Mummy did I have a brother?

As you all know by now Ethan was my first born son. After we conceived Alfie my main focus was to focus on getting through the pregnancy without breaking down in to floods of tears too much. Then there was the focus on of he was healthy, the giving birth, would he survive etc etc etc.
Then after the nurses let me take Alfie home (I still remember that disbelief feeling, that question, “what, you mean I can actually take home home? I can keep this baby?”
Anyway I am straying from the point of this blog! After bringing Alfie home, obviously things we’re chaos for. While, settling in with a new born.
Then one day I as I gazed upon my rainbow baby smiling up at me, it dawned on me.
What on earth was I meant to tell Alfie?
When Ethan died William was 9 years old. So he was old enough to understand that Ethan was poorly and we had to deliver him early. He wouldn’t survive and he would go to heaven. Children are quite resilient and William took it quite well. He asked questions over the coming weeks, he didn’t come to the funeral. He didn’t want to which was fine. He asked me once about what was wrong with Ethan’s heart and I drew a picture for him. He relayed this back to me and he was content.
Over the years he hasn’t opened up much but I know he cares and he’s great about all things Ethan related and likes to be involved.
It was hard though as his Step Mum and may be Ste feels the same I don’t know, but for William we had to break his heart (in a manner of speaking, emotionally). He was expecting a sibling and instead he got memories.
Alfie will grow up with one brother here one in heaven. I mean how do you cope with that?
Obviously at the moment Alfie doesn’t really understand. We talk about Ethan and he can point him out on a photograph, he knows the bear is special and that it is Ethan’s bear. As you all know by now I am passionate about keeping Ethan’s memory alive and keeping him very much a part of our family, so hiding Ethan from Alfie or not talking about him is not an option.
So how do I explain to my almost three year old that he had a brother that now lives in heaven?
What kind of questions will arise in the future? I am sure there will be plenty and some of which I will have thought of and some not.
Alfie asked me the other day what my pin was for that I am wearing this week.
So I turned him round and sat him on my knee and I asked him did he want me to explain to him? So up on Alfie agreeing that he wanted to know I kept it simple and explained as best as I could.
Through fighting tears I explained to Alfie that before he was born, Mummy had another baby, that was unfortunately very poorly and he couldn’t come home with Mummy and Daddy and instead he went to heaven. I pointed to Ethan’s picture and said, that’s the baby Mummy had. I told him Ethan’s bear was special as it is a part of Ethan but that he is very much looked after in heaven. I explained that this week we are remembering all the little babies that had to go away and lighting candles for them.
Then the tears fell as Alfie turned and said to me……..”Mummy I don’t want him to go away……….I want him to come home with you”
It broke my heart. Then he said to me, I want to be with you and Daddy.
Oh Christ. My poor baby. All I could do was to give Alfie a huge cuddle and tell him he will always come home with Mummy and Daddy and that he is so so very special, I said that Ethan is with us all the time and that talking about him and remembering him means he is still with us.
Now this only lasted for a few minutes and Alfie was fine after, like I said children are resilient. It gave me an insight though into all the future conversations.
Would Alfie be angry at us at what we did?
Would he grieve in the future over the brother he had?
Would he have problems, doubts and are over his children that he might have?
There’s all kinds of doubts and fears that I have over what will come of Alfie asking about Ethan. I have no doubt he will ask at the most in opportune times but hey that’s what kids do right?
I know at some point all children have to learn about death, I just wish that we were starting with a pet that’s died and not a brother that he once had. The pets I have will out live me and be left to the boys so he will never leant that way.
Alfie will learn the hard way, by growing up in a family were there was once a baby that lived and died.
I think now though, 3 years after Alfie was born. It’s now become just a regular matter of fact things about teaching Alfie about Ethan. I guess I just wanted to write this to show that there are all sorts of obstacles about grief and it’s not just about you as a parent. It’s also about the living children you ,any have and what on earth do you tell them. The rainbow bubble is nice for a while, but the reality sets in that one day, they will want to know.
Alfie you once had a brother, his name was Ethan. He was too poorly to stay and had to go to heaven and live in the stars, he couldn’t come home with Mummy and Daddy. You can always come home with us though baby. Always.
R.I.P Ethan Shepherd

Categorised as Baby loss

By Admin

I am Mrs Shep aka Emma. Mum of boys. I suffer for FND and I also have dyslexia and dyspraxia. I chat about everything from baby loss and (sen) parenting to general life stuff. I even through in some meal ideas and recipes sometimes too!


  1. He’ll understand. Maybe not at first but he will eventually as he grows and matures.
    It’s so hard to explain death. I like my dads memory to leave on and Lucas to know about his Grandad but it’s difficult explaining it because I don’t want him to worry that if he gets ill, he’s going to die. We tell him Grandad Chris lives in the stars and then he innocently sayings “I want to be in the stars with Grandad Chris”
    Not knowing the meaning behind what he’s saying but I know when he’s older I will be able to explain more and he will get it then I can share more memories.

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