Hilliard/Suddes Family

Kate and Jimmy’s son, Paul died on November 10 and was born on November 11, 2012. His sudden, unexplained death shocked their family. They struggled to balance their grief while also parenting their then-toddler, June. June reflects on the brother she didn’t get a chance to know and the impact the birth of her sister, Diana, had on her grief.

JIMMY: When the ultrasound came, and we saw that the heart beat was gone, I remember my first words to Kate were it's not your fault.

KATE: After you find out that the baby has died, you’re kind of making these very surreal decisions side by side, which is making a birth plan, you know, in a plan for labor and delivery and then making a death plan. Paul drew this line in our life where everything is before him and after him. And I look back at pictures of myself, or think about certain experiences, and it's like looking at, I can't imagine not having the knowledge of his life and death.

JIMMY: My, my way of grieving comparing to Kate's was very, very different. I would wake up at three in the morning and Kate would be gone from the bed. She’d either be walking or she’d be in the basement screaming. I didn’t do anything like that. My, my desire to kind of compartmentalize and control. I think in order to exert that amount of energy to do that made me very static. I think that I spent a lot of time. Um, just trying to find a way to survive. Trying to find a way to package it up. Put it away for another time.

JUNE: It was really sad we would never see him gain except for when he was born. I talk to my parents about what do you think he would be like and I think they were kind of sad too and let down.

KATE: She’s a pretty empathetic old soul. I think she was trying to process why her parents were so deeply sad.

JIMMY: I don’t know if I was the best parent all the time. To be in the middle of grief and to be forced to care for a toddler is definitely a weight. But, sometimes, it is a life preserver. There are times that I look at June and what she did for us and not knowing what she was doing. When it’s really nice out and you have a child who wants to go to the park and you don’t have it in you to be in the world, but she would just persist. She would just keep asking so we would go and then you get out there and you find out that you can exist in the world again.

The Suddes Hilliard family strolls through a park at dusk as the sun sets between trees
Closeup on hands holding a book open to a couple of baby sonogram images
June Hilliard laying in bed, reading in front of a sunlit window

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