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“As long as I can, I will look at this world for both of us, as long as I can, I will laugh with the birds, I will sing with the flowers, I will pray to the stars, for both of us.”

~Author unknown

 

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I have been supporting and writing resources for bereaved parents, grandparents and surviving multiples for over 32 years and a few thoughts come to mind for the latter, i.e. surviving co-multiples (SC). SC, even when they lose their co-multiple in utero, at birth, shortly thereafter or in early childhood, can grieve enormously for their special womb mate(s). Survivors who have had their co-multiple for years and decades before he or she dies, find it extremely hard to go from “We” to “I.” One man stopped shaving when his MZ twin died, because he could not bear looking in the mirror. It is not uncommon for a survivor to want to die, kill themselves, and join their co-multiple.
 
I have thought long and hard about to better prepare, if it is at all possible, the SC for when the time came when they must be alone. Of course there will be difficult days, unbearable grief, fear, loneliness, emptiness, feeling incomplete and so much more. But what if parents did better at the beginning of their multiples’ lives? By better, I mean teaching and encouraging their multiples to not only enjoy their multiple relationship but also be comfortable with being alone and separated from time to time from their co-multiple? Some ideas I have in mind are quite a few “DON’Ts”:
 
-DON’T give them rhyming names, or names which begin with the same letter as this presents them as a package;
-DON’T call them “the twins” or “the triplets” which also presents them as a group and there is no individuality in these labels, nor is their gender known;
-DON’T continually dress them alike. Once again, it presents them as a group and it can impossible to recognize the individual;
-DON’T always take them out only together. Split them up from time to time for errands, groceries, doctor appointments, sleep overs at grandparents and so much more. This helps them be apart, yet they can enjoy each other’s company upon their return. Parents also get one-on-one time;
-DON’T keep doing their hair alike. Let each individual personality shine through;
-DON’T insist they only sleep together or in the same room. Give them each their own space. Room in your house may be a challenge but there are ways to “divide” a room so that each area can reflect the personality of the occupant.
-DON’T insist they be in the same classroom because they are multiples. When possible, let them develop without them always being under their co-multiple’s eye.
-DON’T dress them alike each day for school. This is not only hard on teachers having to use their names and correctly tell them apart, but it is confusing for peers too. Not everyone appreciates your children dressed alike.
-DON’T insist that each be invited to the same parties. This can cause problems for any multiple not originally invited. Allow each to branch out, have their own friends and then do something special with the one not invited.
-DON’T force them to be in the same sports or after school activities. Allow each to shine on their own merits.  Yes it means you drive to only one place, but it also can negatively effect your multiples over the long run.
 
No studies have been put in place to see if any of these ideas would help support SC get through their loss experience later in life, but I wonder if it would be worth a try to see if encouraging and supporting individuality within our multiples would help over the long run. We CANNOT get caught up at the front end of our children’s lives with items that “make parents happy (such as dressing them alike all the time or giving them rhyming names),” when at the end of their lives they will need to face their permanent separation with no tools in their toolbox to cope. There is a good chance that we may not be around to help our survivor cope with the magnitude of their loss so it stands to reason that parents need to look at outfitting their multiples from birth for the time when they will eventually have to stand alone. Based on this, can we not consider some of the above, and maybe other DON’Ts as well, in order to ensure that our survivors have the best chance possible of not choosing the idea of killing themselves in order to be with their co-multiple???
 
For more in depth information on Survivors of Multiple Births, please see my Web Site at http://www.jumelle.ca

It is common to have a balloon release at either funerals or memorials and let’s face it, the colourful balloons are appealing as they gently wend their way skyward, seemingly heading towards Heaven and where we believed our loved ones have gone.  They are hard to resist and all those present can partake.

PLEASE RECONSIDER A BALLOON RELEASE.  Some balloons are noted as being biodegradable but over what period of time?  If a released balloon is made of mylar, it is not biodegradable.  What about the ribbons or strings attached to the balloons?  Are they biodegradable too?  Balloons can float for miles and get caught on Hydro wires, in trees, come to rest in lakes, rivers and on the ground.  In these places they can be mistaken by birds, turtles and fishes as food and when ingested, they block their digestive systems causing death.  Birds’ necks can get caught in strings/ribbons affecting their ability to swallow and eventually causing their deaths.  Even their feet are at risk of becoming entangled when the ribbons are stuck in trees.  If caught on wires, balloons and strings can cause disruption to electrical services and in trees, at a minimum, they are an eye sore.

CONSIDER HAVING A HOMING PIGEON OR DOVE RELEASE INSTEAD.  This is equally beautiful and memorable service, doesn’t hurt the environment and the birds wend their way back home after they are released.

Do you have another alternative to balloons that you would like to share?

 

 

 

 

On Mother’s Day, I can think of no Mother more deserving than a Mother who had to

give one back.

Erma Bombeck

 

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From “Tim’s Goodbye.”

Right this moment, somewhere in the world a parent is being skewered by the existential questions of a 3-year-old. Do dogs have birthdays? Do all the ants know each other? Why is that lady crying? When my son was 3, he wanted to know where he was when I was that age. I told him he didn’t exist yet. “No,” he said, firmly, “I was just very, very small.”

But the hardest questions to answer are those about death, because death is so very hard for any of us to understand. Every death leaves a gaping hole and a pile of questions. Where did they go? Can they still think? If we talk to them, can they hear us? And what do we do with our grief and confusion and aching hearts?

At 4 years old, my first child, Olive, found a wilting sparrow on the sidewalk, named it Betty and asked if we could take it home to fix it. We tried our best with a shoe box bed, an eyedropper of mush and a blanket from the doll’s house, but we failed. Betty the bird was dead. Having recently read Margaret Wise Brown’s “The Dead Bird” (the original edition had drawings by Remy Charlip, but it has been newly illustrated by Christian Robinson), we knew we must organize a proper funeral. But there was a problem. We lived in a third-floor walk-up without a patch of dirt big enough to bury a sparrow. Our neighbors rose to the occasion, offering their garden and a barbecue wake, and in the end it was quite a send-off. Their 8-year-old son wiped his eyes solemnly and said, in a thick Brooklyn accent, “I’m tearin’ up and I didn’t even know Betty!”

Olive’s first small experience with death was eased with community and a picture book.

We read to our children for the same reasons we read books ourselves: to be entertained, to feel less alone, to find help navigating things we don’t understand. There are picture books about where babies come from and about losing a tooth and about the first day of school. And now and then a brave author gives us a book about the end of life.

For me, the gold standard of picture books about death is “Duck, Death and the Tulip,” by Wolf Erlbruch. Duck meets Death, and she’s horrified to realize he’s been with her all along, waiting. It’s hard to describe how this extraordinarily tender book manages to be both heartbreaking and comforting, but it does.

Continue reading the main story

And now three new books tackle the subject, in very different ways. TIM’S GOODBYE (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 40 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8),written and illustrated by Steven Salerno (“Wild Child”), has retro, Ludwig Bemelmans-inspired illustrations in black crayon line on a flat, digital, yellow background. The main character, Margot, is sad because “Tim is gone.” Salerno rapidly introduces a cast of characters who help Margot give her dead pet turtle, the titular Tim, a send-off. It is a mystery what’s happening for most of the book as the children come and go, one of them floating in on a trio of balloons, until the rock, which has been static on each page, is revealed to be poor Tim. The balloons come into service again to lift the turtle, now in a cardboard box, up to the heavens where he possibly becomes a constellation. This gentle story might be just the introduction some readers seek, but for me, the slow reveal that Tim is a dead pet was so light-handed, it left me feeling detached.

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From “A Stone for Sascha.” Credit

A STONE FOR SASCHA (Candlewick, 48 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), written and illustrated by Aaron Becker (the “Journey” trilogy), is the wordless story of a girl trying to process the death of her dog. Initially, at least. Lushly illustrated in digital pastels, it soon expands to take on time and history and cosmology and the interconnectedness of things. On vacation at the beach with her family, seeing another child with a dog, the girl hurls a stone into the sea. On the next page, a golden meteor plummets toward Earth, is lodged deep underground during the Paleozoic era, erupts in a dinosaur-scattering earthquake, and then across various ancient civilizations is alternately worshiped, sculpted, erected, celebrated, crushed, sold, neglected, discovered, plundered and lost to the bottom of the sea. Where, washed by time to a smooth golden stone, it is found by our girl on the beach, who takes it home to place on the dog’s grave. Everyone’s experience of death is personal and the same might be said of books. Some children might consider the leaps in this book too great, others will return to ponder the cinematic images and puzzle out the connections.

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From “The Funeral.”

Matt James’s THE FUNERAL (Groundwood, 40 pp., $18.95; ages 4 to 8) is an oddly exhilarating story of Norma’s first experience of a funeral. In fact, she approaches it more as a “fun-eral,” as the book’s cover makes clear with the bright acrylic and collaged blossom-laden tree, the exuberant children and the separation of “fun” from “eral” in the title typography. Like Viorst, James (“When the Moon Comes”) has an ear at child level and beautifully and convincingly shows us children who fidget during the service and consider a mourner’s hairy ear perhaps more than they think about the deceased. But they are not completely irreverent, just children, who are full of life.

For most books about death are also about life, and we are lucky to have them to help us through both.

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.     Eleanor Roosevelt

Learning to accept what was unthinkable changes you.   Jackie Kennedy

We cannot afford to forget any experience, not even the most painful.

 Dag Hamarshjold

 

Truth……

Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.

A. Sachs