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My 6 Year Old Niece Died Suddenly

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My 6 year old niece died suddenly a month ago. She was a completely healthy strong little girl, and then all the sudden she wasn't.

She had been suck for a few days with a low grade fever and a headache. Her parents thought it was just the bug going around. One morning she woke up still complaining of her headache, but asking her parents if she could still go to her cheer competition the upcoming weekend. She was so excited about it. She fell back to sleep. When her father went to wake her an hour or so later, she started seizing. He rushed her to the hospital, where she continued seizing until at one point she stopped breathing And was intubated. She never woke up from that point. Once many tests had been run we were told that she was brain dead and she died from bacterial meningitis.

That was a month ago. I know people who usually post in this area are parents. I'm looking for guidance on how to support my sister. She has been completely devastated by this, understandably. Her children are her world. She has another son who is 12 and she's trying to be there for him, but I can tell she is in complete agony. I've never seen someone in such pain and agony. Her and her husband are dealing with their grief in such different ways and I think she feels very alone.

I have been with her for this whole month, since as soon as we found out my niece was sick, but I live far away and need to return home soon. Does anyone have advice on how to support her from afar?

I think eventually she may wNt to do a sort of group therapy but right now she says she isn't ready. And it think she's come around to the idea to talking to a counselor for herself. She has ready set her son up for counseling.

I know she needs to grieve and get thru it herself. But she is my big sister and my absolute best friend and it kills me that she is I. Such tremendous pain and I can't help her. Any bit of advise wod be greatly appreciated.

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Dear One,

I’m so sorry to learn of the death of your precious niece a month ago, and I can only imagine how devastating this must be for your sister, for her family and for you. And of course your lives are forever changed as a result -- because there is nothing more painful as losing a child. After all, we are not supposed to outlive our children, are we? It goes against the natural order of things, it just isn't fair and it is so very, very hard to accept. Nevertheless, as I'm sure you already know, the bond you have with this child will be with all of you forever, just as long as you keep her memory and the love you share with her alive in your hearts. Your sister will always be her mother, you will always be her aunt, and she will always be your beloved niece. Death may end a life, but it certainly does not end the bond of love that exists between you and this precious child.

You’ve asked for advice on how to help your sister, and I hope you'll take time to visit each of the pages on our Grief Healing Web site - it contains a wealth of information as well as links to many other wonderful sites, each of which I've reviewed personally. See especially the links listed on the Death of an Infant, Child or Grandchild page; many of these sites were developed by parents, grandparents and other relatives whose feelings and experiences may be similar to your own. See also Helping Someone Who’s Grieving.

In addition to what is available to you online, I sincerely hope that you’ll encourage your sister to find someone to talk to about this. The loss of a child is a burden much too heavy to bear alone. You can tell her that sharing her feelings, reactions and experiences with another (a trusted friend or family member, a grief counselor, someone on the Internet, a clergy person or in a support group comprised of other grieving parents and grandparents) gives her a safe place to express herself, helps her understand that what she is feeling is normal, and may give her the hope that if others have found a way to survive a loss like this, then she will find her own way, too.

You could be quite helpful in doing this research for your sister. On her behalf, you can contact her local library, mortuary or hospice organization to find out what bereavement resources are available in her community. I also encourage you to contact the local chapter of The Compassionate Friends, whose mission is to assist families toward the positive resolution of grief following the death of a child of any age, and to provide information to help others be supportive. (The chapter locator is here: http://www.compassionatefriends.org/Local_Chapters/Chapter_Locator.aspx.) See also the MISS Foundation, which also offers support and resources after the death of a child.

Help your sister to find and read some of the wonderful books about coping with the death of a child, to help both of you learn what to expect in the weeks and months ahead, and reassure you both that you are not alone in this grief of yours. See my site’s Articles ~ Columns ~ Books page for suggestions.

Your sister may find these articles useful in understanding and supporting her 12-year old:

Helping Grieving Children: A List of Resources

Tips for Helping Children and Adolescents in Grief

Another resource available to your sister is the one you’ve already found: our online Grief Healing Discussion Groups. The forum you're in right now is available to her at no cost, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your sister is most welcome to join us.

To give you an idea of what her organization has done, I want to refer you to an interview with Patricia Loder, Executive Director of The Compassionate Friends. This woman transformed her grief into a way to help others who have shared the experience of losing a child. In this interview with Hospice Foundation of America's Lisa Veglahn, Patricia discusses what she has learned through her own experience as a grieving parent, and the role that her organization now plays in helping grieving parents, grandparents, siblings and others who are struggling with the death of a beloved child.You can read the interview by clicking this link: http://hfahospice.blogspot.com/2008/12/interview-with-patricia-loder-executive.html

It’s also important that your sister keeps her primary care physician informed as to what's going on in her life, following his or her advice, and doing all she can to take good care of herself physically as well as emotionally.

I have no profound answers as to how you help your sister to live with this, other than to encourage her not to try to travel this grief journey alone. And as other bereaved parents have learned, she will do this just as she is doing it now: day-to-day, one day at a time, and if that is too much, one hour or even just one moment at a time. I’ve said it elsewhere, but it bears repeating: I happen to think that a person in your sister’s shoes deserves a medal of honor just for having the courage to get out of bed in the morning.

I also encourage you to pay attention to your own grief as well. The grief you feel at the loss of your niece and the pain you feel for your sister is real, and just as worthy of support.

Please know that we are thinking of all of you, pulling for you and holding you in our collective hearts.

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I am so sorry about your niece. This is so hard, especially for the parents/siblings.

My oldest sister lost her three year old in an auto accident. My youngest sister lost her nearly two year old from natural causes (she was born w/o a brain, all but the nubbin that controlled reflexes). Both were hard. They mourned all of the dreams one has when they have a child, plus missing the child themself.

I listened to my sisters, wasn't afraid to bring the child up and talk about them (A lot of people are afraid to for fear of upsetting the parent. The parent does not want the child's name avoided, they want them remembered and want to know that others cared about them too). We all contributed to a physical memorial for their back yard (a fountain with a cherub). It is also good to remember the anniversary of their birth and death, maybe a msg on FB, a card, flowers, something saying you share in their sorrow. It helps to recount the good times/memories, tell them what you remember about their child.

You might remind them to take a day at a time. If they have a faith, remembering they will be reunited again builds hope and reassurance. If not, many believe that energy does not stop but rather changes form, and the memory continues to live on in our hearts.

They also might want to consider a grief counselor and eventually a grief support group...it helps to know they are not alone, there are others who have lost their children.

I hope you'll continue to post and let us know how it's going.

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I am so very sorry about the loss of your niece. Losing a child is, as you know, about as challenging as life gets. Marty and Kay have provided great information and Marty's links will take you to readings that will educate you and your sister and that will be helpful in and of itself.

I want to pick up on something Marty said and that is to be certain you attend to your own grief and needs at this time as you also assist your sister and your nephew. I have a sister and two nieces and I know that if I lost one of those nieces, I would be in deep grief myself. So do monitor your own fatigue and grief. As Marty mentioned the Compassionate Friends exists to assist families and you are family. So when you feel ready, I would encourage you to check out your local organization when you get home and seek support there.

Your sister is blessed with your love and presence at this painful time. Your lives are changed forever and it will take time to learn how to carry your grief and integrate it into your lives.

I wish you peace as you deal with this one day at a time,


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I am so sorry for your pain and especially your dear sister who is suffering the loss of her precious little girl.

So wonderful to see your love and concern for your sister.

You seem to be sensitive to her pain and that is how you will be a tremendous help to her.

Never ignore her pain or her broken heart.

Just be there.

Let her know that no matter what you are there for her.

She can always feel free to share her sorrow with you.

Cover her and the family in prayer, as this crushes each family member.

My heart goes out to the 12 year old who has lost a sibling.

Grief is a long slow process especially the death of a child.

I will be praying for you that God give you the strength, the love, the compassion to be the support your sister so needs.

I will keep you all in prayer.


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  • 2 years later...

It is so sad to have a loss like this in your family and I'm sure everyone is overwhelmed by a lot of feelings. I'm sure you feel really torn about having to leave your sister, and she will surely miss you and your help. Talking on the phone might enable you to continue to support her, although not as good as being there. When my mother died, my father was devastated since she was everything to him. I was across the country but I talked to him every day-usually for a long time, and he found it really helpful.

The posts by Marty and the others are full of ideas and resources. Counseling for your sister and her son would be great, and maybe you can get her on here as well. We will do all we can for her.

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This person posted over two years ago and hasn't been back since 3/10/14 so isn't likely to see your post.

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