Q: How can I get through the grief to care for my other children should one or more of my multiples die?

A: Parents who lose one or more, but not all, of their multiples, may feel that family members and friends, as well as their medical professionals underestimate their intense feelings of grief. Though well-intentioned, members of a parent’s support network often fail to realize that grief for the loss of one or more multiple is just as intense as the grief experienced after any child’s death. Comments like, “At least you have one [two, three] left” or “Focus on the living. Your survivors need you,” and “You would have had your hands full anyway” are not uncommon, but may be hurtful to parents.

In addition, the burden of caring for surviving children, often facing complex needs, may interfere or even postpone the grieving process for these parents.

At first, some parents may avoid bonding to surviving multiples for fear of additional losses; however other parents become hyper-attentive and possibly overprotective. “Compared with parents of intact sets of twins, parents of sole surviving twins have a greater risk of depression 5 years after the birth” (Pector & Smith-Levitin). Although each parent grieves uniquely, some parents of multiples have found the following helpful:

  • Acknowledge each deceased child as an individual.
  • Preserve memories through pictures and keepsakes.
  • Request some private time with the deceased baby to say good-bye even if the viewing must be delayed due to medical complications in the mother.
  • For infants lost after 20 weeks gestation, discuss funeral options with the hospital or health care professionals.
  • Don’t hesitate to request that medical professionals take special care in protecting your family’s privacy during this time.

The above information was provided by Elizabeth Pector M.D., and Michelle Smith-Levitin, M.D.

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