Q: What helps a triplet, quadruplet, or other multiple cope with the loss of a multiple birth sibling?
A: All children need consistent, loving attention from the adults in their lives. The best thing a grieving parent can do is to seek help and support for their grief if they have trouble coping, so they will be more available to nurture their survivors. During the worst times, a grandparent or other trusted adult can step in to offer tender loving care in the parents’ absence.
Young survivors might misinterpret a parent’s sadness as a sign the survivors did something to upset the parent. It is helpful to name the cause of sadness, and say, “Mommy loves you very much and is happy with you, but she’s also sad that your brother/sister died. People can be both happy and sad at the same time.”
Some survivors say they feel sad or lonely–even if they are not told about the child(ren) who died! Steadfast parental love and willingness to listen to their children’s pain help a lot. The topic of loss should not be taboo. Parents might encourage their survivors to draw a picture, write a poem or compose a song to show their feelings.
Sole survivors might find contact with intact sets of multiples helpful to understand that life with same-age siblings can be filled with chaos and conflict as well as companionship. Counseling or play therapy can help children who seem unusually withdrawn, sad, or focused on death or risk-taking.
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