The loss of a wanted pregnancy is an immense tragedy of its own; the need to explain such an event to young children can feel, to many parents, like doubling down on the grief. But it’s extremely necessary to find some way to articulate these changes to kids whose families are going through them — as James and Kimberly Van Der Beek well know. This week, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Kimberly’s miscarriage at 17 weeks, James shared a video on Instagram in which he explained the loss to their children.
“One year ago today, I had to explain to my then 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 year-old a late-term #pregnancyloss while @vanderkimberly was still in the hospital,” James writes on the post. “I’m not sure there’s any one way to do it, since every kid is so different — one bawled immediately, one had questions, one tried to make jokes, one tried to avoid by acting crazy.”
Of course, that all sounds par for the course when it comes to processing major emotions such as grief and loss; adults do not react to these feelings in a one-size-fits-all manner, so kids certainly shouldn’t.
In the video, Van Der Beek’s daughter Emilia asks, “Dad, why are we not having a baby brother?”
“Because the baby that was going to come went back to heaven, and that happens sometimes,” James answers. “So instead of the baby coming into our family, the baby went to heaven.”
“So that’s why we’re going to have a boy still big in Mom’s stomach?” Ugh, the earnestness of these sweet kids’ questions just adds to the heartbreak.
“No, there’s no boy in Mom’s stomach anymore,” James explains.
It’s so impressive that both of these parents are able to be so clear-headed, empathetic, and open to having these important discussions. After all, miscarriage is incredibly common — and far too often, those who experience it hide their stories out of shame. But as James Van Der Beek wrote on another Instagram post, last year, by speaking openly about miscarriage, “you’re not being secretive, and the people closest to you can help you through this thing, which is a major life event.”
As for sharing such tough news with little kids? “I feel like all you can do when explaining the unimaginable is be present with them,” Van der Beek concludes this week’s post. “And keep being present with them wherever they’re at, for as long as they need. You can’t process for them, you can’t mitigate their pain, and you can’t dictate their timeline. They all broke down at different times — and for different reasons. Some still talk about it. Some don’t like to. But I encourage anyone going through this to be as open and honest as we encourage our kids to be about it. When life cracks you open… let your loved ones in. We’re not made to go through this alone.”
These other famous parents have been open about suffering miscarriages.