Fourteen years ago, a good friend of photographer Thomas Roma died unexpectedly, and it made him afraid of dying, too. He suddenly felt an urgent need to connect with his 8-year-old son Giancarlo, so he gave him a stack of his photographs and asked him to pick his favorites and write down his interpretations. They put their photos and writing together in a book called Show & Tell. I did a story about the Romas and their book for Studio 360 twelve years ago—they held hands for almost the entire interview. Here’s that story, and yes, we all sound twelve years younger.
Giancarlo is 22 now. He and his dad now have a new book called the Waters of Our Time. It’s a beautiful little object, full of Thomas’s black-and-white photographs and a fictional story that Giancarlo wrote from the POV of an old woman.
The pictures in this book are the most meaningful ones from Thomas’s life—he pulled 142 from 38,000 images over a lifetime of shooting. Mostly, they’re pictures of Giancarlo going backwards in time—from young man, to boy, to baby.
The other recurring character in the book is Anna, Thomas’s wife. The sequence below shows up at the end of the book.
These photos represent Mary, Giancarlo’s sister who died the day she was born. (That dress was hers.) He was only four years old. After Mary’s death, Giancarlo spent the rest of his life imagining what it would’ve been like not to be an only child but to be an older brother. He says that that loss pretty much trained him to be able to write from the perspective of a female at the end of her life in Waters.
When we think about pregnancy loss, we tend to think about the mom. And maybe also her partner. In this episode, Giancarlo tells us what it’s like to be the sibling.
Resources for Grieving Siblings
In a previous episode about stillbirth, we posted some resources for pregnancy loss. Here are some more, specifically geared toward siblings.
The Dougy Center provides support to grieving families locally, nationally, and internationally, with a focus on children, teens, and young adults.
The Compassionate Friends supports families after a child dies.
Good Grief is a New Jersey organization that helps children and teens cope with loss. The CEO, Joseph Primo, wrote the book What Do We Tell the Children?: Talking to Kids About Death and Dying. If you have another great local resource, post it in the comments.
Camp Erin is a free camp specifically for bereaved kids.
This blog post on the 10 Things Everyone Should Know About Siblings & Grief by Dr. Christina Hibbert spells out how a sibling’s experience of loss is uniquely different from their parents’ experience.
And, finally, listener and member of our Facebook group, Emily, has these words of advice: “I lost my 12-year-old brother when I was about 16; I strongly recommend a family vacation within 2 months of the death. It’s a good opportunity for the rest of the family to reset and grieve together outside of an everyday setting. It’s also a way to remind ourselves that there is still beauty and joy in other places if you seek them out.”
Have you lost a sibling?
How has it impacted YOUR life? Tell us in the comments.
Photos: Thomas Roma