Is our second child still a “little sister” if our first child passed away?

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By: Aaron LoganCC BY 2.0
I am about to have my second daughter. Most people will look at my daughter and see her as an only child, but I cannot help but think of her as a little sister. Her big sister passed away almost a year ago.

While on a recent shopping trip with a friend we spotted an “I’m a Little Sister” onesie, and my friend said, “Oh, I want to get that for the baby.” I immediately loved my friend a little more.

My question is: because most people won’t know the story of how our eldest child passed away, what challenges might we encounter if we introduce our second child as a “little sister?” — Laura

Comments on Is our second child still a “little sister” if our first child passed away?

  1. Hi, I know you asked this question a hundred years ago, but I just wanted to chime in. I’m the younger sister of a boy who lived only a week after he was born. I was born, healthy and strong, almost exactly a year later. My sister came 2.5 years after that. Since we were toddlers, my parents were very explicit about our older brother — he was part of the story of my family and the way I understood myself in the world. As a young child, I found the idea of having a dead older brother vaguely romantic and liked to fantasize about how we might have gotten along. I remember sharing the information with friends in kindergarten, most of whom were confused about how I could simultaneously have a brother and not have one (this is, I think, because of the confusing nature of death for children). My mother says she decided to be frank with us about our brother so that we didn’t think it was something shameful or secret when we did discover it. As it was, it was a relatively unremarkable part of my growing up and understanding of self.

    That said, I do have a very defined identity of “big sister” to my little sister. Being the oldest sibling is important to the way that I understand myself and my role in my family and sometimes, in the world. I don’t feel like anyone’s “little sister” even though my mother had a child before me.

    I know that for my mother early on it was hard for her to decide how to answer the questions “How many children do you have?” or “Is this your oldest?” But as time went on and our family grew into itself, she became more comfortable answering those questions without feeling like she was denying the existence or importance of my brother.

  2. I am Seven of Nine… I grew up believing to be Three of Four (two elder half-siblings, me, and my little brother), my parents never told me (us) in order to protect me (us) from the bad and tragic things that can happen, that happened (miscarriages, stillborn babies, accidents that kill toddlers). Even as a kid I’ve always sensed an inexplainable sadness in my parents, I knew that something was really wrong and that asking would be unwise… it made me sad and confused.

    My big brother, being Two of Nine and the eldest surviving sibling, remembers some and started revealing bits and pieces of the truth when I was in my early twenties. What a relief! Family secrets never do any good, they resemble a black and suffocating shadow. I would have loved the idea of growing up with three visible and five invisible siblings 😀

  3. Although my wife wasn’t pregnant for very long with our first child, Harper will always be remembered and I plan on telling our child(ren) about little Harper. Though we never got to meet little Harper, or even know if our precious baby was to be a boy or a girl. We love that baby and always will. We have a baby in heaven and hopefully soon we will be adding to our family here on Earth. I think that defining her as a little sister is perfect natural and it is all how YOU want to define your family, not others.

  4. I have two older half siblings (that I have no relationship with) and a younger brother who died before birth. While a “middle child”, my life has always been as an only child. I don’t get sibling jokes, I never had the anecdotes my friends did. Explaining my siblings to my elementary school social group was sad. “Oh, do they go this school?” Later, on social media it’s “tag the best sister in the world!” stuff.
    For a bit my phrase was “I have siblings but I don’t know my older ones and my little brothers in heaven”.
    My parents respected my decision to identify as a sole child (once they realized I was old enough to not be erroneous). In our family unit we always remember them, but in my social life only my close friends are aware.
    In offspring heirarchy/personality, I’m very much an ‘only child’ and okay with that.
    Celebrate your babies, here & not here. And be okay with how your little girl decides to present herself to the world.

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