“I didn’t want loss to be a grim subject”: How Mikhailla Fitzgerald is teaching children to talk about grief
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It’s a passion project Mikhailla Fitzgerald wishes she never had to undertake. But after losing her beloved son Foxx Fitzgerald to bacterial infection group b strep sepsis just three days after he was born in 2017, Mikhailla has channelled her grief into two powerful books, My Sibling Above and Love From Above.
But the road getting here has not been easy for the popular social media sensation, who describes losing her son as an intensely “lonely period.”
“We were spending time in NICU and being given the confidence that this would be a story we’d talk about on his 18th birthday. And those little words you kind of really hold on to when you’re battling in NICU. So I hadn’t really thought about any other kind of outcome. So when we did face losing him and ultimately when that happened, it was quite traumatic,” she reflects on the heartbreaking days following Foxx’s birth.
“I just remember going into the elevator and I still had my pregnant-looking belly and I was walking out of the hospital with no baby in my arms. It was very stormy [that night] and it just felt like the sky was crying for us.”
Five years on, Mikhailla has created two beautifully illustrated rhyming story books to gently guide children through the often taboo subjects of grief and loss, while teaching them how to commemorate their late sibling.
“The books began when we began to prepare Elle, who is my second-born and was born 12 months after Foxx, that she had a sibling,” Mikhailla tells Kiindred in an exclusive interview.
While we often don’t give our kids enough credit for understanding the big things in life, the author says her daughter “really understood what we were talking about.”
“We used that as an opportunity to introduce her big brother Foxx. I didn’t want loss to be a grim subject all the time, because it was my first time experiencing something so significant, I was learning to process it but I realised how valuable the tools can be if we kind of give other people the same strategies to deal with loss and open it up,” she explains.
Elle was around 15 months old when her parents started telling her about her “big brother in heaven” and the books naturally evolved from there.
“I started to realise it could have a bigger purpose and more people. So I started to design the book to be for more than just for her but a wider community of lost children,” the writer says.
Mikhailla admits that creating the books was an “emotional process” but it ultimately took her healing to a whole new level.
“Writing the story was easy in itself. But the graphics, I worked with an illustrator [Sarah Hill] and the illustrator herself had actually been through her own losses of a sibling… So she really connected with the whole storyline.”
“So there were moments in it where we’d be working through pages, and I just had to stop and pause for a month because I needed to process what that page really meant to me. So every single page of the book it’s really heartfelt.”
“It’s just not exclusive to my family but it’s for any family. I wanted any family to open that book and find themselves in there and find their story in some way. So yeah, it was a big journey. And it definitely felt like it took me to another stage in my grief journey, as well,” she adds.
Clearly resonating with so many other grieving families, they sold out within the month when the books were released in April.
“I can’t believe how much it’s taken off!” Mikhailla laughs.
Five years after losing Foxx, it’s important for Mikhailla and her family, including daughter Elle and son Cruz, to make sure Foxx is still a part of their life.
“I love to actually wear him like a necklace. And after birth, we also got his hair and breast milk put into a ring, which I kind of carry around on special occasions. So the last time I wore it was from my wedding day,” she notes.
For many people experiencing grief, trying to connect with their loved ones through a psychic medium can also bring them comfort.
“We’ve got a little memory box in our room… I remember seeing a psychic a few months ago and he picked it up straight away and said that he [Foxx] likes being in that particular spot, which was kind of like a bit shivering and creepy that he even knew we had that box and where it was located in the room and you know that his presence was felt and he liked it,” the mother of three reveals of her experience connecting with her son.
As Mikhailla continues to work to normalise conversations around grief and loss, she says the best thing someone can do to support a grieving person is to ask about their loved one.
“I think asking about him and asking often. I remember like, in the early days, it was something that felt really uncomfortable and odd. But I realised how healing it was after I would talk about it,” she admits.
For any families in the raw stages of their loss, Mikhailla has one simple message: it will get better.
“The first year is like a rollercoaster. It’s very up and down. But there’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel. And like, you will smile again. And now I realise you will feel that happiness again.”
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Bella Brennan Follow +
Bella is a writer and editor with over a decade of experience in women’s publishing and digital media. In her spare time, she loves making up dances to the Wiggles with her two little girls, swimming in the ocean and trying to sneak away from her family for a cheeky nap.
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