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Grieving, Subsequent Children, and the Replacement Child, After the Death of a Child

Abigail Brenner, M.D.Guest interview with Abigail Brenner, M.D.

I conducted this interview with Abigail Brenner, M.D., several weeks ago. It now seems to have a new relevance in light of the Newtown tragedy as I asked her the questions I so often hear concerning replacement children.

Dr. Brenner is a psychiatrist in private practice. A board certified psychiatrist in practice for more than 30 years, Dr. Brenner is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Her work has focused on understanding change and the challenges and opportunities afforded by change in relationship to major life transitions. She is the author of Transitions: How Women Embrace Change and Celebrate Life, SHIFT: How to Deal When Life Changes, and co-author of The Essential Guide to Baby’s First Year (Alpha Books, a member of the Penguin Group).… Read more

A Message of Hope for Newtown Parents

birdMy mother always told me that life was never the same for her after she lost her first-born child. Like the tragedy in Newtown that took 20 precious children, at the hands of a gunman surely struggling with his own demons, there was no sense to be made of my sister’s death. We can rail at gun control laws that are failing us, at a mother who thought she had a need for assault weapons in her home, at a system that may have failed a troubled young man.

But, I want to offer a measure of hope for the families of the lost children.… Read more

Lincoln’s Replacement Children

There is so much to talk about after seeing Lincoln this weekend, but since I have my Replacement Child lenses adjusted, I can’t help but focus on one scene in the film that touched on Lincoln as a husband and father.

In the scene we discover that Abe and Mary lost a child to illness as Abe rails at Mary for her extended grieving, and she in turn admonishes him for putting their oldest son, Robert, in harm’s way by allowing him to join the ranks of the Union soldiers.  When her grieving over the death of their son became too prolonged, in Lincoln’s view, he had apparently threatened Mary with having her committed to an asylum, (using the vernacular of the film). … Read more

Replacement Children You May Know

Last week we talked about the first reference to a replacement child in recorded history possibly being Seth (or Shet in Hebrew) who replaced Abel, who was killed by Cain. Talk about complicated family history. In Genesis 4:25, Eve refers to his birth:

“God has granted me other seed in place of Abel. . .”

And God said to Cain: (Genesis 4:10)

“The voice of your brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.”

Interesting to note some of the other replacement children from history:

  • Solomon
  • Napoleon III
  • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Salvador Dali
  • Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Sabina Spielrein
  • Françoise Dolto
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • James Barrie (creator of Peter Pan)
  • Eugene O’Neill (my favorite playwright)
  • Carl Gustav Jung

I’m heartened to see that some of these replacement children are creative stars, and include some of my favorite artists.… Read more

A #Mother Rant: Getting through, taking help, letting go

We build our world around our children, many of us mothers, and somewhere around their 13th birthday it dawns on us that they will leave. Which, of course, is our goal. I heard a friend of mine recently lament, “what will happen when my raison d’etre goes to college in a few years?” The short answer to that question is, you will cry. Then he will call you with a crisis. Of the heart. Of the wallet. And he will need you. And you will sigh and take your place again as the mother and FedEx him a brisket.

I remember when my son was an infant and motherhood was exhilarating, exhausting and a trial – sometimes all in the same day.… Read more

End of #Summer Reminiscence

August takes me back to remembering the last dog-days of summer in the past when I would be scurrying from store to store to find that perfect backpack for my son, the cool sneakers he would wear, a new pair of jeans.

By the time he hit Junior High I was wistful for his elementary school years when I could suit him up in anything I liked and he would be pleased and happy for the new duds and supplies. Excited even to pack his mini backpack with all the pencils and erasers and rulers it could carry. Ready to get on with it and learn!

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#Passover Kvetch – In My Mother’s Memory

I made haroseth for my Passover dinner today, and in memory and honor of my mother, I kvetched.

“Why do the Jews have to do everything the hard way!” I clearly remember her bellowing as she chopped the apples and walnuts into tiny pieces. “If the men were doing this, it would be some kind of whipped topping, I swear.”

The first time I made my own Passover meal was when my son was three. We had been celebrating both Easter and Passover, in deference to his father’s religion.  We gleefully decorated eggs, welcomed the Easter bunny with his requisite candy baskets and then used the colored eggs for our semi-Passover table when the timing was right between the holidays.… Read more