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“I Have a Sister. She’s Dead.”

“I Have a Sister. She’s Dead.”

Children are so beautiful. 

They are blissfully unaware of the social awkwardness of some of the things they say. It’s such a gift.

I am almost 30 weeks pregnant, and everywhere we go, people ask one simple question to Caroline.

“Are you having a little brother or a little sister?”

Caroline is turning 4 this month. 

A little over one year ago, as most of you know, we lost her baby sister to Trisomy 13

We quickly learned, that as you go through the grieving process with a child, you need to give blunt answers.

We couldn’t tell our then 2.5 year old that her sister was sick. That was a mistake we learned from very quickly, and early on. 

Sick translated into our toddler wondering if she would also die if she had a “cold”. 

Our words, in our difficult time of grief, had to be blunt, honest, and clear.

We talk a lot about death in this house. 

Our daughter, April, died. She’s dead. 

Caroline asks the specifics all the time. She wants to know how her sister died, why her sister died, if she was alive at all, where she is, what happened to her body, and on and on.

Grief with a toddler is hard. 

You are forced to talk about death constantly to help them through their grief. 

As adults it’s uncomfortable. It’s not what we want to be talking about. 

We like to keep things subtle. We talk around issues. We sugar coat things.

But here’s the brutal reality- my daughter is dead. 

We didn’t “lose” her. She died.

No one knows this, more than her grieving big sister. 

Caroline misses April terribly. As we’ve traveled down this path of my next pregnancy, it’s been difficult to say the least.

I’ve had a hard time getting excited and letting myself connect with this pregnancy.

Caroline has slipped up and called the new baby “April”, instead of “William”. 

The mere thought of another child makes us miss April so much. 

My husband worries about me- about all of us. He takes care of us and we all do our best to take care of one another.

Still, a constant, daily topic in our house is death.

Quite honestly, it’s insanely healthy. We talk. We process. We grieve. We remember. And we practice these healthy behaviors mostly because of Caroline leading the way. 

Our almost 4 year old is so acutely aware of what death is, that her emotions are heightened and extra sensitive.

A simple discussion of fire safety, or safety in the water, causes her to be overcome with sadness and fear. Fear of losing her living family members.

She cries instantly. Not because she was startled by the firefighters. Not because she was startled by her instructor pretending to fall in the water.


She cries because she’s terrified of something happening to her Mama, her Daddy, her brother, herself, or her dogs.

She’s aware of what can happen. She’s aware of death.

She doesn’t take these situations lightly. 

And so, while the other children are playing along with the safety lesson, she’s crying in fear of the worst.

It hurts my heart so much to see her tiny self have to worry about such big issues. I want to take on all of the worry for her. I so wish I could. 

There are times I wish she didn’t have to know the harsh realities of death.

And then there are times that I am so incredibly happy that we chose to include her in discussions about her sister. 

She’s become a strong, sensitive, passionate, loving, and thoughtful person. 

Caroline is mature and she’s compassionate. She’s brave and beautiful.

Caroline remembers with us.

April lives on in our family every minute of every day. 

So, when someone asks her the question-
“Are you having a little brother or a little sister?”

Her response is music to my ears.

Caroline’s response is:

“Both. We already have April. She’s dead. And next it’s a little brother”

At first, I found myself apologizing for the awkwardness and bluntness of my daughter. I caught myself, however, and stopped.

Caroline’s response is so beautiful. So perfect.

It makes people uncomfortable to hear the word “dead” in general.

It doubly makes them uncomfortable when they have no idea what happened or what to say. 

I stopped my apology, and instead I briefly explained.

“Caroline has a sister, April, who died at birth. And a brother on the way.”

I then thanked Caroline in front of everyone for remembering April and talking about her. 

Talk of April might make others uncomfortable. But it makes us happy. We love it when she’s remembered. 

We love to hear her name spoken.

We carry her energy with us wherever we go. 

So today, I want to thank our daughter for remembering.

I want to thank her for being brave and beautiful.

I want to thank her for speaking the words that are often so hard.