Special Issues for Siblings

Your other children

Your other children will be very deeply affected by the death of their brother or sister and will be grieving in their own way. It is natural that they will also have thoughts and fears about another pregnancy and it is likely that they will ask you direct questions about whether this next child will die too. Their thoughts and fears should be respected and acknowledged openly and honestly. In fact, you should expect that siblings will have questions for years to come, as they grow older and as their understanding grows and develops.

Some parents have suggested that after the birth of a new baby, it is important to consciously make a point of including your existing children, giving them time and attention. It is easy to be so preoccupied with a new baby that existing children may feel excluded.

“When I listen to other people’s children who have had a child die it seems that they have a much bigger understanding that babies and children can die. Children in the general community wouldn’t even consider asking about it, but they seem to take it in their stride, accepting that this is a possibility.”

“To this day, not a day goes by (3 years later) that my older children (now 11 and 9) do not make some reference to Ben in some shape or form … I did consult my other children when deciding whether to have another baby. I had to think what impact this would have on them, because they are very vulnerable people … even though they understand a great deal more than other children.”

“When our next child was born our 13 year old laughed! I realised that I hadn’t heard him laugh for 2 years [since Philip’s death].”

Children’s fears:

5 year old Darcy: “Mum, if this baby doesn’t die while you are giving birth, and if this baby doesn’t die later, we will be really lucky, won’t we?”

3 year old Amelia: “I really miss Lily. This next baby is a girl!”

7 year old Nathan who wanted his Dad to acknowledge his fears: “Dad, if this baby dies too, are we going to put up a photo of this one too?” Father replied: “No this baby’s not going to die.” Nathan: “Dad, you’re not listening.”

An issue that concerns many parents is how subsequent children can feel a connection with a brother or sister who died before they were born. Things such as photos, belongings, and videos make good opportunities for discussions and memories to be created. Some parents have written stories for their subsequent children that make a link between them and their brother or sister who has died. (Red Nose Grief and Loss have available copies of two stories: ‘Star Babies’ by Sharon Faulkner, and ‘Gumba’s Garden’ by Mel Ryan.)

This article was prepared using extracts from Another Baby? The Decision is Yours.1 The full text is available online or contact Red Nose Grief and Loss Services on 1300 308 307 for a printed version.

Last reviewed: 20/7/24