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Posthumous Sibling

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One of the most traumatic situations a family can deal with is Outliving One's Offspring. The wound cuts deep into both individuals and relationships. It is agony to speak about and somehow the silence is worse. The entire world seems to come to an end.

And yet, life goes on.

The desire to be a parent doesn't pass with the loss of a child. After time has passed they may decide that the time has come to have another child. This subsequent child can come with psychological ramifications that don't exist with other children.

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The parent(s) may treat the child as a Replacement Goldfish, or struggle with keeping the child from feeling like one. Fear of losing another child can cause a Mama Bear or Papa Wolf to develop into full blown My Beloved Smother.

On the other hand, the child may struggle with never feeling good enough. It can be hard enough to struggle with comparing to an older sibling; it can be downright impossible to compare with the unlimited potential represented by that older sibling's death.

My Sibling Will Live Through Me and Two Siblings In One can be related, specifically if the child is born close to the older sibling's death. Occasionally Truth in Television, especially historically.

Since this is a Death Trope, expect unmarked spoilers below!


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In Maus, Richieu Spiegelman died in Nazi Germany, while his brother Art was born after WWII ended. Their parents continued to blame themselves for not sending Richieu out of Germany when they had the chance. The final pages of the comic are Art's father, on his death bed, mistaking Art for Richieu. Art, who has spent the entire book feeling that he is The Unfavorite to his father's idealized memories and fantasies of his dead brother, takes it poorly.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Assassination of Twilight Sparkle, Twilight Velvet becomes pregnant with a new filly, Mystic Sparkle, four months after her daughter's death. It's deconstructed when a combination of her parents' paranoia over losing her like they lost Twilight coupled with their inability to see her as anything other than Twilight's replacement causes her to run away and abandon her last name.
  • In Beautiful Monster, Stu and Didi's son Dil is born a year after their older son Tommy is stillborn.
  • In How I Became Yours, Katara gets pregnant with Kuzon some time after the end of the war, only to miscarry him after Mai poisoned her. She and Zuko later have additional children, one of which is also named Kuzon.
  • In the Fraggle Rock fanfic Part of Me, Mokey and Boober's first child, Sunny, is born prematurely and dies in infancy, but in the epilogue, they have new baby triplets, Violet, Rose, and Patches.
  • Similarly, in the Muppets fanfic The Great Desire, Gonzo and Camilla get married, only to divorce in their grief after their daughter Isabella is born prematurely and dies. But in the end they reconcile, and in an epilogue set a year later, they have a new baby daughter, Melanie.
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    Film—Animation 

    Literature 
  • Anne of Green Gables: Anne and Gilbert's first child Joyce died in infancy, but they had six other children after her.
  • The Bible:
    • A possible Ur-Example where Seth was born to Adam and Eve after the murder of their second-born Abel by his own older brother Cain.
    • Exaggerated in Book of Job where Job ends up having 10 children after the death of his first 10 children.
  • In The Chronicles of Amber, King Oberon had three sons with his first wife Cymnea, of whom only Benedict still lives in the books. The unnamed other two perished long before the protagonist Corwin and his many brothers, sisters, half-brothers, and half-sisters were even born.
  • Ruth Cole, the protagonist of John Irving's novel A Widow for One Year was born when her parents tried for a Replacement Goldfish child after their two sons were killed in a car accident. It completely fails to repair the parents' marriage.
  • Andrea is this to Teddy in Daddy's Little Girl; Teddy was born to Andrea's father and his second wife around five years after Andrea was murdered. Ellie, the middle child, sometimes wonders if Teddy would even have been born if Andrea hadn't died. Although Teddy never knew Andrea, they actually bear some similarities: they're both popular, charismatic and athletic (Andrea was a cheerleader and part of the school band, Teddy is a star member of the basketball team), they can both be stubborn and impetuous (as can Ellie) and they both care deeply about Ellie. In the climax, Teddy helps save Ellie from Andrea's killer, which Ellie finds to be ironic.
  • In the Dune series, Paul Atreides' first son, named Leto after his grandfather, is killed in a Sardaukar raid before he was a year old. His second son, also named Leto (causing one Bene Gesserit to state that he should have been called Leto III instead of the II) reigns for 3,500 years as God-Emperor of the known worlds.
  • From the New World reveals that Saki had an older sister who was offed by the community's elders and rendered as an Unperson before Saki was born, with her parents only being able to speak of her death in private. Her parents shakily decided to have another child despite how her sister died.
  • Honor Harrington's parents end up trying for another child very soon after receiving reports of her death in Echoes of Honor, somewhat against their will, because of the complicated legal and political consequences of Honor holding noble titles in two polities and having no children of her own. And then it turned out that Honor wasn't really dead...
  • InCryptid: Daniel Healy was murdered at age three, and it was another three years before Fran and Jonathan had another child, Alice. She doesn't seem to have many issues with her upbringing relating to Daniel, but Jonathan becomes an Overprotective Dad after Fran is killed too.
  • In the Magic Kingdom of Landover series, Ben Holliday's pregnant first wife Annie died in a car accident prior to the events of the first book. It's not mentioned whether Mistaya, his daughter by his second wife, is ever made aware of the half-sibling she never knew.
  • In Middle School, My Brother is a Big Fat Liar!, it is revealed that Georgia was adopted by the Katchadorian family some time after Leo died.
  • Traveler of the Void: Tugum was born to the Mikado after the death of his oldest son, Sagum.
  • In the Jacqueline Wilson novel My Sister Jodie Jodie becomes this in the end; after her death it's revealed her mother had discovered she was expecting another baby and she has a daughter named May. Her birth helps the family cope with their grief and Pearl vows to make sure May knows all about "our sister Jodie" because she never got to meet her.
  • Taken to the extreme in My Sweet Audrina, with it forming a main plot point. The title character was born shortly after her older sister, also named Audrina, was raped and murdered in the woods. Her family, particularly her father, is very protective of her and try to encourage to be more like her sister –- her father even has her sit in the first Audrina's rocking chair in her old room and use a form of self-hypnosis to 'gain the memories' of the "first and best Audrina" and become just as perfect as her (they're a pretty... messed up family). Predictably, this doesn't do wonders for the poor second Audrina's psyche. As it turns out, the "first and best" Audrina never really existed –- there is only one Audrina, whose family tricked her into suppressing her memories of the rape and believing it happened to her non-existent older sister instead, in a misguided attempt to help her cope after the assault.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • There is Daenerys Targaryen, who was born several months after her brother Rhaegar died in the war. She's also a posthumous aunt, since her niece and nephew (Rhaegar's kids) were slaughtered by the Lannisters shortly after Rhaegar's death. As a result, what she knows of him is filtered through her primary caretaker and older brother, middle child Viserys, with the outcome being that she has a very high opinion of him. Daenerys also had three other posthumous brothers (Daeron, Aegon, and Jaehaerys) and at least one stillborn sister (Shaena), none of whom she knew because they all died shortly after birth, and she is the youngest sibling.
    • By the time Alyssa Velaryon married for the second time to Rogar Baratheon and gave birth to his two children, Boremund and Jocelyn, three of her children (Aegon, Viserys, and Vaella) with her first husband, Aenys I, had died.
    • Jaehaerys I and Alysanne had thirteen children, but some of them died young, resulting in a few instances of this. The first, Aegon, died shortly after birth. The second, Daenerys, died right before Alysanne gave birth to the fourth child, Alyssa. The eleventh and twelfth children, Gaemon and Valerion, died before their first nameday and the birth of the youngest, Gael.
    • Figuratively, Daenerys' three dragons, who are hatched after she gives birth to a stillborn son, Rhaego. She considers the dragons "the only children I will ever have", because after Rhaego's birth she has yet to experience a period, suggesting that she has been rendered barren by the procedure.
  • The Stone Dance of the Chameleon:
    • The daughters of Aurum and Sardian's sister were all born after the death of their half-brother, Aurum's son from his first marriage.
    • Ykorenthe is also this to the late Flama Ykoria.
  • A plot point in Seventh Son, the first entry in The Tales of Alvin Maker series: the title character is to be the seventh son of a seventh son, which will endow him with supernatural powers, but only if the preceding six children are alive at the time of his birth. When the novel opens, Alvin's eldest brother Vigor has been mortally injured and desperately clings to life until Alvin is born. Later, Alvin's parents have an eighth child who, naturally, is born after Vigor has died.
  • Plenty of examples in Warrior Cats, since life in the forest is dangerous and couples often have multiple litters in the books. For instance:
    • Graystripe has three kits with his new mate, Millie, a few years after his daughter Feathertail died.
    • Dustpelt and Ferncloud have several litters of kits. Shrewpaw from their first litter and Larchkit and Hollykit of their second litter are dead by the time that Icecloud and Foxleap are born.
    • Sorreltail's kits Molepaw and Honeyfern have died before Lilyheart and Seedpaw are born.
    • Birchface and Frecklewish die in Mapleshade's Vengeance, long before their half brother Pinestar is born; this is mentioned in Pinestar's Choice.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Caprica, the prequel spinoff of Battlestar Galactica (2003), we see a young William Adama growing up in the Tauron community on Caprica. The viewer would assume this is the same William Adama as the later Admiral of the Galactica fleet—but toward the end of the series he dies. His parents then have another son, and name him William in his late sibling's honor.
  • On Falling Skies, Anne Glass had a son, but lost him during the Espheni invasion. Several seasons later, she gives birth to a daughter, Lexi.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • As in the Literature example, Rhaegar Targaryen is this to his much-younger sister Daenerys. Her mother was still pregnant with her when Rhaegar was killed and all she knows of him are from stories by people who knew him.
    • It's later revealed that Rhaegar's children, Rhaenys and Aegon, are this to his secret child Jon Snow, who was born shortly after they were murdered in the Sack of King's Landing. It's for this reason Ned Stark kept his true parentage a secret, raising him as his bastard son so that he wouldn't meet the same fate.
  • Mohinder on Heroes discovers during the first season that he had an older sister once. She's initially suggested to have died when he was a toddler, too young to remember she ever existed, but this is quickly retconned: apparently he was born as a sort of Walking Transplant for her, so his healthy antibodies could cure the rare virus she was afflicted with (the medical science there makes fairly little sense), but he was born slightly too late. Also, she had a special ability, whereas Mohinder did not, which Mohinder is implied to believe is the reason he was The Unfavorite in his father's eyes, and his father's grief for her is implied to be one of the sources of his fascination with evolved humans, so, basically, she's the reason either of them ever got involved in the plot at all.
  • In Sons of Anarchy, a genetic heart condition runs through the maternal bloodline. Gemma is born with it and after she nearly dies of it as a baby, her parents decide not to have any more kids. Gemma marries and has two kids, Jackson and Thomas. Jackson, the oldest, does not inherit, but younger son, Thomas, does and he dies of it. Gemma later tells Nero that she wanted to have a dozen kids, but her husband, John, didn't want to risk anymore after Thomas. Gemma is extremely protective of Jax. Jax has two sons, Able and Thomas (named after his younger brother). Fortunes reverse and Thomas does not inherit the heart condition, but Able does. Fortunately, with advances in medical technology, Able survives. Gemma is fiercely protective of both her grandsons, but often talks to baby Thomas as though he is the original son she lost.
  • In the Timeless episode "Space Race", its revealed that Garcia Flynn had an older half-brother named Gabriel Thompkins, who died before he was born. Using his stolen time machine, Flynn goes back in time to save his brother's life and spare his mother the trauma of losing a child.
  • In The Tudors, Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, dies before his half-brother Edward VI is even conceived. Truth in Television, although presented fictionally; in the show he dies at the age of six, while the real Henry Fitzroy lived to be about sixteen.
    • This is also the case for Henry Fitzroy himself, as well as all three of Henry VIII's legitimate children, though it's only mentioned briefly in the show. Their oldest brother was Henry, Duke of Cornwall, the son of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, who died in infancy years before any of them were born.

    Music 
  • It's not seen in the music itself, but the story included in the liner notes of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Beethoven's Last Night uses this as a plot point. The Devil wants to steal Beethoven's tenth and greatest symphony, and his soul. Fate writes out a contract on a page from the Bible which states that he will take the tenth symphony of Beethoven's parents' oldest son, Ludwig... only for Twist, the misshapen son of Fate, to reveal that Ludwig isn't the firstborn. He had an older brother who died before he was born, and his parents gave him the same name. Beethoven himself knew nothing of this, and cannot be held to the contract, which makes the Devil furious.

    Podcasts 
  • In In Strange Woods, Howl's older sisters Charity and Mercy died while his mother was pregnant with him.

    Theatre 
  • In Next to Normal, it is revealed that Natalie was born about a year after her brother Gabe's death.

    Video Games 
  • Can possibly happen in Dragon Age: Origins, if the Warden decides to kill Connor Guerrin rather than attempt to exorcise the demon inside of him. The epilogue in this case claims that Connor's mother Isolde gives birth to a daughter but loses her life in the process.
  • In God of War (PS4), Kratos had fathered a boy named Atreus decades after his accidental murder of his wife Lysandra and their daughter Calliope. However, Atreus appears to be unaware of them.
  • In What Remains of Edith Finch, Molly is this to her younger brothers. Subverted for her younger sister Barbara, who would have been about 3 years old when she died.
  • Yes, Your Grace: The main plot will inevitably result in the death of the Player Character's oldest daughter. Another plotline has the Player Character try for a new child in the hope that it will be a boy. The oldest daughter's death happens before the youngest child's birth.

    Webcomics 
  • In The Order of the Stick #496, Roy mentions that his brother Eric died two years before the birth of his sister Julia, who incidentally got spoiled rotten.
  • In Something*Positive, Davan's father Fred lost his first wife and young son to a tragic car accident. He later remarried Faye, Davan's mother, and had two more children.
  • Wilde Life has an unusual example: the second chapter is about Becky, who is currently pregnant and also being haunted by the ghost of her daughter Dani. Infant Sibling Jealousy may be in effect. The chapter ends with Dani moving on to the afterlife, and by her next appearance Becky has had her second child.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Family Guy episode "The Juice is Loose", Peter babysits Stewie. Lois reminds Peter of what happened the last time he watched one of their children, leading to a Cutaway Gag where he shakes "Peter Jr." to death. Since the flashback only shows Peter and Lois, it is implied that the three surviving Griffin children were all born after Peter Jr. died.

     Real Life 
  • As mentioned above, all of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon's children except Mary Tudor were either stillborn or died in infancy, well before the births of Henry's children by other women (the illegitimate Henry Fitzroy by Elizabeth Blount, Elizabeth I by Anne Boleyn, and Edward VI by Jane Seymour). Henry Fitzroy also died a year before Edward VI was born.
  • When Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza lost their eldest son Philip in a duel in 1801, Eliza was pregnant, and when the baby was born in 1802, he was named Philip after his late brother.
  • Benjamin Travolta, the youngest son of John Travolta and Kelly Preston, was born in 2010 after his older brother Jett died of a seizure in 2009.
  • American politician John Edwards and his late wife Elizabeth welcomed their third child Emma Claire in 1998, two years after their son Wade had been killed in a car accident. Their youngest child Jack was born two years after Emma in 2000. John's illegitimate daughter Frances Quinn also counts as this, having been born twelve years after Wade's death.
  • Model and reality tv star Anna Nicole Smith gave birth to a daughter, Dannielyn Birkhead, when her older son Daniel was twenty years old. Sadly, Daniel died of an overdose shortly after Dannielyn's birth, and Anna Nicole Smith would also die of an overdose just a few months later.


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