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Help! How do we deal with the loss of our baby?

Dr. Gail Saltz offers advice for families struggling with the loss of a child.

Q. We have a darling 4-year-old boy who is very bright and intuitive. He remembers his little sister, who died of sudden infant death syndrome, and talks about her every so often. The details he recalls are amazing and heartbreaking.

Obviously, he doesn't understand death, but he believes when we moved to our new house that we left his sister behind. Nobody knows how much pain I am in hearing him talk about her, or seeing him play hide-and-seek with her.

My husband gets angry when our son does this, and storms out of the house. We can’t talk about this, and I have never been so alone and lost. How can our family get through this?

A. I am so sorry about your tragedy.

It is traumatic for a child to lose a sibling, but a 4-year-old doesn’t entirely comprehend the finality of death or the meaning of forever. So it’s normal for him to imagine that you left his little sister behind.

It is healthy for him to talk about her. Specifically, playing hide-and-seek is highly representative of what he is grappling with — first she is there and then she is not. To a 4-year-old, things that are gone seem that they could return, just as in hide-and-seek.

When your son reaches the next developmental stage, he will begin to grasp that idea that people can depart and never return.

I commend you for letting your son work this out in his head. You should certainly not let your son feel he is doing anything wrong by expressing his feelings. It might even be therapeutic for you, because it lets you talk about it with your son, and painful events often feel less so when you can share them.

Clearly, your husband doesn’t deal with grief in the same way you do. His anger comes because your son’s behavior reminds him of his enormous pain over the death of your daughter. As you know, however, anger, denial or avoidance will not change things or turn back the clock.

If your husband refuses to talk about this, you must. Unfortunately, losing a child puts enormous strain on a marriage, making the tragedy take a double toll. You are right to want to address this, because you and your husband could easily drift apart over it.

Go to your husband when he is not angry and tell him you know this is a terribly painful situation for all of you, but that it’s not helpful to be angry with a child who is too young to understand and is only expressing his feelings.

Instead, suggest that your husband help both himself and your son face their grief by joining in remembrance. The two could write a story about your little girl, draw pictures of her or plant flowers in her memory.

Talk with your husband about ways he might cope with his grief, such as writing his thoughts in a journal, joining a support group, or taking up physical activity, like weightlifting or running, which can help discharge anger and frustration.

If he continues to withdraw and act despondent, he might need professional help. The pain of such a loss will never entirely dissipate, but many couples who lose a child choose to have another one.

Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: People grieve in different ways, but some need to be helped along in order to move on.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book, "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts" (Penguin), helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .