Friday, July 17, 2009

Family Grief and Bereavement 101: How can I keep sibling memories alive?

Author: Carol A. Ranney
If your children are mid- to late elementary school when their sibling dies, they probably have their own store of memories, anecdotes, stories and experiences that are clear in their minds. Like us as parents, we are all sure we will never, never forget. But those small details and momentary happenings, funny sayings and precious moments, all too easily slip from our minds, first with the overwhelming emotional burden of grief that pushes them aside, and later, from the gradual erosion of time.
It is so important for you as a parent to write down your memories as they come to you. In a fleeting moment, something will remind you of what he once said, of how she reacted to something, and then it’s gone. Keep a notepad with you in the first months or year and more, to jot down those little treasures before you lose them.
In the same way, older children can write in a journal, fill out a memory book, or with your encouragement, share their memories as you write. Memory books have blank pages with just enough on them to keep your child’s mind thinking and remembering as he or she writes and/or draws what they remember of their sibling who died. Centering Corporation carries a selection appropriate for children from preschool through high school age.Younger children will need your help to verbalize their experiences and solicit their memories as you record them. You may fill out a memory book for them, make a scrapbook including special pictures and mementoes (laminate the pages for toddlers) or write about their brother or sister in storybook form.
Take your time in constructing books for younger children. It is so comforting to be able to think of the memories of your child and his or her sibling, remember what they enjoyed together, what they fought over, what they had in common, and any everyday stories that will become precious memories. I made my daughter an
alphabet book when her brother died, and many years later it’s still a loved keepsake
If the child you lost was miscarried, stillborn or died at birth, help your own memories to belong to your surviving children as well. Tiny footprints, the ultrasound pictures, the significant dates (date of death, due date, birth/death date), the names you had chosen or talked about, can all be recorded and put away with their baby book or special papers. A day will come when they will wonder about the sibling they never knew, and the memories you have saved for them will mean so much. This is also a nice way to “create memories” for subsequent siblings.
Sometimes, the child you have lost is your firstborn. Others may consider your next surviving child to be your “first,” but you know in your heart that your first child, even though lost to miscarriage or stillbirth, is always going to be the first one. A good book for subsequent children is
Someone Came Before You, introducing the subsequent sibling to the little one that came first, or perhaps came prior to their birth and after older sisters or brothers.Children have a bond with their siblings different from that which they have with their parents, but just as strong. Helping them save their memories, or giving them “memories” they never would have a chance to have otherwise, respects the lifelong bond that they have with one another, and will strengthen the bond they have with you.

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