to protect your own child(ren) and children in your environment such as nephews and nieces from this immense grief and you prefer to keep them away from everything that hurts for their lives. But unfortunately that is not possible and as sad as it is: this is the reality.

Research has shown that keeping children away does more harm than good. Children, even when they are very young, they sense that something is wrong. If you leave them out of it, they may start to think it has something to do with them. If they see you crying when they’ve just knocked over their milk, they might think that’s why you’re crying. Older children can be explained in words what happened or what bad news you heard from the midwife or at the hospital. Very young children may not understand words very well, but they often understand the feeling behind them. If you say, “Mommy is very sad because the baby is not doing well. Mommy’s not mad at you.” they will understand the underlying message.
It can be soothing for you to let your child(ren) stay over, but make sure they can also be at home. Even though you are sad, they feel safest with you and even though this situation is intensely sad and this is the last thing you want to burden your children with, it is part of your life and children also see this period as a “life event” that they want to be a part of.

Take your child(ren) with you every step of the way and be honest. Don’t use words that aren’t true. Don’t say that the baby is asleep, because then they might become afraid to go to sleep themselves. Also, don’t use words that are too difficult for young children, such as died and deceased. As adults, we think the word “death” sounds harsh, yet this is what children understand. You can also point out the characteristics of death to young children. “Look, he has his eyes closed and never opens them again. He doesn’t make a sound, he doesn’t cry and we don’t feed him. He feels cold because there is no more blood flowing through his body.”

Don’t be surprised if your child(ren) quickly resume playing after hearing the sad news or immediately ask questions that have nothing to do with the deceased baby, such as “What are we actually going to do this weekend?” “Can I watch TV?” The reality of everyday life is what they hold on to. It gives them something to hold on to to fall back on what they know. The unfamiliar situation with unfamiliar emotions sometimes makes them anxious. Let them play if they want to. They often come back with questions on their own.

Make as many memories as possible with the children. Young children will forget large parts, but their deceased brother or sister will always play a role in their lives. Then it’s nice if they can see something again and again later in the form of photos, videos or items that have been kept from that period.

As crazy as it sounds, it’s also good to make memories for the baby you might have next. Also for this unborn baby, your deceased child is a brother or sister and this child will also grow up one day and will understand what has happened in your family. Sometimes children born after that even say that they are so sorry that they were not there, while parents are often only relieved that those children did not experience all that grief. But in addition to the sadness, children also see the love and the togetherness, and they see the family they are now part of in photos without being in it themselves. They think that’s a shame.

Practical tips:

Let your child help with the care, e.g. rubbing with baby oil or putting on a diaper. Invite your child, but leave it up to your child if and when they will join in. If your child doesn’t want to do it one moment, feel free to try again another moment but don’t put any pressure on them.

2. Take a picture of your child(ren) with the deceased baby, unless it makes them panic.

3. Make videos with your other child(ren). Moving images with sound often make more of an impression later on and put everything more into perspective. Children hear your voice when you read to the baby and feel that the baby really belongs to the family. Especially for children who are born after the loss, this is very helpful.

4. Give your child(ren) a role in saying goodbye. Have them draw a picture or craft something they give to the baby. They can also light a candle or blow bubbles.

5. When choosing the music, keep your child(ren) in mind. Ask them what they would like to listen to.

6. Treat your child(ren) at school/nursery. After all, they got a brother/sister. If you find rusks with mice too intense, you can also decorate cakes with them or ask them what they would like to treat.

7. Have your child(ren) tell something about their brother or sister at school/nursery. It often creates more understanding among the friends and the teacher.

8. Read books on the theme of loss. Choose age-appropriate books. There are also special fill-in-the-blank books for children.

Left

Download the e-book here The most frequently asked questions about children and death. This brochure by Riet Fiddelaers-Jaspers and Renske Fiddelaers aims to inform you quickly when you have questions about children who have to deal with loss due to death. Because you may not have the opportunity to read a book extensively at the moment. You don’t have to read this brochure all the way through, but you can choose the chapters that contain the information you are looking for. Among other things, the following topics are covered:

1. What can children understand about dying?
2. How do you tell someone is dead or dying?
3. What do you tell children about death?
4. What questions can you expect from children?
5. How can you involve children in the schemes?
6. Do you let your children say goodbye?
7. How do you explain what is buried?
8. How do you explain what cremation is?
9. Are you taking children to the funeral?


In this video , Tanja van Roosmalen talks about children and drastic events.
Every parent tries to raise their children safely. Nevertheless, children may encounter drastic events on their life path, such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness in their environment or a divorce of parents.
Parents often build ‘a wall of love’. But is that the best way to guide your children in a drastic situation?

Floortje Agema wrote this striking poem.


Coloring pages

Download here for free the coloring pages that have been specially designed for Steunpunt Nova by Studio Bieb. Children often like to do something without trying to hide or forget the sadness.


Coloring Pages Downloads PDF


PEER CONTACT for brother(s) and sister(s):

Our partner Never Beyond Foundation organizes many activities for children who have lost a brother or sister. Read more here .

BLOG:

How do you tell a child that his little brother has died?


MEDIA

How to tell your child that the baby in the womb is no longer alive, Trouw, 5 May 2021


ENGLISH:

Supporting siblings through a stillbirth

“ Before the five and seven-year-olds went back to school after the Christmas holidays, we first discussed this with the headmistress. She sent an email to all the parents of their classes so that everyone was informed. The four of us went to school fifteen minutes after school so that the schoolyard was empty and we were not confronted with all the parents. Then the children in the circle told their story and showed photos and treated them to self-decorated cakes. ”

~ Paul and Ruth, parents of Mente, Mink, Roman* and Maan

“ I was quite afraid to hold my little brother. I was eight at the time and thought he looked pretty scary. Now I'm eighteen and I'm very glad I did. I tell my friends about Roman and then I can proudly show them the photo that was taken at that time. ”

~ Mente, sister of Roman*

“ I was very afraid that our son of just two years old would have trauma from seeing his deceased brother in the water. Nothing could be further from the truth. He named his eyes, ears and nose and stroked him in the water while he kept saying "wet, wet" and letting the drops of water fall over grandpa's arm. It was a very relaxed and casual atmosphere that we remember with a warm feeling. ”

~ Chris and Dieuwertje, parents of Gijs and Thomas*