Sorrow and Guilt Following Sibling’s Death

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This story was a collaboration between WLRN’s youth project and Urgent INC, and Youth Radio. 


By: Precious Gause/ WLRN 

I walked across the grass at Vista Memorial Gardens in Hialeah, Florida, a city west of Miami. I made my way alongside my mom, my brother, and some friends. This wasn’t a flower garden that we were strolling through. This was a graveyard. There’s a whole section where babies are buried, and that’s where my little brother is now.  I turned around to see my mother cry openly in front of me.

My little brother Troy would have turned one today, but he didn’t even make it to one day old.

To be honest, for the most part, I didn’t want the baby. I already had an eight-year-old brother, and I just wasn’t interested in another addition to our family. Back then, I told my mom a million times that I would not help her out with the baby once he was born.

“How did I make you feel, knowing that I didn’t want you to have the baby?” I asked her.

“Well, I understood why. But I knew that I couldn’t go through with having an abortion because I am a Christian and I live by the Bible,” she said.

I didn’t want a baby getting in the way of my relationship with my mom. However, my brother Nick really wanted another sibling. Back then, he was so excited about the baby’s arrival that he used to imagine meeting Troy for the first time. Nick said he knew he was going to love the baby immediately. “We had a connection, a brotherly affection,” he said.

But seven months into my mom’s pregnancy, she didn’t feel the baby moving. “The baby was a very active baby, so I felt something was wrong. So I went to the hospital.” There, they told her the baby’s heart wasn’t beating.

“My sister was waiting for me in the waiting room. She came in, she heard me crying and she asked what was going on,” my mother recalled.

Troy was stillborn. When I saw him, all I could do was cry. He was in my mom’s arms turning blue. At the moment, I really thought that I had killed this baby by stressing my mom out about not wanting it. The thing is, by that point, I had actually gotten used to the idea of my mom having a baby.

It just tore me apart seeing my mom so sad and depressed. Her grief made me feel even guiltier, but we never really talked about it. So I sat her down and asked, “Why didn’t you ever talk about the death of my brother?”

“Because it was very painful and I was very emotional about what happened. [It was] a very devastating loss and I just never really wanted to face losing him,” she said.

In the months that followed, my mom did talk to my pastor. Though I’m glad she found some solace, I wish she had talked to me, too. I also needed counsel.

I asked her, “Did you know that once you lost the baby, I was really upset and realized that I wanted you to have the baby?”

“I knew that, because I think that guilt set in. It was not your fault. I don’t never want you to feel like it was, ‘cause it was not your fault. I even blamed myself but you know God has healed my heart concerning that.”

But back at the grave site where we came to celebrate the life of my brother, there wasn’t much of a celebration. All of the mementos that we had placed on his grave—a glass angel, flowers and little lights—were smashed and thrown into a corner. The destruction of our little memorial rubbed in the fact that Troy did not yet have a gravestone. Mom couldn’t afford it at the time.

Still, we found some peace knowing that he’s in a better place. And I can say that a year after his death, most of the guilt for both of us has gone away. We can talk about it more and it’s really sort of brought us together.

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