Giada De Laurentiis on the loss of her younger brother, Dino, and kids….
If you poke around in sibling loss literature, one unanswered question you come across is—does losing a sibling make sibling survivors more or less likely to have children? And do they tend to have “extra” children, just in case they lose one?
FYI, I don’t have an answer to this. In my case, I simply had too much baggage to deal with to have children earlier in life. (I had my son, Henry, at 40.) But the question does interest me. As does the issue of how sibling survivors like myself parent siblings (something I have no experience with). At any rate, I’ve always got an eye peeled for references to this subject, so I was intrigued to see it brought up by Giada De Laurentiis.
I had no idea that Giada had lost a sibling. Partly, I guess, that’s because she apparently didn’t talk about it for a long time. Her story in brief: Giada is the eldest of four kids. (Her grandfather, for the record, was film producer Dino De Laurentiis.) A few years ago, her brother, Dino, died of melanoma. (Click here, to see a clip of her telling her story, and making a public service announcement on the importance of sun protection.)
I’ve seen and heard Giada, a new mother, make comments lately about almost not having children, because the thought of having to face the loss of one, after the loss of her brother, was too much to contemplate. In some references I’ve seen, it looks like her daughter was an accident, but she’s grateful it happened, because she’s not sure she would have had her otherwise. In the Redbook excerpt, below, the story is cast a little differently. Either way, the struggle of surviving siblings re: kids is in evidence.
One of my younger brothers was diagnosed with skin cancer at 29 and passed away not too long after that. We were very close. He always wanted to have children, but he didn't get to. And after he died, I remember thinking, You know, maybe there's a place in my heart for someone else other than all the people I already have in my life. I know I was very afraid.... My brother's passing made me afraid, I think because I was afraid that we could have a child and lose him or her too. I didn't know if I could go through that kind of pain with anybody else the way I did with my brother. So for a while, I was very down on the whole idea. I thought, I don't want to have any more relationships. I don't want to have anybody that close to me. But a few years later, I thought, If I never have a child, that might be the saddest thing for me.
I can totally relate. I don’t regret having a child, or having one later in life. But I think I tend to be over-protective of Henry because I do know that horrible things can and do happen to children. There’s a lost innocence that comes with childhood sibling loss. I wouldn’t trade Henry for anything, but, truthfully, I do feel terribly vulnerable in an entirely new realm now that he’s here.
Not long ago, I got off a plane in Phoenix and confronted the words “Ted is Here,” painted on a pillar in bright orange. I almost cried. Ted, I realized, was the name of a budget airline. But it was also my older brother’s name.
My Ted died of an immune disorder 27 years ago, when I was 14 and he was 17. His story, along with that of another boy in Texas, were merged in the movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” (Which my family did not authorize.)
Like most people who’ve lost someone they love, I’ve always wanted him back, or at least present, in some way. As a kid, I wished for a spectral sighting. As a young adult, I sought out psychics and mediums, one of whom once instructed me to ask Ted to give me signs that he was still present. Once, I asked Ted to show me a clown. Two days later, at a coffee shop, I looked up and realized I was sitting under a clown mural. My elation was short-lived, however. Had Ted contrived it, or had I unconsciously found myself a clown?
I’m not making a case for the supernatural here. But seeing that “Ted is Here” sign gave me the old I-see-the-clown feeling again.
This blog, which I’m launching on May 27th, the anniversary of Ted’s death, is an invitation to those who knew him—and those who didn’t—to share their thoughts and memories about the Ted they knew, or the Ted they imagined. Hearing about him, knowing that others are carrying a bit of him around with them, is another way of keeping him present. Honestly, I’d like that much better than seeing a clown.
I’ll also be posting thoughts and commentaries on siblings, sibling loss, families and grief—subjects I have, not surprisingly, become interested in. And for those of you who’ve read my book, The Empty Room, which tells my story and those of others who’ve lost siblings, I welcome your thoughts and messages.