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Am I Crazy? Lost My Nephew

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My brother and SIL wanted everything "natural" for the birth of their first child. When she went into labor she stayed home. When she started bleeding, she called it a "show". She woke up the next morning and felt nothing. 7 hours later went to the hospital to deliver their dead child - my only nephew.

At the funeral, I cried bitterly. She and my brother called it God's will and hardly seemed moved. They have celebrated his "milestones" and holidays as if he were still here and have many pictures of him (dead) all over the walls. Ok, fine. They are the parents and I respect their ways of grief and coping.

I got an email she had sent to all friends and family asking that we have a Creative Name project to make a photo album for his first birthday. The idea is you write his name creatively like with scrabble tiles or whatever. It's also our mom's 60th birthday. No mention of that.

I'm furious. I have pain when I think about him. I think this little *game* to celebrate his first birthday is as ridiculous as it can get. I finally spoke up and said in my reply, "Don't you have any respect for what those of us who lost him, too, are going through? Like mom? Can we just move on and accept that he's gone?"

I haven't heard from them. At this point, I would be happy to never hear from them.

Help me to understand what they're doing. Help me understand my grief.

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I think you're right in realizing that this is their way of expressing grief and coping. And maybe celebrating "life" - as in celebrating your mom's 60th birthday, would also be a healthy thing to do. But everyone handles grief differently, and who knows how long it may take to "move on". I have just recently lost my darling son, an adult but still my child, after watching him suffer and die of leukemia. I'm having a hard time, at least for now, of moving on. It's such an individual thing. Do they have other children? You could suggest counseling but other than that you have to move on for your own sake. Hope this helps.

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Dear One, I can go only by what you've shared here, and it's only a guess ~ but given the circumstances of your nephew's death, I have a hunch that your sister-in-law's initial reaction to the evidence that her pregnancy was in trouble (that is, ignoring the bleeding) generated an enormous amount of guilt after learning that her baby had died. She may or may not be conscious of this guilt, and her guilt may or may not be rational ~ but it's possible that her efforts to keep this baby alive (in a symbolic way) could represent a way to "undo" whatever part she thinks she may have played in causing her baby's death. Some might regard her behaviors in the wake of her baby's death to be extraordinary; others would say that these are simply her efforts to keep this baby's memory (and presence in her life) alive, because that is what she feels a need to do. Since she is still within a year of her baby's death, I would be hesitant to consider her behavior as abnormal.

The bottom line is this: Your sister-in-law is mourning the death of her baby in a way that feels normal for her, and she needs to find her own way through her grief, without anyone else's judgment or reproach. Nevertheless, I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you, as you're also feeling this loss ~ and I get the impression that you would prefer to cope with it in your own individual and private way, rather than feeling obligated to share in your sister-in-law's way of wanting to involve the entire family.

You might consider doing some reading about perinatal loss, so you'll have a better understanding of some of your sister-in-law's reactions; you'll find links to many helpful articles, books and other resources on the Death of an Infant, Child or Grandchild page of my Grief Healing Web site. See especially

Commemorating A Deceased Infant's Birthday

Keeping and Sharing Memories of Our Babies (Article by Monica Novak)

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