It was a typical night, our bedtime routine almost complete. I tucked my daughter in, but as I turned off the light, my surviving triplet caught me off guard.
“What do you think Abby is doing in Heaven right now,” Peyton asked. “Do you think she wears glasses like me?”
My heart sped up a few beats as tears formed in my eyes. Abby is my daughter’s identical sister, one of two triplets who passed away within two months of birth. A perfect storm of complications led me to deliver our triplets more than 17 weeks premature. Our firstborn, Abby, passed away shortly after birth. 55 days later, we faced unbearable grief once again as our son, Parker, passed away in the NICU.
My surviving triplet never met her sister outside of the womb.
I wiped away the tears and sat on my daughter’s bed. Now 9-years-old, Peyton understands her journey in life and the many obstacles she has overcome to be alive today. With her head on my shoulder, we talked about her identical sister. We giggled when thinking about the books she might be reading in Heaven, and we smiled as we discussed whether the two of them might have the same fashion sense.
As I got up to leave the room, my daughter had one last thought.
“I hope I dream about Abby and Parker,” she said as she closed her eyes and wandered off to sleep.
It’s no secret, when you walk inside our home there are memories of three perfect babies and a family left to balance life between Heaven and Earth. There are pictures of preemies and little mementos of their time in the NICU. There are two small heart urns engraved with initials, protecting the remains of our two children who are no longer here. And there’s a beautiful picture with our daughter, two shadows next to her as if her brother and sister were walking side by side.
The names “Parker and Abby” are often spoken in our home, and we don’t shy away from the difficult conversations about why Peyton is alive, yet her brother and sister are not. My daughter has watched me cry during heartbreaking milestones, and her eyes have lit up as we’ve pulled out old videos showing Peyton with her brother in the NICU. Through those moments, our daughter has blossomed into a strong and caring young girl, wise beyond her years.
What Comes Next?
There is no handbook for child loss. There is no right or wrong way to parent a child who is alive, when her brother and sister are not. But luckily, there is help as parents learn to navigate life after loss.
Remembering A Life offers a free booklet, “When A Child Dies: Planning Acts of Love and Legacy,” for parents of child loss that not only helps in the planning of funeral arrangements, but also navigating beyond the initial loss. When you lose a child, it’s as if life has come to a screeching halt, yet the world around you continues. It’s hard to figure out how to move forward when the grief consumes you, especially in the weeks and months following the loss.
Remembering A Life is there to help. From advice on carrying forward, to tips on finding additional support, the Remembering A Life website and “When A Child Dies” is a lifeline for grieving family members. As parents find their new normal, many times we search for ways to honor and remember our children who passed away. Remembering A Life offers ideas such as naming a star after your child, keeping pictures or a footprint in a special place and creating a memorial ornament to hang on a Christmas tree.
My family has always found ways to include Abby and Parker in our lives. Each year, we celebrate them on our son’s “Angelversary”, what we call the anniversary of our son’s death. When our survivor was young, we asked her how she wanted to celebrate her brother and sister, and like any child would exclaim, she insisted on a party. So, we raced around town to pick up a cake and party hats and celebrated Abby and Parker. That tradition is still going strong several years later.
You never get over the loss of a child. Even 9+ years later, I have moments of deep grief that arise when I least expect it. But over time, it changes, and you learn that there can be a spot in your heart for both the grief and the joy. My family is very communicative about life after loss. We love to have open conversations with our children, which now includes a precious rainbow baby, a term often used to describe a baby born after weathering the storm of child loss.
Remembering A Life has a unique conversation starter that my family loves to use. It’s a simple deck of cards with prompts to talk about our lives, everything from memorable moments, to our favorite places and people. There is even a kids version, with questions that are both silly and serious.
As a bereaved mother, I’ve learned that time is precious. My triplets gave me new purpose in life, teaching me to live in the moment, that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Child loss is a club that no parent ever wants to be part of, but with the help of Remembering A Life, you can find ways to not only honor your child, but also heal in the process. I’m a different person today than I was nine years ago, and I credit my children for making me who I am today. I may hold two children in my heart, but I will always be a triplet mom.