helping my 4yr old daughter cope with the loss of her 6.5 month old baby brother

Kasandra - posted on 04/29/2013 ( 4 moms have responded )

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I am needing some help... I gave birth to a beautiful, perfect little boy on April 4th 2012... We named him Jace William weighing at 7lbs 6oz 19 inches long and healthy as can be. From the beginning my daughter and her brother had a bond like I have never seen before.. it was very clear that they had an unconditional bond. Jace's father and I split up in September of 2012, and shared equal custody of Jace. Rotating weeks. Jace passed away in his sleep at his fathers house early in the morning on October 25th 2012. I found out around 1 pm by getting a phone call from the police department, asking me to come to the station... When they told me my son had passed I was mortified... Anyway, on October 26th I had Madi's (my daughter) dad bring Madi over to my moms house so that we could sit down with her... When she walked in the door she looked around for her baby brother...(as she always does when she comes back to my house..) she says "where is Jace" nobody said anything and my eyes filled with tears.. She says "what's wrong? where is my baby brother?" she was frantic... my mom tells her to sit down in my lap and talk with us.. At this time Madi is already crying.... she knows something is wrong.. My mom explained that Jace was an angel in Heaven now and he was going to watch over him, just like she watched over him when he was here... She understood death because we had lost my grandma the previous year and she and her were pretty close.

Anyway, its been 6 months since we lost Jace and Madi keeps his memory alive constantly... She says that he visits her in her dreams every night... She cries all the time and says that she misses him so much... she has also started having nightmares. I feel so helpless when it comes to comforting my daughter, cuz i hurt so much as well. Her behavior is awful all the time, she doesn't listen, her attitude is ridiculous, and i dont know what to do.... Does anyone have any kind of advice to help my baby girl??

P.S. Jace's dad and I are back together and have been since November 2012.. he has a hard time coping, or even talking about our son =[

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You need to continue taking her to counseling. It will take several months of counselling before she will really open up, and it's only been 6 months, so she hasn't had time to form that trust with the counselor. Adults adapt to counseling much more quickly than children because we understand why we are there, and in most cases we have already made the conscious decision to go there. Children, on the other hand, are being brought in by their parents, and while they sometimes know the parents are doing this to help, it takes a few more sessions for them to come to a place where they know they should want to be there, then where they actually do want to be there, only after that can they start to trust, and only after that will they open up.

Consider your own feelings, you don't just tell strangers how you feel, right? You have to get to know them. Same for your little girl.

Jodi - posted on 04/30/2013

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Ah, ok, well that does make it VERY difficult to get the counselling. Would her father co-operate with the idea?

I also definitely recommend seeing if there is an organisation in your area that can help you with information (such as the books).

Kasandra - posted on 04/30/2013

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I agree counseling will help, but she wont open up when I take her... she tries with me, but kinda hides her feelings. Also she is only with us on the weekends as well and Jace's father and her aren't the same person... Jace's dad just doesn't talk about it...

Jodi - posted on 04/30/2013

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I am very sorry for your loss. I can't imagine how difficult this must be for you all.

Firstly, I need to say it. Her attitude is not "ridiculous". She is acting out because she is still hurting.

Have you sought any sort of counselling for her? I believe this is REALLY important, because children grieve differently than adults do. My step-son lost a baby brother when he was 4 (his brother was born with heart complications, but they had him in their lives for 3 months), and he was devastated. However, he coped with it in ways that manifested in some behaviour problems. He began bedwetting again (and never stopped until he was 12), and for YEARS afterwards he would cry about it at the least expected moments. Unfortunately, he didn't live with us, only visited on weekends, or we would have organised counselling for him, but his mother didn't, and I truly believe he should have had some.

What we did do is contacted SIDS and Kids (an Australian charity organisation) and they loaned us some books on helping children coping with grief. Just because he lost his grandmother and coped doesn't mean she is going to cope with the loss of a baby brother. just remember, even from an adult perspective, understanding the death of someone who is old is much easier than understanding the death of someone so young, especially so suddenly. There are books out there that can help you to specifically assist children in the grieving process.

Now, having said that, you need to keep in mind that it is also pretty typical of 4 year olds not to listen and sometimes behave badly. You shouldn't assume that all of her behaviour is because she is grieving. While understanding that she is hurting, you need to make sure she is not just getting away with behaviour because she thinks you will give in. Make it clear to her that you do understand she is upset but that her behaviour is not acceptable, and then try to find alternative ways for her to channel her grief.

Another thing to consider is that if dad isn't coping, is it possible that your daughter is picking up on that too?

I think you could all benefit from some counselling at this point.

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