My Daughter Died. How Do I Introduce Her to My Son?

Someday, before long, my wife and I will have to sit down and explain to him that he has a sister, and why she’s not here.

Comments: 96

  1. When I was 25 my only sibling died of lymphoma. When we meet new people they often ask about you, your family, etc and when I was younger it was so hard for me to answer because it would always become awkward, then they would ask about my parents and - my dad died when I was in high school, on Christmas Day, senior year. It’s always awkward, and then I find myself trying to look brave and console the people who were just being nice.

  2. @Deirdre It's hard no matter how old we are, isn't it? I lost my (fraternal twin) sister two years ago and we were 51. (it was an accident). I keep feeling strange there is no "we" anymore...we were the only siblings. And we were the same age though not close so it was "our" birthday. So now I"m 53 and she's only 51 and it's so very weird and sad. I"m sorry for your multiple loses. I can only imagine what it's like to lose a parent so young. I lost both of mine by 35 and it still rocked me and really I wasn't young at all comparatively just younger than my friends who are losing their parents now. I wasn't ready.

  3. I was blessed to have a sister for 34 years. Tragically she died in an automobile accident. This tribute to your daughter is beautiful. Keep her memory alive.

  4. Wow....... Greta is loved Your son will have your memories. Greta would be fine with that ..,.,,, Her accident will give clarity to your behavior,.... for him as he grows up.

  5. Spectacular, intimate portrayal of an unspeakable tragedy. Godspeed.

  6. Oof this is so moving. Thank you. They don't have to sit their child down at all, though. People just talk about the sister and answer questions as they come up. Not making it a big deal is easier for everyone and tends to work better. My friend lost a baby before her daughter was born, and her daughter never knew a time she didn't know she had a sister who had died when she was very little. When the child sees pictures and you point out it's not them but the dead child, you just explain. I think the parents understandable pain and trauma is having them worry about this but it'll be fine for their kid.

  7. So tender and somber and haunting. There is no recovering from a loss like the heartbreak of saying goodbye to Greta, and the eternal silence that ensues. My heart extends with love to her family...

  8. Thank you. Your piece is beautifully powerful. I wish you strength and wisdom (you seem to be mustering those qualities already).

  9. A very moving story, with brilliant animation--thanks to all the artists involved.

  10. Mr. Greene: You are a wonderful writer and father, please do not think that I am mean, but your awesome burden, your tragedy is yours, not to be shared with a three year old. Please do not sit him down and explain-- to love him more because he loves his dead sister and perhaps lighten your soul. I send you love and courage and freedom for your son to be your only child.

  11. @Kathy Millard I can tell from your words your intentions are not mean. I remember this story and just now went back and read some of the news reports from it. They were gut-wrenching. I always had two rules, never talk about religion or politics - since it will usually end badly. When I had my own kids I added a third, never talk about how others parent their kids. The story is unbearable and how the parents cope is something they have to decide for themselves.

  12. well the tragedy is not your sons. no more than dead grandparents are a direct loss for later born grandchildren. parents should not force tragedy on a child who has no relationship with the event or those involved. you explain the event in age appropriate terms, and answer all questions as best you can...admit to none if you have no immediate answers, and get back to them when you do, or have mulled the questions over. keep the channels of communication open, and expect to be blindsided by random questions, or comments. and be prepared for some child-insight that will help you more then you could expect. but dont force the child to adopt the event as their own tragedy. and never shut them out of your own mourning. explain its natural for you to miss them. but its not their burden to carry, or fix for you.

  13. My condolences for your loss and thank you for sharing this story. The whole piece was moving. I lost my sister but at a much older age but still young. I remember everything about her even after all these years. I try to remember all the wonderful moments we shared together and rarely, if ever think about the tragic circumstances that took her life. It makes it better. Having known other families with similar experiences I would hazard a guess and say your son will take this news very well. You will be surprised how smart kids are and they almost already know what you have not told them as yet. Just as you can sense your child's feelings, they do the same about their parents.

  14. I won't go into specifics but the story is personally relatable. The problem wasn't how the children associated with their dead brother. They knew before they knew something was amiss. The problem was how the parents treated the children in response to their own grief. Needless to say, despite good intentions, things didn't go exactly great. The older daughter took the lesser brunt but not unscathed. The 2nd son had a harder time. The mother couldn't really handle the child fairly without revisiting the trauma of the 1st infant son's death. The children understood perfectly well why their unknown brother was dead. They can still talk about it comfortably today. What they didn't understand was why their mother treated them any differently as a result. They were children. Infants even. Why was mom upset? It's a difficult question to answer when mom is at least physically gesturing guilt toward a child. It not something we intentionally do. However, you can't really control grief sometimes. Children pickup on the physical cues whether you meant them or not.

  15. First, don't rush. Time is your ally. I found out about a younger brother after I had learned to read. Mom had a large bible that had a genealogy section and I sat down with it one day when I was probably 6 years old. I read the names of my great-grand- and grandparents, my aunts and uncles, Mom and Dad and my own, the eldest, and right after mine a name I had never before seen: Melvin Neal. Melvin (I think he would have been called Neal, if the name I answered to is any indication) was born when I was a year and 8 months old. And Neal died 9 days later, succumbing to "yellow jaundice" of the newborn. Had the hospital's nursery used fluorescent lighting instead of incandescent, he very likely would have lived. But the efficacy of that treatment was a few years from being understood. Reading his name between mine and my younger sisters' names, I carried the bible into the kitchen where Mom was cooking supper and asked, "Who is this?" I remember Mom was quiet for a few moments and then calmly and matter-of-factly told me the necessarily brief biography of my little brother. My question answered, went back to the living room and put the bible back in its place on the end table. I don't believe I ever asked Mom about Neal again, and I never spoke about him with Dad. I finally did get a younger brother, 2 months before graduating high school. But more than once wondered how my life would have changed had Neal survived. And I still do, every now and then.

  16. To me, the video seems to be more about the continuing grief of the parents, something I certainly understand and sympathize with. I wouldn't know what to do myself.

  17. I know this isn't the point of the piece, but I wish the NYT would write more about pieces of building falling and killing pedestrians - and the politicians who do nothing to remedy the problem. It is heartbreaking to learn of yet another, most likely preventable, death caused by what is surely a fixable problem (lax building regulations and enforcement that allow street adjacent buildings to deteriorate and remain deteriorated to such decay that pieces of the building fall off and kill pedestrians)

  18. That was a wonderful video, it was heartbreaking to watch but I though you did superb job of explaining events and emotions. I would hope you could show it to Harrison someday soon. I am sorry for your loss, there cannot be anything harder to bear than the death of child.

  19. But she is there. Not in some mystical sense, but in the very real imagination. Pico Ayer , (his latest book is "Autumn Light",) describes the Japanese custom of visiting cemeteries, year after year, and speaking to those who are gone, as though they live on...so they do. It's a beautiful tradition and requires no level of superstition.

  20. The loss of a child is a forever taking. It is the deepest and darkest of all loss. All future mile stones are ripped away and going forward means being without that life, loved beyond words. The same society that denies aging and death, denies our open discussion of its aftermath. If you take too long to hide your pain, someone will urgently direct you to therapy. Grief is not a mental illness and that is not helpful. So let this parent who shared his pain with us, and every parent of a lost child, remember and grieve in their own way. If you are a friend, be kind, be available and listen. This is a life long loss, that if you are really blessed, will never know it. Sending love and sincere condolences.

  21. Beautiful. Thank you.

  22. Incredibly powerful emotional sharing. Thank you

  23. I cry a lot every time I re-encounter this story, just as I did when it happened. Jayson Greene, your incredible grace and eloquence in the face of your family’s unfathomable loss never fails to astound me. You are an amazing parent to both of your children.

  24. The lost of a young child is tragic.As the mother of four boys now young men, I wouldn't impose such loss on a young child. Cherish your child's innocence when questions arrive you'll be better equipped to answer.

  25. Wow. Heartbreaking and beautiful. Thank you Mr. Greene for sharing with us. You light the way for others living with grief. I bow to you.

  26. Please don't take this the wrong way, but I am happy about this follow-up article. I remember the original one published in May and it is something that stuck with me all this time. Please keep us readers in the loop as this story progresses.

  27. Last year, I read Once More We See Stars, Jayson Greene's record of his personal (and their family's) journey to hell and back. We are lucky to have a voice such as his to bridge the gap between the exceptional (and yet commonplace) nature of tragedy and quotidian existence; this bridge helps us find meaning and purpose, to refocus on what is truly important in life. Artists and writers help the rest of us to make sense of it all. That they open a window for us to peer into their hearts and minds is a balm for us and them. It seems that those who disparage Mr. Greene's expression may be refusing to look to closely at what it means to be human, to feel deeply, to be compassionate.

  28. 8 years ago I was by my brother, his family hosting a luncheon for a newlywed couple, the groom having been a sort of mentoree of my brother/his wife, a frequent guest & I guess you would say "family friend" to them; a 30-ish bachelor developing a sort of "surrogate family" arrangement for holiday events etc. He (the groom) was always weird, oafish, seemingly immune/impervious to most interpersonal & moral subtleties. My brother & his wife, who'd had a previous husband, were about 42 with several kids aged about 5-9. My brother had fallen in love with, but been rejected by, her, before her 1st marriage; apparently that experience put him in a more appealing light & she married him, as a divorcee. Her father, btw, seemed to clearly (however closeted) gay, & she to me has "mid-Kinsey-scale" signs herself, which I detect in my nephews as well, who resemble their grandfather; she frequently professes an anti-romantic, soberly business-like view of marriage: implicitly, a kind of partnership (albeit a friendly one) to raise children. (You probably get the picture.) So far as I knew, they'd never told the kids about the previous marriage, & the newly married oaf, with a stupid grin, casually spilled the beans in their presence. I don't know how they processed it; I'm still shocked, myself, after all these years. Obviously, how sensitive, touchy information is divulged to kids is critically important. With IDIOTS (& internets!) in the world, parents don't always have control.

  29. @anon Sorry this was slightly "off-topic," and certainly inconsistent with the thrust of most comments; but I was trying to illustrate that among personal and family tragedies' aspects is the kinds of human fallibility "aftershocks" that can severely compound the original situation. Indeed, there are always big "aftershocks" and we can only control what we can control. So all the more reason to seize upon, and be grateful for, the opportunity to do right and wisely what is in our hands, but at the same time we can legitimately deplore some things (including others' deplorable and reckless behavior) that may be thrown at us - literally and figuratively- through no fault of our own. When I say "deplore" in this context I do mean a kind of anger, which is probably unavoidable. Any negative emotions (like anger) we can't help feeling, we can only try to make as constructive as possible. This (among a great many other things) is what I sense you are doing so extraordinarily well. Again I can only express gratitude for the great wisdom you share, and wish you and your family the most profound and complete continued healing.

  30. What a stirringly sad and touching animation to help us deal with this tragic story

  31. In 2009, I lost my first grandson and my daughter had her second son. When he was a little boy, 5 or 6, he was told that he did have an older brother who died before he was born. He was so excited that he had at one time an older brother, the business of realizing he was no longer with us didn't affect him. Some time later, he was taken to the grave and he was very natural about the loss. He asked how he had died, he wanted to know his name, and he expressed that it was sad that he couldn't play with him. On the other hand, he was very happy he had an Angel Brother that was with him and loved him. Each child is different, but most children will accept, acknowledge, and love the one that came before them. They don't need a significant number of details, but it is always best for the parents to acknowledge and accept the loss before the new child is made aware of their sibling. If the parent isn't ready to do this, then the new baby/child will feel some how responsible.

  32. Oooof. You just described my life. I was Harrison. I was a few months old when, while my mother was caring for me in the other room, my two-year-old sister fell off the couch into the screen and out a third-story window. My father found her on the sidewalk out front. I didn't know about her until I was thirteen when I found some paperwork in a desk and asked, who is this? It was a jarring experience. There were pictures with my father and great-grandfather that they had said was me. They were my sister. There was a favorite teddy bear that was hers. I dealt alright with finding out. I don't blame my parents for not telling me, I suspect they got advice along those lines. What I still deal with 40 years later is everything that came before that. My parents were angry, unhappy, alcoholic, occasionally reacted strangely (you bet I grew up with a fear of heights) and I didn't know why. I feel now that it would have been easier for me if I had an idea of where some of their pain was coming from. I also feel like I would have been able to help them with it, at least a little. So, from my personal experience, when you are honest and open with Harrison, as hard as that might be for him, you are letting him know that the grief, dismay, and anger you are naturally feeling at times is not about him or each other. And you are giving him the opportunity to help you, as well. Oh, and get a pet. Something short-lived, like a hamster. Peace.

  33. I can completely relate. I was born three years after my two brothers died of polio the same week. I only found out when I was around 12 years old and discovered photographs in a closet in our attic. I could also see how these deaths affected every member of my family and how my relationships with my parents, my other brother, my husband and my daughter were influenced by the tragedy. I guess my parents felt as though they were protecting us, but when the suffering and depression could not be connected to its source, children can take on the blame and unhappiness of their family. I spent many years trying to find some beauty in this world, and I did.

  34. Gorgeous and moving. Thank you. Now a little spark of Greta lives on in all of us. And you sound like a wonderful parent. Harrison is lucky.

  35. @Mother "Now a little spark of Greta lives on in all of us." That is so beautiful! Thank you for that.

  36. Mr. Greene, Thank you for sharing your tragic and wonderful story. Your love for Greta and Harrison as revealed in the story is the definition of good parenting and life in it's most joyous and real form. Peace be with you.

  37. I am so sorry for your loss. As one who’s parents sadly lost a child before my arrival, just tell the truth. For me it was, yes you have a sister but she passed before you were born. We miss her so much. To this day I place stones on Michelle’s grave, when I go to visit my Father’s, our Father’s. (Of blessed blessed memory.)

  38. Your number-one job is protecting your son. He should not know or be told about his sister until he is mature enough to handle the fact and the emotion.

  39. @Plank If you wait too long, it becomes a big shock. Sometimes bringing things up earlier makes them easier to handle. In an age-appropriate way, of course.

  40. @Plank - protecting him from what? Everyone dies. Pets die. Grandparents die. Sometimes, little children die. Harrison will eventually ask questions and deserves truthful answers - at the level that he can absorb and understand. It’s secrets that are damaging. Not the truth.

  41. I'm sure however the conversation goes your family will manage it with love and thoughtfulness. I had a sister who died just before turning 2 and before I was born. She was the third of what would have been 5 kids and I am the youngest (I'm sorry to say that I always think of us as 4 because it is easier). I don't remember a sit down. Beverly was just talked about conversationally. I knew from a young age that she died of meningitis (I think the difference of an illness or a horrible, senseless accident is a little lost on young kids). As I got older I would have different conversations about Beverly with my parents and understand her life and its meaning to my parents in more nuanced ways. I'm in my 50s now and still think of her.

  42. This was my situation growing up, as my brother, my parents’ first child, died of meningitis at age 7 before I was born. My brother’s photo was in the living room and there wasn’t a time that I didn’t know who that boy was and why he wasn’t with us. There wasn’t a solemn revelation, and my parents were comfortable talking to me about him in an age appropriate way. We had many conversations over the years about his life, personality and death. To this day, though, I don’t know to describe my family. Am I really an only child? Or perhaps, as I sometimes say to friends, my parents raised two sequential only children.

  43. I have friends that have had to deal with issue as well. I can't imagine the bereavement that comes with the loss of a small child, particularly your first. And while I'm sympathetic, I agree with other commenters that it is so very important to shield your later children from the effects of your grief. Due to my own circumstances as a young child, I attempted to shoulder what I could of my parent's own emotional struggles, and that has impacted me negatively as an adult. I now understand that was a burden I should not have had to bear. I do believe that one of the benefits of family is the support they provide during difficult times, but I also believe that trauma is most difficult for young children to overcome, and I fear risking your children's long term emotional health, for sharing their parents grief over a sibling they will never know.

  44. I’m not sure what to say. I’m sorry about Greta. I wish you much happiness

  45. Jayson, that was an incredibly meaningful video, so packed with revealing insight, touching on so many powerful and important levels. I couldn't help recalling a college admissions essay I'd once read, about growing up with an autistic sibling, including the often severe challenges. It culminated with an episode in which the essay-writer had vented his frustration to his mother, who responded "If God needed a very special family, the perfect choice to love and care for Stevie, which family would God choose?" "'Us,' I replied," is how the essay ends. Obviously I've never forgotten that essay which also touched me on various levels. If you live with religious faith, or take a more "naturalistic" view of things, responding to tragedy is one of those "facts of life" that call upon parent to enact not merely a "best," but a truly "wisest" solution. I myself believed the parent in that essay had nailed it, with what must have been divinely-inspired wisdom. The tragedy and the pain became a source of growth in so many ways, mostly because the parents handled - and discussed - it so wisely. It also showed that either religiously or "naturalistically" something was built into the parents along with the challenge life imposed on them, a special wisdom if only they could tap into it. Your video shows you likewise tapped into it, including realizing it gives you a special gift to share with the world. For that wisdom we can be grateful as we wish you (& your family) continued healing.

  46. I have two brothers who died as infants before I was born. I learned of my brothers at some early age, I don't know when. But when I was growing up people called me an only child. Many years later I put the facts together and realized I wasn't. Having two brothers is good to know.

  47. At 64 I found I had a sister who lived and died. She still brings a tear to my eye.

  48. Just because the technology exists doesn't mean it works with the story. The animation, with pigtailed little girl silhouettes whirling around a birthday cake, made me cringe. Nor did I like the narration. I'm aware the narrator is the father. I live on the Upper West Side and have thought a lot about Greta since her desth. Several months ago, I read a moving book review or essay by Jayson Greene. This presentation doesn't serve the story.

  49. @Lifelong Reader - unlike you, I had a very positive reaction to the animation. I loved that Greta was an abstraction of color and empty space. It seemed just right for a deceased child - colorful and present, but not in human form. I thought it did great justice to the story. Harrison can watch it at some future time.

  50. Thank you for the video. After the death of her best friends mothers, my own daughter acted out the scene with LEGO men. It is very disturbing to watch LEGO men jumping off cliffs, particularly when her best friend was watching, but we all have to contemplate the reality somehow. I think that play has a special function for this.

  51. As many in these comments are testifying so clearly, the one invariable principle is not to keep your sorrow secret. No truth, however painful, is as destructive to children's sense of trust and safety as secrets.

  52. I am so sorry for your loss, and thank you for creating this video and telling your story. Your love and thoughtfulness in this video is heartwarming. Also, I am so impressed with all the comments to this article. Everyone of them is both sad an uplifting at the same time. It's nice to see so many comments demonstrating common shared human decency with no personal animus, insults or rudeness.

  53. I am reminded of the Wordsworth poem “We Are Seven”. Children have a strong and more pure ability to understand what adults question. What a fine video. Your daughter will be readily accepted by your son.

  54. We carry stories in our bodies that don't have words so Harrison already knows. We underestimate the consciousness of children. He doesn't know in a narrative sense, but he knows and will always know. Loved your piece - very bittersweet and beautiful.

  55. Very sorry for your loss. Given how much it has affected you, it must be extremely difficult for you to protect your son from the psychological harm from an excessive fear of immanent death, while letting him know (at some point, maybe after the age of 10) that there was another member of the family.

  56. I am so touched by the story of Greta's passing and of this family coming to grips with it. Hard, difficult work believing in life after something like this happens. I can only compare it to having cancer twice and it's still no where close. The film is jaw dropping and like an arrow, straight into my heart. Only truth reigns here. Sorrow, too, but the truth makes room for happiness.

  57. I'm sorry for your tragic loss and appreciate your sharing your story. We also live in Manhattan and our daughter just turned five. Last summer we started driving to the beach and passing cemeteries in Queens which she asked about and that prompted a series of conversations about death and what happens when we die. At age three she wasn't ready for those conversations but at almost five she was and it came up naturally. So my thoughts for you are that you'll just sort of know when it's the right time to discuss it with Harrison where it will be meaningful to him.

  58. This was so devastatingly beautiful and full of love. Thank you not only for sharing the words but the moving imagery. So often, I have to take a step back to realize the sheer number of moments a young child experiences as a first. Thank you for reminding us that not all are easily shared, easily explained and more so that some are truly painful. I'm at a relative loss for words beyond this other than to again say thank you for sharing this.

  59. I was six when my 13 month-old brother died of spinal meningitis. Here one day, gone the next. My mother had another child, my sister, within a year as she vowed she would do. We never spoke of beloved Paul but he was a shadow in our home. My sister was born into a house of buried grief. My mother descended into lifelong alcoholism and my father became a heavy drinker. I developed night terrors, begging to sleep in my parent’s room. This was met with fury and rejection. The profound effects of my brother’s death on all of us are too numerous to mention. Now, at 72, I have photos of my baby brother in my home. I can look at him and remember his beauty and open, sweet nature. I should have been able to do that all along. Thank you, Jayson, for this gift. I remember well the terrible event that caused the death of your dear daughter. It sounds like you are choosing to embrace life and all it has to offer. May your daughter’s memory continue to be a blessing.

  60. My daughter, Max, came into this world with a host of troubles. She died two months shy of a year. Four years later, my daughter Viv was born. We raised her with compete knowledge of Max, telling her about her medical conditions, hospital stays, and how much we loved her. Viv has no interest in her sister. She has no curiosity about Max. She has never asked detailed questions or asked to see any of the thousands of photos I took of her. When folks ask if she has siblings, she is an "only child". I take it in stride as Viv is her own person and quite a good one at that. Yet it is bothersome. I fear that after my wife and I die, the memory of Max will be gone forever.

  61. In 1999, my father died (6 days before his birthday). 4 years later (in 2003), my brother died. 4 years later (in 2007), my sister died; ironically on my brother's birthday. My mother watched her husband, first born son and daughter all die in the span of an 8 year period. 3 years later (in 2010) my mother died. As the "baby", I am the last living member of my family. 10 years later (now 2020), I dream of them all almost every night; many times coming awake while in mid-sentence talking to them. When I was very young, I thought death would occur in a "normal order". What I have learned is quite simple. There is no "normal order" and I am grateful to be alive. Such is life...and death.

  62. My father's oldest brother died, as an infant, before either he or his older brother were born. I don't known how or when my uncle or my father learned about their brother, but I do know it was terribly hard on my grandmother, who never forgot him having seen 4 of her 6 siblings die in childhood. But for my father and uncle, their brother was, as far as I know, a curiosity, not something that painful. I believe it's infinitely harder on the parents than one a younger sibling born after the older one's death.

  63. Beautifully heartfelt depiction of ongoing love; an adept template of suggestion for this topic. Very sorry to hear of that event that day; thank you for sharing this.

  64. Thanks for sharing your story. I believe whenever you choose to share the blessing of an older, but absent sister with Harrison will be the right one. Reading some of the other comments, I can also imagine that Harrison although she is physically absent, Greta will accompany him through his journey through life.

  65. My elderly grandparents and 27 year old uncle were murdered at Auschwitz. I never met them. I think about them and the one million children lost in the Holocaust all the time and pray for them every night. I leave stones for them in cemeteries and in front of synagogues. It's all I can think to do.

  66. I conceived as a single woman from anonymous sperm donor and had to do the "why no dad?" w my son often for a few years. So I told him I cried "sad" tears for yrs bc I didn't have a baby and then I went to the doctor who found a nice man to give me a seed. The egg and seed were mixed together and then baked in my tummy. Now I only cry happy tears bc I have him. etc., etc. My suggestion is you don't give too much info at one setting, you be prepared to help him process often and honestly. My guess is that he will respond to this news curiously but not emotionally for the time being. If you believe your daughter is in heaven, go ahead and tell him that and that all of you will be reunited. good luck!

  67. @Dolly Patterson Jayson, I loved your book and wept. I read it when it first came out. I'm so glad you have Harrison!

  68. After the child is 10....please.

  69. Dear Mr Greene, As another parent to a dear sweet little angel of blessed memory, I applaud your courage in sharing your journey with us. I must agree with other posters that little ones are amazing at dealing with this information. Our daughter passed nearly 17 years ago when she was 11months old due to leukemia. She has a younger brother and sister who have processed this information very differently and at different ages. My daughter is a deeply empathetic soul and connected with her “angel” when she was 2.5. The cemetery holds the names of the angels, but our angels are always with us and watching over us. My son’s experience was later (5) and more challenged. If I what feels right for you and your child. Let that be the wisdom that guides you. As long as you approach with honesty and an open heart, I believe you will do just fine. It may be an odd offer, but if you ever feel like speaking to another parent or need a knowing ear who’s walked in these shoes, I’d be happy to speak.

  70. This story wrecked me last year when I read it, and I was hesitant to watch the video because I knew it would have the same impact. It did. Glad to hear Harrison is doing well and thanks for reminding me about Greta, helps me appreciate everything.

  71. Mr. Greene writes, "How do you explain tragedy to a 3-year old?" *sigh* I remember having an e-mail conversation with an old high school friend in late 2001. She & her young daughter would stroll their Lower Manhattan neighborhood. They would visit the local firehouse so the daughter could have "play dates" with the firemen. And then 9/11 happened. And the play dates stopped. "Where are my friends?" the daughter asked. In my friend's e-mail she asked me, "how do I explain that to my three-year-old daughter?" I had no answer. I was remembering my mother's inability to answer me when I asked her why all seven TV channels were running the same images. "Where are my cartoons?" I was thinking of that November day when the nation buried John F. Kennedy. And here I am over a half-century from being that small child of a stunned & tongue-tied parent, and my friend's daughter is now a college graduate, and I _still_ have no answer.

  72. Beautiful animation, in this film. No three-year-old needs to be burdened with his parents’ pain. Nor does a five-year-old, or a child aged six. I grew up knowing that a sibling had died as an infant. It was part of the family lore. I knew that it was a sad thing and that (I was raised Catholic) he was in heaven. As I grew into adulthood I came to understand just what the loss meant to my parents, but they never dwelled on it. My mother answered questions when asked. Go easy on the kid. The naive joy of childhood is so fragile, and brief.

  73. First, my condolences on your loss. However, my suggestion is that you never expect your son to understand the depths of your grief and despair; it’s unfair to him. Don’t unwittingly burden Harrison with the impossible task of trying to live up to the memories of a "perfect," lost child. I do not mean to be cruel, far from it, but Harrison is here, and Greta, whether you believe in her persistent spiritual presence or not, is no longer a physical part of your family. It’s time to let her go. Your family has recombined with Harrison, but that doesn’t mean that you love Greta any the less. You would not be disloyal to her memory by focusing on your new family unit with Harrison. Your storytelling skills are tremendous. However, I was often reminded of those parents who build a shrine to a deceased child, further complicating the natural, but of course painful, journey of their grief process. Have you considered putting together a beautiful new loving animation, a remembrance of Greta and Greene Family happy times/milestones with her?

  74. Over 25 years ago we lost a full-term stillborn son, David. 18 months later we had another son, Aric. I cannot recall how we came to tell Aric about his older brother, but I can tell you he was extremely proud to have an older brother. Once in a while he would mention he had an older brother who died and it sometimes made others uncomfortable, but to Aric it was in a way no big deal but also in a way a very big deal because he thought it was cool that he had an older brother. Once in a great while he would mention he wished he had another brother but never seemed sad, just thought it would be fun. I wish I could recall how we told him, but I am guessing we just followed his lead whenever he asked and told him whatever he wanted to know. Sadly, we also lost Aric, to an epileptic seizure in our home when he was 22. I had some pretty amazing dreams of the two of them hanging out together, both striking handsome with arms around each other, smiling at me. Who knows!? I think it is very important to keep talking about these children we have lost because their lives meant very much, not just to us, but to the universe. I have pledged to myself and to him to say Aric's name every day. I wish you both continuing growth and happiness with Harrison. You sound like an amazing dad. I wish for you to enjoy growing up with him and to relish each and every day with him, while keeping Greta alive in all our memories. Fantastic work you did on this, thank you so much.

  75. "For now, that's enough." About a decade ago I had to break some bad news to our son, expecting to have to say a whole bunch. My experience was that the child doesn't want to know as much as you are prepared to tell them. Two sentences in, he was running off to play. All he really needed to know was that I wasn't going to die, and that everything would always be the same. (It's OK to lie a little when they're young.)

  76. Dear Jayson Greene, I read your short story Father's Day weekend in 2019, asking, if your child had died, were you still a father? I was so deeply moved by your story, I had to get your book about your sweet Greta, "Once More We Saw Stars: A Memoir". The accident happened in a neighborhood where I used to live when going to college. I could picture it in my mind. As a grandmother of two very small children, I had (and have) complete empathy and heartache not only for you and your wife with the loss of Greta, but for Greta's grandma. I just can't imagine. I don't know the answer to the question you pose but seeing the sensitivity in your writing, I know you and your wife will find a gentle way to tell your son the story of his sister. May you all live long, healthy and happy lives. Thank you for sharing your story.

  77. I am so sorry for your loss. The importance of your son knowing his sister is paramount. She is always a part of you. I have an older brother who tragically passed away before I was born. No one in my family discussed him, and then, when I was 10, I discovered two photo albums with his photos in our basement. I asked my parents who he was, did I get a sex change as a baby because they secretly wanted a daughter, why is my birthday as a boy different? This is because some of his photos look like me, so I was always told I was the baby in the photos. Recently, I sent a group email to my family members on my older brother's birthday, and asked everyone to send him some love on that day. It opened up a lot of conversation, mostly describing fond memories. My father also was able to really process the ordeal of losing one's first child, and was very forthcoming about his emotions. Your son should know what his sister loves, what makes her happy, and what you love about her, so he, too, will love her amazing qualities. Best of luck to you and you clearly have a very loving familiy.

  78. My mother lost twins when I was two years old. They lived for three months and died within a week of each other. The story in the family is that their hearts were in the wrong place, sand many times I wondered what that meant. We were poor, my mother was very young, and , along with my brother and two sisters, were sent to a home in New Hampshire while my mother recuperated from a nervous breakdown. I was too young to know them. but I remember feeling sad for my mother. Sorrow followed her throughout life, but I always knew that this event dented her badly. Years later she'd remind herself of what happened and wondered if their spirits were still next to her. Losing a child, or for that matter, losing anyone you deeply love, is my only anger at aging. There's aches and pains but when loved ones disappear and you're left with loose threads and colorless memories, it's a struggle to talk about the obvious truth about living. A real struggle.

  79. Beautiful tribute to your daughter. And for your son, I have some experience w this from my own childhood, and I would say children often intuit something is off but will worry more, hurt more, if they don't know the truth. I'd say keep your message simple, clear, no euphemisms, follow your son's leads re any questions he might have, and let him know it can be an ongoing, perhaps even joyful process of remembering his sister. My deepest condolences and best wishes as you continue to heal.

  80. Thank you for telling your poignant story. I can hear in your voice the way you understand the feelings of your son. I appreciate how you are timing what your share about his lost sister with how he can understand. Meanings come though in different forms at different ages, and it Is a good thing not to be imposing an adult need for charity on a little child. That is my experience as a child therapist too.

  81. I had a brother who died of sudden infant death syndrome before I was born. It affected both my parents tremendously. They were devout Christians and made up a special prayer addressed to my brother and taught all their children to say it at bedtime. The prayer asked my brother to take care of us, the remaining children. I'm well into middle age and still remember the words.

  82. a three year old hears the story, stores it, processes it according to a three year old capability. But it is always a "known" for that three year old. Talk to Harrison about Greta. Tell him about her personality, tell him the funny things she did, and the awful ones too. Greta is his older sister. He will love her through your telling, and will not grieve as you do. He's only 3! May you find peace.

  83. My sister, who just turned 8, died when I was almost 7. She died in an institution where she had lived for most of her life with a medical condition that she was born with. My parent never told me about her life or her death when I was growing up. The first inkling I had that I was not an only child came when I was about 16 when my father my a brief reference to the existence of my sister. I did not ask for more details because I sensed that to do so would be painful for hi, Nor could I ask my mother, who at the time was depressed and suffering from a variety of physical ailments. It wasn't;t until many years later when I was pursuing a post-retirement career as a mental health counselor did my mother and I have a conversation -- a very brief one -- about my sister and her death. What I remember from that conversation was my mother telling me that when my sister died she bought her a dress for her burial -- "the first dress she had worn." Over the years I've come to appreciate more and more the struggles of my parents and the pain they must have felt every day. I'm sure their silence was out of love for me. Today, I'm 71 and only recently felt a need to learn more about my sister. And just the other day I finally got a copy of her death certificate which has given me some more leads to pursue. Today I feel closer to my parents (both dead). And, finally, a developing relationship with my sister.

  84. I had an older brother named Daniel who died at birth two years before I was born, making me the seventh child rather than the sixth. I didn't find out about him until I was 16, and even then it was pretty much just by accident. Grandma said something unguarded or maybe she didn't want Danny's memory to vanish entirely?

  85. I wrote 2 or three comments praising Jayson for his strength and wisdom, and his generosity and eloquence in this narrative, and the power of the video. However I must say the haunting animated imagery is of a truly ineffable eloquence. I couldn't resist watching it several times, because each and every image has so much to say about love and loss, and frankly, protesting the cruelty of pure sweetness turned into pain like that, is a protest of the heart any grieving parent is and must be entitled to register. Mr. Greene's words utter this protest in fullness and precision (the simple, but packed "She's not here" elicits tears, of not just sorrow but anger that such things happen, that a sibling should be made to wonder "Where did she have to go, and why?": so UNFAIR!), but the images concretize every aspect of this, as real felt experience. It will be a very, very long time before I forget this video, if at all. Mr. Fage and Mr. Wilmot, you've done a great thing.

  86. ... of course, though: Mr. Greene, his family and his narrative being the real focus, and emphasis and power; I wanted to stress how beautifully these are served by Mr. Fage and Mr. Wilmot.

  87. I had a brother until I was eleven years old and then I didn't. My second brother was born four years after my first brother died. From the very beginning of his life, he was made aware that there had been another child but he died. It was sad, but it was what it was. Period. When my first child was three, I had a stillborn child. My subsequent children were made aware from an early age that there would have been another brother but he died. It was sad but that death is a part of life. I don't see why death should be ethereal, mysterious, cloaked in euphemism or anything other than fact. I know I am very pragmatic but I honestly don't understand why children just aren't made aware of this fact without tying it up with emotions, such as sadness, for someone they did not know. I am sorry that people, like the author,suffer loss but it IS a part of Life.

  88. I lost my first child Mariko as a premature newborn just under a year before my second child, my beautiful son Mak was born. I was unfortunately in in a state of devastation after he was born. Thank goodness for my husband and his mother-they got us through. We always told Mak he had an older sister who died before he was born and spoke of her frequently. When he was in his tweens at one point he screamed you loved her more than me and I told him that my grief for her did not get in the way of my great love for him. He's 24 now; she would be turning 26 this summer. He just asked me, "Mom, don't you ever think that if she hadn't died I wouldn't be here?" I was flabbergasted and assured him that I've always had two children, Mak and Mari, a brother and a sister.

  89. Ps Jason, your story is so heartbreaking. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  90. What an achingly beautiful piece. The emotions expressed. And the animation that brings them to life. I am deeply moved.

  91. Put the pics out; answer when he asks.

  92. So hard for everyone to bear such losses in lives. It’s too tragic and makes us all weep upon baby’s death. Our prayers & thoughts with all such weeping parents.

  93. It’s beautiful animation but I’m sorry, I find the whole idea of “introducing” a child to a dead sibling unbelievably creepy. In the Victorian age, people would wear rings and brooches made of dead relatives’ hair, and children would participate in wakes and funerals. But that was an age when infant mortality was sky-high, so most kids would have to witness a sibling’s death. But why to do it now? We all die. If you believe in an afterlife (I don’t), you should just wait till the entire family is reassembled in heaven. Otherwise let your child enjoy his own existence unencumbered by the legacy of the dead.

  94. Thank you for sharing. We’re right behind you on a similar road. We lost our first son in a tragic accident when he was 1. His brother was born 11 months later and is now 2. He’s not quite aware yet but we mention his brother casually/naturally when he sees pictures, etc (like we would for other loved family members he’s never met). As time goes on, we plan to ‘go with the flow’, be open about his brother, and explain more when it feels right.

  95. I cannot imagine the pain Mr. Greene and his wife feel about losing a child, and in such horrific circumstances. Nor do I want to ever know what that feels like. I'm sure that Harrison will have an easier time accepting the knowledge of a sister who will never grow up or old with him. She will always be a part of who he is. In that tiny and small way, Greta will continue to exist. I hope that provides some measure of comfort to her parents.

  96. everybody does this differently. different circumstances, different people. I am the third of four siblings -- except I am also the fourth of five siblings. I found out about my oldest brother, James, who lived for about a week when I was 20, and found his birth certificate in a folder when I was applying for my first passport. When I asked my mother, she explained. "How did you feel about it, Ma?" I asked her. She replied quietly, "Well, when you're so involved in a project, and it doesn't work out, it's tough, you know?" My parents never imagined that the rest of us kids needed to know. The Greenes are handling this differently because so much about their situation is so different. And they're handling it beautifully in their way just as my mother did in hers.