Sibling grief is something near and dear to my heart, as I have two living children who are faced with the life-long journey of grieving their twin brothers. It has been both difficult and beautiful to watch their grief evolve over the past three years, and, unknowingly, they have helped me take steps towards healing and to progress in my own grief process.
Our son, Campbell, was three and our daughter, Claudia, one, when we were expecting our twin sons. My husband and I shared our excitement with Campbell and Claudia, included them in discussions of baby names and helped them to connect with their brothers before they were even born. Together we hoped and dreamed of the future that lay ahead for our family of six.
Our future changed dramatically in November of 2000. Parker and Preston were born at 24 weeks gestation, weighing in at 1 pound, 4 ounces each. Their eagerly awaited arrival turned into a very sad departure, as Parker died after living one short day, and Preston just two.
Instead of helping Campbell and Claudia accept the addition of two younger siblings, we were all of a sudden faced with them having to accept Parker and Preston’s deaths. I wondered how on earth I was going to explain to them what happened, help them to understand and to grieve when my own heart had been shattered into a million pieces. What I came to realize was that they were going to help and guide me along this journey just as much as I was going to help and guide them. I searched deep within my soul, and began to see things differently, through the eyes of my children’s innocence. They have brought many smiles to my face and tears to my eyes with questions and comments about Parker and Preston in which I marvel.
Campbell began his grieving process almost immediately. He began by questioning if I was sti1l pregnant. He wanted to feel my belly, to touch and talk with his brothers. We finally showed him the incision from my c-section to help him better understand that the doctors had indeed removed Parker and Preston from Mommy. He then wanted to visit the hospital, because he felt that surely his brothers were still there. As the months passed, he continued to speak of his baby brothers. He insisted we could not take Easter eggs to the cemetery, because the babies could choke. While watching the scene in Snow White where the prince kisses Snow White and she wakes up, he had to know if I kissed Parker and Preston. He even came up with the idea that a hot air balloon could go up into the sky and get his brothers and bring them back for us. Slowly, but ever so surely he has come to truly understand that Parker and Preston’s death is permanent. But three and a half years later, at his own free will, he writes I love you notes, lets balloons go, and picks flowers for his twin brothers he so dearly loves and misses. And when he looks up into the sky and tells me, “Mom, I just saw Parker and Preston,” I believe him.
Claudia’s process has taken longer. She was barely one when Parker and Preston were born. It saddened me that she would not remember as much as Campbell would. I decided that each night I would tell her a story about a little girl named Claudia whose baby brothers watch over her and keep her safe and warm. She recently took me by surprise when she painted a picture for me. As she presented it she said, “It’s Parker and Preston, do you just love it?” I smiled, as I choked back tears, and assured her that yes, I did indeed love it. She also, very recently, came upon Parker’s and Preston’s photo album. As she looked at the pictures of two tiny little babies being held in the arms of her own mother and father, she looked at me and asked, “Who are those babies?” I told her they were Parker and Preston. She then asked what happened to them and I reminded her that they had died. In that instance it all clicked for her. She realized for the first time that her brothers were real live babies, that her mom and dad had held them and taken photos of them, that they had died, and we all really miss those babies now that they are gone. I will always remember this special moment with her. It was her moment of truth, the moment her grief became real. Watching her grieve is difficult, but knowing she remembers is awesome.
The evolution of Campbell’s and Claudia’s grief has been amazing. It is an experience I would wish upon nobody, but one we have learned to live with. The process is ongoing, as we will forever feel Parker’s and Preston’s absence. We will forever be sad, forever have questions, forever consider what should have been, what would have been, what could have been, and forever love and miss them. We have taught our living children the significance of their brothers, to ask questions if they arise, and to remember Parker and Preston because, “They were real, they were wanted, and they are loved!”
It is amazing what our children can teach us. I know I have learned a great deal from Campbell, Claudia, Parker and Preston. I love them all equally and am thankful for the life lessons they have instilled upon me. I have been blessed!
Written by Becky B. in memory of Parker Jeffrey, November 11-12, 2000, and Preston Scott B., November 11-13, 2000 and our Little Angel, July 2003; and in honor of our beloved Campbell and Claudia!
Reprinted with permission from Sharing, the official newsletter of SHARE Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Inc. (July-August, 2004)