Parenting Subsequent Children After Infant Loss
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Yvonne Rothermel: When Ronald Reagan proclaimed October to be National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month he noted that when a child loses a parent they are called an orphan and when a spouse loses their partner they are called a widow or widower. But there is no word to describe a parent who loses their child and unfortunately it’s something that many families do indeed have to deal with. I am Yvonne Rothermel, a licensed clinical social worker specializing in perinatal and infant loss and this is Parent Savers’, Episode 74.
Johner Riehl: Welcome everyone to another episode of Parent Savers’ Broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. Parent Savers’ is your weekly online on-the-go support group for parents of newborns, infants, and toddlers. I am your host Johner Riehl. Thanks again to all of our loyal listeners and especially to those who join the Parent Savers’ club. These members get the bonus content after each new show plus special give aways and discounts. You can also subscribe to our monthly Parent Savers’ newsletter for a chance to win a membership to our club each month and another way for you to stay connected is by downloading our free Parent Savers’ App available in the Android and iTunes marketplace and if you haven’t already heard we have recently unlocked all of our archives. So now you can access any episode of Parent Savers’, The Boob Group, and Preggie Pals; sharing with your friends, listen to your favorites and check out anything that we have recorded over the past year.
Today’s topic is “Parenting Subsequent Children after Infant Loss” and so let’s go around. We are joined by some parents in-studio and introduce everyone so we know who are you are listening to. I am host
Johner Riehl. I have three boys; six, four and two and I am coming up on my 40th birthday.
Carrie Hasler: Hi, I am Carrie Hasler and I am a Second Grade Teacher. I am also a parent of an eleven-year-old girl and I have a little boy who passed away when he was 15 months old. His name is Owen.
Cheryl Gerhadt: Hi, I am Cheryl Gerhadt and I am an accountant and I have three children. A 10-year-old daughter who is a surviving twin and a 7 year-old son and a 5 year-old son.
Erin Esteves: Hi, I am Erin Esteves. The producer here for Parent Savers’ and I am known as OG Mammacita. I have one boy, he is 23 months and yeah, I am 42. That’s what makes me the OG Mammacita.
Johner Riehl: Yvonne, how about you?
Yvonne Rothermel: I am Yvonne Rothermel and I am a licensed Clinical Social Worker and I work in the area obviously of infant and perinatal loss and I have two daughters, one who is 10 and one who is almost 8.
Sunny Gault: And I may go ahead and introduce myself too because I may be chiming in today’s conversation. I am Sunny; I am one of the producers on Parent Savers’. I am also the host of Parent Savers’ sister show, Preggie Pals’. I am actually pregnant with twin identical girls. I have two little boys at home and I might be chiming in for a couple of different reasons. I will be lying if I said that being pregnant with twins that I haven’t thought about perinatal loss and what that might be like and if one twin survives, the other doesn’t. So that’s been on my mind but I also had a brother that passed away. This is several years ago, he passed away in 1994 and he was about 12 years older than me but I can definitely talk about what it is like from a sibling standpoint and how that affects family dynamic.
Johner Riehl: Will see if the conservation goes that way. Alright, thanks everyone for joining us.
Johner Riehl: Before we begin here is Detective Damian Jackson with some great ways to better protect our children.
Damian Jackson: Hey Parentsavers! This is Detective Damian Jackson with the Escondido Police Department’s Family Protection Unit and the Internet Crimes against Children Task Force Unit, San Diego, California. As part of the Escondido Police Department’s ongoing series of Community Outreach Education to help families enhance their personal safety, I am here today to talk to you about GPS Programming. Criminals are constantly looking for those easy opportunities these days to take your property and turn it for a quick profit on the street. As new parents you are probably on-the-go a lot and with today’s technology getting where you need to be is as simple as tapping an address into your GPS device and off you go getting to your next destination easily and efficiently. However, one of the easiest items to spot, steal and quickly sell is that GPS device sitting on your dashboard or center -council for all to see. It doesn’t matter for that criminal what the best around to see where you will might be or where the closest susi spot is, but the address you programmed in the home category is like giving the criminal a treasure map and the access right on top of your house. My tip for the day, don’t make home your actual “home”. I will be going to bet there is not one of you out there listening that doesn’t know how to get from your house to the grocery store or from the grocery back to your house. So for an added layer of security and protection for you and your family, instead of using your actual home address use the grocery store as your starting and finishing point on your GPS device when using at the plot out your trips. That way, if someone relieves you of your GPS device without your permission you will only be giving them directions to the produce section and not to your family’s castle. For more information on how you can keep your family safe visit us on facebook or twitter at /Escondido police. With the Escondido Police Department and the San Diego Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, I am Detective Damian Jackson reminding you to keep your family safe and smart.
Johner Riehl: So today we are talking about Parenting Subsequent Children after Infant Loss and one of the reasons we are talking about this is because October is Infant and Child Death Awareness Month. So that’s definitely not the fun topic or the kind of light-hearted conversation we often have. It’s important we do this topic and I really want to thank everyone for joining us and thanks to you guys for listening as well. So Yvonne, how did you get started in this specialty area of helping parents in this?
Yvonne Rothermel: Well, I used to work in with (unclear) in residential treatment and it was during the AIDS time. I had a lot of kids who lost their parents from AIDS and at that time I had some of my own losses and I became very interested in grief work. So I did a Greif Group for the kids and really wanted to learn more about it. So I went on to work at hospice and then a women’s hospital working with women who have lost babies. And then ironically I ended up having my own loss at birth. So life sort of prepared me for my own life and it became a sort of real passion for me. I just felt like there is a lot of misunderstanding about grief which makes it very hard for people and families that go through this.
Johner Riehl: And how common is it for families to go through this?
Yvonne Rothermel: Well, you know, we know that in terms of miscarriage about 15% - 20% of those pregnancies and usually 80% of those are in the first 12 weeks and then people don’t often realize that is that miscarriage goes all the way up to 20 weeks and so they are women who can be very traumatized by really miscarriages, some people brace through it. But some of the later miscarriages too can be quite traumatic and how they are delivered and then stillbirth is usually about one in 160 births, are stillbirth and something that is not very well known, I think, is that many stillbirths have totally unknown reasons, we don’t know why are they die. Up to 60% of the stillbirths we still don’t know why they die and this can be very anxiety-provoking for families who have no other babies because you have nothing to depend them on so you worry about your next child and then in terms of infant loss sudden infant death which could be reasons other than said, there is about 4000 here in United States are usually half of those are said stats.
Johner Riehl: So, I mean may be let’s just start if you guys could share a little bit about what happened to you so we all can hear your story and then move off from that.
Cheryl Gerhadt: Okay, I will go first. This is Cheryl. My husband and I were going through infertility so we were doing In Vitro and did it a few times and we were so excited when we finally got pregnant and then even more ecstatic when we found out we were having twins. So and we have lots of twins in our family. My husband is a twin, my dad is a twin, my husband’s dad is a twin. So it was just really exciting to think we are having twins. Then at my 16 week ultrasound, the doctor informed us that one of the twins was not developing normally and would not survive but he didn’t know when the twin would pass away, whether it would in utero or if the twin will go full term and then just dies. He knew it wouldn’t survive once that was born. The lungs weren’t developing properly. We were really devastated, I mean, it was really difficult and the hard part too was thinking about the other twin because we wanted this pregnancy so badly and tried so hard and to think we have lost one baby and we may lose both after everything we have been through.
So the good part was I did go full term because if the baby did die in utero it could have jeopardized this other baby. So I was able to deliver both babies and the surviving twin was totally healthy, normal and the second baby, when she was born, I knew that she wouldn’t live. She never took a breath she had a heart beat. I got to hold her for the first hour. The first twin did go to the NICU so I had kind of that private time to spend, my husband and I, with the baby that was not going to survive. And she passed away within that hour. Her heart stopped beating and, you know, we were mourning her for a while so it wasn’t like a sudden thing because we knew from 16 weeks on that this baby wasn’t going to survive but it was still, you know, a difficult thing to go through and at the same time we were overjoyed that the other baby had survived and that she was healthy and we got our baby.
So it was kind of a better sweet time. It was just... and then having just delivered a baby you are so emotional anyway and your hormones are so crazy. I just felt like I was, I didn’t know where I was. You are just in the moment, just doing what you need to, holding the baby, watching it die; it’s just kind of like you are watching a movie but… And everyone was just watching me like ‘is she okay, you know. The nurses kept coming in and “is she okay, does she need something?” I don’t know and I look back at it and everything was just in the moment, just, what do I do?
It’s been 10 years so it’s kind of looking back and like, wow, I can’t believe I went through that and I survived and I am here today to talk about it and hopefully help anyone else that is going through the same thing because I know at the time I reached out to an organization called CLIMB- Center of Loss in Multiple Birth just to get somebody to give me a frame of reference. How is it going to be living with a surviving twin? How am I going to tell my daughter? How are we going to be going forward, how is our family going to kind of get through this whole thing? So that was a good resource for me but I think even now there is probably more resources. There is a support group that I met Yvonne through so that was a good resource for me as well.
Johner Riehl: Hi, Carrie, how about you?
Carrie Hasler: Well, gosh!! It’s funny, because its, you know, heart breaking to hear the other people’s stories of course and you can obviously very much connect when you are a parent who has lost a child as well. So its heart breaking and I am so sorry for your loss as well. So I have a very story. Our son Owen was a healthy happy baby born full term, actually it was late. Gosh! He didn’t want to come out. We had a healthy happy pregnancy and he was a very normal boy and developing great and at 15 months old he unexpectedly died in his sleep.
It was a very traumatic moment for us. My daughter who was at 5
at the time and Owen were sharing a bed room that was literally, we have kind of a “Jack and Jill” bathroom, the master bedroom and their bedroom. So they were literally ten steps away from us and Cate had already gotten up and I was waking up early. It was a school day for my daughter. Owen had seen like he had a little cold and no fever. And he, you know, he has had, both kids have had many colds in the past. And so that morning after my daughter is up and I am up. I have been up for a little while, get up early and it was time for Owen to wake up and I walked in to his room and he was lying on his side and I knew something was wrong and I picked him up and screamed and raced him downstairs and began CPR in him, panicking, screaming and yelling at my husband to call 911 and my daughter was standing right there and was over and over going and saying ‘what’s wrong with Owen, what’s wrong with Owen, what’s wrong with Owen?’, and so I just wanted her to step away because I just knew. So doing CPR on him, I didn’t know if, you know, I am not in the medical field and of course you are just racing your heart and your mind is racing, racing. So I am doing CPR but in my mind I knew either he was dead or I had lost him. He would not ever be the same Owen that he had been before.
The fire station was the first to come and they whisked him away and I went shortly thereafter with the police to the hospital and at this point I still didn’t know, whether they were able to revive him, I don’t know. My daughter and my husband stayed back at the house and later on, we found out that it was intentional because in a death of a child that we didn’t know what the cause was. The detectives had an interview with us separately. So at the hospital is where they told me separately and all my own that he had died.
Johner Riehl: Because you guys were separated?
Carrie Hasler: We were separated and then when my daughter and my husband came I gave them the news. So it was a very traumatic experience. Very traumatic and my parents came and I am not sure which is worse having to be told that your child has died or having to explain it to your 5 year-old and your husband they have lost their brother and their son.
Johner Riehl: Did they help you with how to say it to your daughter or?
Carrie Hasler: No! No I think that it was a very traumatic moment for everybody. It is traumatic for the doctors; it is traumatic for the fire station and the police. And I think it just no one knew what to do or how to say it and I remember, before my husband and my daughter came to the hospital, before my parents had come and I was in the room where they had told me that he had died first. I had also ripped out the blinds in the room out of a panic and later on you know, I thought, oh, gosh! I wonder if I may have to pay for that! But at the moment I didn’t really so much if I had to pay for the blinds that have been ripped down.
But I remember going to the bathroom and I have shared this story with Yvonne and going to the bathroom and, you know, as Cheryl mentioned, you feel like you are in a movie, I thought like I was very much in a movie set and I thought that way for a long time that you are just, you are in a movie, you are an actor in a play, or how does this actor…what is the actor supposed to do I don’t know, I have lost my lines. Where is the script? Isn’t there suppose to be a script somewhere?
But I remember going to the bathroom and looking myself in the mirror and when I was growing up I swim and I played water ball and I had this coach who used to have this microphone and he would yell, the swim sets over the microphone to that everyone in the team and when he got a really hot set he will always say, okay, this set is going to separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls and for some reason I have went the bathroom and this is, of course, between the time they have just told me the worst news in my life and yet now I have to relay it to my husband and my daughter and I remember looking in the mirror and say and for some reason and his image popped into my brain and guy with the microphone and I remember saying, okay Carrie this is what separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls and I got to do it. And it immediately right from that moment I knew I had to step it up and it is for my daughter, you know, it like I have to be, I have to be a strong mom for her and that’s what I have to do. So it just, you know, you dig deep when you have to tell somebody and no one was there to help with that.
Yvonne Rothermel: No pamphlet.
Carrie Hasler: No yeah, there was no, I don’t know where the parenting book was on that, you know, it would might went, what happen? They didn’t teach me that and mommy or no one and I don’t know so anyway, yeah it was very traumatic time.
Johner Riehl: So obviously, we appreciate you guys sharing this and how often, how deep you really get into it? How often do you revisit the stories? It may comes up by imagining if there is sort of a condense version that you share.
Carries Hasler: Yes, well, my story I almost never tell it that kind of detail.
Johner Riehl: So I really, really appreciate it.
Carries Hasler: Almost never do I do that. To be perfectly honest, it makes that everyone talk about being a party popper, you know, it really makes people uncomfortable and it’s a terrible story. There is not a lot of good that comes out of that and so it’s hard for me to tell it but I also am very contentious of knowing that it’s really hard for people to hear that. So in this kind of situation I think it is an inappropriate thing to hear because I think to myself, oh my gosh! I wish I had somebody at that moment who had been through something like that. So feel like I am not the only person in the world who has been through that.
Johner Riehl: Exactly!
Carries Hasler: So very rarely do I tell that story in that kind of depth.
Yvonne Rothermel: I think that what makes these losses so hard is because they are such lonely losses for families. We were just talking before we started today about how much you hold back from telling because you feel you are making people uncomfortable but yet so many people who go through this really love to talk about the child that died and there is this misconception that if you bring up their name it’s going to set the person all over again and really they are thinking about it all the time.
As one of my clients just said to me last night in a session, she said, you know, when I talk about him it’s the only time I don’t cry, and people don’t realize that and may not be true for everybody that I think for a majority of people they like to be able to say their child’s name and, you know, I know today we are talking a lot about how to help support families who are going through this and I think that’s a really big misconception to clarify that it’s really important.
Erin Esteves: If I can just interject, as someone who has never lost a child and is just very susceptible to the emotional impact of hearing somebody’s story, how should somebody respond?
Yvonne Rothermel: Right, you know, I think the most important thing, and I am sure you all have to chime in, that don’t let your sense of helplessness impact your reaching out because somebody in the families I talked to and have experienced myself is that people tend to go away when these losses happen and it is not because they don’t really care per se, it’s just that they feel helpless and they don’t know what to do. And you just have to know that there is nothing you are going to do that’s going to fix it.
That showing up and being a presence even if you just text, I am thinking of you and then with a very important disclaimer, ‘you do not have to get back to me, just know that I am thinking of you’, if you send food, if you get memorial fund going for someone, anything that lets them know that you are thinking about them and its very important that that is not that doesn’t just happen in those first few weeks because what happens is that you have been hearing there is this fog that comes over, you feel like you are in a movie. Well, that starts to wear off in the months that come and those are the months that are so difficult for families and that is the time especially they really need to have people reach out to them and so it’s to remember that the reaching out needs to continue.
Erin Esteves: But what if your own fear of being a blubbering cry baby next to your friend or your family member who is going through this loss, how do you deal with that so that you are not dragging them down, you know.
Carrie Hasler: Let me to tell, I think that that is such a good point. I mean, first of all, here is my condensed version of this big story that I have. “I have a son who at 15 months died in his sleep unexpectedly. The end”. And so of course just that is obviously …
Erin Esteves: Enough to make me tear up?
Carrie Hasler: Right! Of course! But I always think like it’s better to say something than to say nothing. Because will be even to just say, I am so sorry I wish I had something to say or I wish I could help, to even just to say like, oh, I just don’t know what to say, is better than saying nothing. Because it’s just, and another point to make is that you know, don’t worry about making somebody crying or upset because guess what, I am already crying. I am already crying, I am already at home crying…so it’s like you are not taking anyone down its already something that is much a part of who I am and who in everyday in our thoughts and that’s such a good point I think that’s such an initial rush in the first couple of weeks and then when the fog goes away all of a sudden the reality of it all hits in and that’s when people have gone back to their lives. There is such a false assumption I think that, you know, it’s been six months, you know, they over it by now or they should be, you know, and like, aah! No, no, no, I mean a loss of a child you never get over. But I always feel like its if you don’t know what to say the most simple thing is just to say I am so sorry, it could be just as simple as that and don’t worry about crying. And you know what crying is kind of phew! A relief you know, and not to worry about it.
Johner Riehl: I totally notice that even when you guys were telling your stories when Cheryl told her story I didn’t know what to say, right. But then there Carrie was with, ‘oh, I am so sorry’ for it, you know, because you know it is hard for us. But it’s not about us it’s about you guys.
Yvonne Rothermel: Yeah, but it is really very hard, yeah.
Johner Riehl: Well, it’s really hard and I think that people just don’t want to say the wrong thing. But I also think that lets talk more about, we will take a quick break. Talk more about how it did change the way that you are parenting your other kids. So we'll be right back.
Johner Riehl: Welcome back, everybody to Parent Savers’. Today we are talking about Parenting Subsequent Children after Infant Loss with Yvonne Rothermel and we also have Cheryl and Carrie in the studios as well, who just shared their stories. So let’s talk about how and I mean you talked Carrie about even before you told your daughter having that moment where you looked yourself in the mirror and you know, and like it’s time to step up the game. How has it changed the way that you are parenting your other children?
Cheryl Gerhadt: Well I know, for me my main thing was I didn’t want my daughter to carry this with her like it was something that she had to be sad about and feel bad about or why did I survive and not my twin? That was the most important thing to me regardless of how I felt. I am like okay, I am going to be sad on my own, now this is going to be with me always, but I want my daughter to have a positive kind of outlook and look at this positively so and at that time she was my only child. I subsequently had two other children but for her I also didn’t want it to be like all of a sudden one day she is ten years old and I tell her, oh, by the way you have a twin sister that died at birth, because, I just, it was like you know, you hear about that are adopted and they don’t find out till they are adults and you are like, then they go crazy.
So, I want her to know it’s part of her but I wanted it to be a positive thing and I don’t want her to feel bad or sad about it. You know, she can feel sad in a way, yeah, I wish I had my sister was here, but not where it’s going to just impact everyday so we named her twin Angelina and with the name Angel in it just because we knew she wasn’t going to survive and we wanted it to kind of, always be her guardian angel so from the time she was you know, born, we always talked about Angelina, you are a guardian Angel is with you. And so we didn’t talk about her a lot but that was enough that she knows, she knew about her and it’s not like when she got into school, all of a sudden she knew she had a twin sister that didn’t live. So that was important to me.
And then with my subsequent kids too just so they know, Angelina passed away and they always ask why she had to die and we are religious so it was like well God wanted her and she is very special and she is always a part of our family. So I have tried to keep to it where it’s not a bad thing and they don’t see that I am upset. I try and say I am sad she is not here too but you know what, God wanted her and she is watching over you guys and you are lucky to have, not everyone has this special guardian Angel. But one of the things that as I was thinking about this question because I don’t think about this a lot, the loss and how it affected me. I just kind of try and live in the moment.
Johner Riehl: Right, it’s your story.
Cheryl Gerhadt: Yeah, it’s my story.
Johner Riehl: I mean, it’s your reality.
Cheryl Gerhadt: But and I don’t know if I always made this connection but when I look at the way my husband and I parent compared to just other people around us, we have always been the type of people that like our kids are always with us like just we traveled a lot before. We had kids we still travel with our kids. We bring them to Europe with us, we bring them on 18 hour flights. It’s like, people are like why do you lug your kids everywhere you go, you know, they get baby sitters they go to Vegas for the weekend we don’t do that. Our kids are so much a part and not that there is anything wrong with that?
Johner Riehl: Right.
Cheryl Gerhadt: But I think that may be part of it has to do with this loss and as knowing how precious these kids are and how lucky we are to have the ones we have because if we went away with that and we would miss them, we would like what are they doing, and not that we don’t have our lone time too. But they are just such a part of everything we do and we just love to have them around and we cherish every moment and we do live so much in the moment more than thinking about the past or what could have been and I think that changed a lot for me may be not for my husband. He lost a sibling when he was in his early twenties so I think he was living already living that way but her kind of helped me realize. “You know what Cheryl; we can’t do anything about this. this is like you know, it’s happened it’s sad but we got to move on. We got to be positive and live for the future and live in the moment and enjoy every day”.
So we tried to do that and that has helped me get through the loss and I think I don’t focus as much on it because of that. Maybe it’s just my way of coping but I think that if I had just dwelled on a lot it would have probably brought me down and impacted my kids and I don’t, that was the main thing I didn’t wanted to be where they thought we are here and Angelina is not and you know, this is a bad thing so they talk about her but it’s not a sad usually it’s more our guardian angel and ….
Johner Riehl: Today if someone asked them how many brother and sister do they have?
Cheryl Gerhadt: It changes sometime and I was telling them this story.
Johner Riehl: It depends on the context?
Cheryl Gerhadt: Sometimes it will be a funny thing like when we will say, well there is 3 boys and 2 girls in our family and they are like, no you forgot about Angelina? There is three girls see? Just in a joke about it in a healthy way. But it changes and I was telling them that it seems like when the kids go to kindergarten, they start talking about it more matter of factly like, oh, I had a sister that died, you know, and they tell these other kids that are their new friends and the kids are like, you know what, they don’t know what to say and then as they get older my daughter who is now in fifth grade, she now is telling her younger brother, don’t say that, that makes people uncomfortable, you know, you can talk about it but don’t just blurt out to someone you don’t know.
So that’s kind of, they all say her name when sometimes when people ask. But for the most part like when they are writing about in school, you know, you draw a picture of your family, they don’t normally draw Angelina. They draw the dog and the fish and all of that. But they still its not that they don’t remember her or think about her but I think they know that that makes other people uncomfortable and so that’s their way of not putting people on the spot where is their closer friends know and people that are close to our family and they will talk about it more openly.
Yvonne Rothermel: I think in terms of this topic about parenting, I think one of the things we forget when we hear these stories although with Carries story that the trauma is very apparent, you know. I think that many of these families who have these sort of sudden losses are dealing with a traumatic component as well as a loss component and when you have trauma like that you know, you in-laws, your assumptive world, the world you live in seems to be (unclear) it just gets ripped out from under you and so all of a sudden everything feel so vulnerable. You feel like you have been on the other end of statistic, a small statistic and now it doesn’t. Nothing sort of can make you feel better and so there this heightening anxiety you have about not only your children, but may be your spouse, what if they come home or its this traumatic thinking we get into and I think that is often a very big struggle for families who are parenting subsequent children is sort of how to manage some of that without being like crazy mom and overprotective, right?
Johner Riehl: Right!
Yvonne Rothermel: But yet at the same time it feels like everything feels …
Johner Riehl: Like oh, no one is going to help themselves falling off … really sometimes bad things happen.
Carrie Hasler: For us, we are, we were probably, and we were crazy. I’m just getting and just not saying, we were crazy. You know, in a way we still are. But for us with Cate we dragged her mattress in our room and she slept in our room on a mattress for six months and then I very distinctly remember having a very serious conversation with my husband about getting a heart monitor for her and everyone. Let’s get a heart monitor we all going to be strapped in and may be one for the dog, and then you know, I mean then you step back , then wait a minute may be we are going on a crazy time I don’t know.
So but yeah, you do , you become anything it’s just that anything could happen and anything can and so you get that paranoia of being very worried about child is, the surviving child is huge. It manifested for me in all sorts of way from sleeping on that mattress. We did not get the heart monitor by the way; we decided we were down and crazy time we have to pull back a little bit. But yeah, I mean having our daughter sleep over at her friend’s house was, it didn’t happen for a very long time. I felt very compelled, even the very next day after Owen died I was going to be the one that took Cate to school because, gosh, anything could happen and I then I have to make sure she gets to school safely and I may walk her in and be there right away when she gets picked up. So yeah, you would love to just to wrap your other child in bubble wrapper and protect them but that’s the emotional side of you but you have intellectually say, you know what, that’s not what is good for my child, I can’t do that and that’s really, it is the child of our life, for me to lose a child, how do you grieve for this one but how do you be a good mom for the other one? And there is no handbook. Its very difficult, it’s the challenge on my life.
Johner Riehl: Sunny, how did things change for you when you lost your sibling?
Sunny Gault: Well, I was 16 years old. He died of leukemia. So he was sick for about 13 months prior to dying. And I think what was difficult and continues to be difficult for me today is that it was just the two of us and so when people say like, do you have any brothers or sisters I still don’t know what to say. Are you the only child? Yeah, I kind of was I mean because he was so much older than me; I kind of was treated like an only child. But I think it was interesting how it affected our family overall because my mother in particular was very set on, this is not going to…….. Sorry I’m, gosh! I am getting emotional well I am also pregnant, it is part of it.
Erin Esteves: Crying too.
Sunny Gault: But my mom was set on this is not going to destroy our family because it can do that, it can do that for a marriage you know, you can play the blame game. With the disease it’s very hard to blame things but with an accident or something like that it’s very easy to do. It really brought our family closer together. I know, Carrie was mentioning, you know, we need to sleep in the same room, we did that too. I was 16 years old and we had a cot and I was sleeping in my parents’ bedroom and it was just a way to process it and to get through it and now, you know, they actually live on the other side of the country and my families are here, my immediate families are out here.
Now we are always together. We make sure we are always together on the day that he died and so we have little things like that even now bring up and ways that we are able to grab hold of it and bond. This happened so many years and I still cry at random times because I knew him. I got a chance to really know him and spend 16 years of my life with him so it was a little bit different situation than losing someone younger but the pain is still there. I don’t think it ever goes away. But it definitely reminded me of how precious life is and to not take anything for granted.
Yvonne Rothermel: I think it’s important to mention for people who listen to this, who may be earlier on in their loss because we are hearing from Carrie who is five years out and Cheryl who is ten years out and you know, it takes a long time to sort of figure the stuff out. I think as she go along and wouldn’t hate for anybody to judge themselves when they initially have a loss that they should sort of be at this place because I think it takes a very long time and I think it requires a lot of support and you know, I have been on the show before and we talked about perinatal loss and stillbirth loss but I think when you have these losses it’s like having a big open wound and when losses are sort of unexplained I think it’s often times we see moms find ways to blame themselves about it. I mean, I think it’s just universal. I think moms find any tiny little thing even though has nothing to do and evidence to the contrary we although responsible and it is important to sort of get in there and clean up that wound and make sure there is not a lot of self blame and that so the wound can close up well and then you going to have the scar the rest of your life. But I think sometimes it’s important to find people and groups and support groups for therapy. The ways that are sort of help you do that as you moving forward so you can sort of move forward in the healthiest way possible.
Johner Riehl: Well thank you so much for talking about it. Is there anything else you guys want to add or maybe something we didn’t cover that you want to make sure to tell, either parents going through this or other folks?
Carrie Hasler: When you are going through that initially it is unexplainable as how hard that….there is not even words, you can’t even put it into words, you can’t articulate that kind of grief that you initially go through. It’s so intense and you just try to… I remember for so long just try to cling on to anything that would try to make me feel like I could do this and a show like this is so fantastic for people who really are feeling like I was for so long just alone in it. There is not a lot out there to help people and not a lot that’s kind of more real. There is some religious writing about all this and there is some things that are written by people who have never lost a child themselves there is not a lot that I could have connected it with and I just now when we hear of a family who has lost a child we reach out to them because we know. We know how bad it is and just to know somebody else has been through that is huge. So I think it’s really great and important that you are doing this show so the others don’t feel so isolated.
Yvonne Rothermel: Yeah, I know, it’s a brave topic for you to take on and I would just like to say to anybody who is listening who has lost a child that society has very unrealistic expectations of grief. And it’s important to know that and that its going to take a lot of time and that you need support and that unfortunately sometimes it falls upon the bereaved to have to let the community know what they need because people are just frozen. Sometimes I always like doing a group e-mail saying it’s okay to talk about this is okay, lets’ talk about this and just saying something out to your community that kind of gives them instructions and its things that has to be on the brave person but I really think it helps in the long run in terms of making sure their support coming in because so many people just freeze in the face of that.
Johner Riehl: Alright, well thanks again so much and thank you to those listening as well. For more information about today’s show, we have got an episode page on the website www.parentsavers.com. We will actually continue the conversation a bit for members of Parent Savers club. Let’s talk a little bit more about some tips or some specific things that people can do to help and I know we have touched on a little bit but maybe some of your favorite gestures that you have ever received or like to give to folks and so yeah, so check that with the bonus content all the info’s on the episode page of www.parentsavers.com.
Johner Riehl: Here is a question from Rebecca. She writes, “I have noticed my nephew was a bit more aggressive than normal. I don’t see him all that often and I know kids can change quickly but something doesn’t seem quite right. He is almost a bully around other kids and when you try to discipline him he never seems remorseful. Can this be a sign of some sort of disorder?”
Amy Goyal: Hi Rebecca, this is Amy Goyal from Tadpoles Therapy here to help you out. The short answer to your question is, yes. Aggression can be a sign of a disorder. In order to find out both your nephew’s parents need to be the one to bring him in for an evaluation. Usually it is with the psychologist or a neuropsychologist. They are the ones that will gather information and give them more concrete answer about what your nephew is going through and if he doesn’t indeed have a disorder. That’s the short answer but I wanted to give you just a little bit more for you to think about. Keep in mind Rebecca that not all kids need to have a “disorder” to demonstrate aggressive behavior. Here is an example of a situation that I have observed before; Mom has to go back to work and the kids stress out about it, so they act out. Mom has a new baby and this new baby isn’t welcomed, again this could be a source of stress for the kids or just one kid and they walk out. Another example would be there is a poor match in parenting style between the child and the parent. So the child may view the discipline they receive and it is too harsh or may be too not enough and the parents can’t rear their child loving. Another situation is that one of the parents in the household is depressed and that child isn’t getting the same amount of attention that they would normally get and then they become more aggressive or act out against. I don’t want my examples to lead you to do think that your nephew doesn’t have a disorder. I don’t know the answer to that. I just wanted you to be aware that there are different causes. Your nephew may very well need to have treatment and that is a good thing because you told me that he is lacking in empathy or you think that. Unfortunately as a relative you can’t do anything on your own. It has to be the parents that act on this. I hope my answer gave you a place to start Rebecca. I wish you the best.
Johner Riehl: That wraps up our show for today we appreciate you so much for listening the Parent Savers’ and thank you so much for joining us. Don’t forget to check out our shows Preggie Pals’ for Expecting Parents, The Boob Group for Moms who Breastfeed their Babies and there is also Twin Talks for Parents who are either expecting Twins or have Twins and dealing with all of the various issues the twins bring up. Next week we are going to be talking about ADD and ADHDs, so make sure to tune in for that. Thank you so much for joining us.
This is Parent Savers’: Empowering New Parents!
This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though information in which areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, Medical or advisor care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.
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