Father’s Day and Baby Loss

Father’s Day and Baby Loss

By Tara Shafer

If women feel alone in grief following the loss of a pregnancy or infant, the solitude of the father is both palpable and largely unacknowledged.  “Helping Men with the Trauma of Miscarriage,” published in Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training in 2010, Mark Kiselica, Ph.D, and Martha Rinehart, PhD examined the issue of men following baby loss and concluded that the fathers’ grief was often dismissed by others. In “Psychological Impact of Stillbirth on Fathers in the Subsequent Pregnancy and Puerperium,” researchers found that following a stillbirth, men had elevated rates of anxiety and were at heightened risk for PTSD, in much the same way as their female counterparts.  Many fathers report wishing that they had had more and better access to care.

Speaking in broad generalities, there are a number of factors that may influence how men seek support in grief and which conspire against them. In a medical setting, for example, the health care is administered to the woman, reinforcing the outmoded notion that men are necessarily peripheral to pregnancy. Instead they are relegated to the distancing effect of phones, forced to make arrangements, and “be supportive.”

But wait. Men are now expected to be far more involved in the day-to-day of childrearing. The expectation that Dad will be absent from the delivery room, opting instead to hand out cigars in the waiting room like Don Draper, now seems patently ridiculous.  The role of fathers has shifted over time. This raises the question: why not allow men emotional space in pregnancy, as well as companion grief in loss?  While there is no one way to experience loss, and the spectrum of grief is complex, these men would do well to receive support as they navigate and define their own experience.  It is a mistake to paint the masculine experience of loss with one broad stroke.  This costs more than we know.

The assumption that men are peripheral to pregnancy may unravel rapidly, especially in situations of loss. We have all heard it said that a woman becomes a mother when she discovers she is pregnant and a man becomes a father when he holds his baby.  I am not convinced that either one of these sayings is really all that true, but if it is said enough times one grows complacent and believes some version of this.

Until.  In an instant everything is gone.

Writes Return To Zero writer/director Sean Hanish, whose son was stillborn in 2005,  “As a husband, a partner, a man you are a passenger on the pregnancy express. You can look out the window and watch the scenery go by, her belly grow, her skin glow, and if you’re lucky, catch your baby’s elbow as it presses against her belly like the dorsal fin of some alien sea creature making it more real for you. But you’re not the engineer. When the crash comes you are struggling with your own emotions, grief and loss, desolation and depression, and watching as your wife, your partner, your life jumps the tracks. Twisting metal tumbling out of control in slow motion. Prepare for impact.”

I am reminded of a day several weeks or months after our loss when Gavin came home. He remarked that a lot of people were asking how I was.  We always took this beautiful gesture of concern in the spirit it was given and were, in fact, deeply appreciative of these questions. But we did laugh ruefully (and just a little) at how frequently Gavin was inadvertently left out of the equation, the expressions of concern.

On our website, Reconceiving Loss (www.reconceivingloss.com (link is external)) we collect the stories of loss for the Return To Zero Project. This archive reflects, in part, the lonely experience of men. Artist Louis Hemmings created a video, Goodbye, Au Revoir, Slan that shows the loss of his daughter decades ago through the eyes of his young son. Other fathers have lent their experience to the archive and their words reveal a well of sadness and loss.

As we approach Father’s Day, I call on women and men to support Baby Loss Dads (or dads who have lost babies). We can begin by acknowledging their grief and understanding its nuance. We can remember to ask how they are, not just about their wives or their partners. We can engage them in a dialogue that begins to bear out the idea that we want to know how they are, how it feels to them to be missing something so central. We can acknowledge the role of fathers in childrearing as post-traditional by re-enforcing that they share the loss. This is the dialogue that creates healthier, happier families. And for the future of the men that we love, this is what will be required.

Tara Shafer is the co-founder of Reconceiving Loss (link is external), a site for bereaved families facing baby loss offering premium access to informational webinars, self care videos and much more. She is a contributing blogger for Psychology Today, BabyCenter, the Huffington Post and Still Standing. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. Tara has been an international human rights and refugee advocate and holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University.

 

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October 15 2015

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I-remember-with-you-meme-707x70710 Ways to Honor Your Friend’s Child That Died This October

Do you have a friend whose baby died? Maybe she took a healthy baby home and months later her son died tragically of SIDS. Or maybe he never got to meet his baby awake outside of the womb because his daughter was stillborn. Maybe you have a friend who suffered a miscarriage more than once but once is enough pain to endure. Maybe you have a friend whose toddler, school age, or teenager tragically died.

****If you do know someone who has been shaken to their core by the loss of their child, no matter what age, please take a moment and honor your friend and her or his child by remembering them this October for Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness Month.
I know, right now you might be saying to yourself, “Okay, yeah I have a bereaved parent friend and I want to help honor their child’s memory but I just don’t know what to do.”

Fair enough; that is why I’m here to help. As a bereaved mom whose child died two years ago, I have come up with some ideas I would love if a friend did for me. I am sharing them with you in hopes that you will reach out to your bereaved parent friend and let them know that you are thinking of them and always remembering their precious child this October.

1. Light a Candle for them. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day (I like to include ALL children no matter what their age) and is recognized around the world and you are invited to participate. The remembrance ceremony can take place in your own home. It’s that easy. All you have to do is light a candle at 7 p.m. your local time and leave it burning for an hour. Doing this in honor of your friend’s child contributes to the wave of light that is created by others doing the same in their time zone on October 15th in remembrance of all children who left us too soon.

2. Say their child’s name.  When you grab that cup of coffee with your bereaved parent friend or you pass them at work, take a moment and say their child’s name in your conversations. It doesn’t have to be formal, maybe just in passing, bring their child’s name up if it seems appropriate. For example if you are at their house and see a picture of your friend and their child make note of it and say, “I love that picture of you and Susie.” Or if it doesn’t come up easily then just say, “I heard it’s Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness month and wanted to let you know I was thinking of Johnny.”

3. Send a card. You know that section in the store where the cards are that says, “Thinking of You.”? That would be perfect sentiment to send during the month of October to remind them that you remember their child this month and always. I’m sure it would brighten their day. As a bereaved mom, every card I still receive from family and friends that acknowledges my child and my pain as a grieving mother is almost like a hug in the mail from my daughter. I see it as my little girl working through you to get to me. Maybe your friend will feel the same way, and that is powerful stuff.

4. Call up your friend and just say, “I wanted to let you know I’ve been thinking of you and wanted to tell you this October during Pregnancy, Infant, and Child Loss Awareness month about how I think of your child often.” You could also go on to ask if there was anything they might need from you or like for you to do with them in remembrance this October.

5. Do a RAOK (Random Act of Kindness) in their child’s name. What better way to show that your friend’s child’s life has impacted others than by continuing to do things in his/her name?  The MISS Foundation started The Kindness Project and this idea of remembering our children though random acts of love. So this October, do a RAOK. Maybe buy a cup a coffee for the guy in line behind you with a note that it’s in remembrance of your friend’s baby that died or let the mom in line at the grocery store go ahead of you and tell them all about how Timmy, your friend’s child would have done the same. Be creative, the possibilities are endless and you will do it all in your friend’s child’s name. Don’t forget to let your friend know. It might just bring a tear of joy to their eye.

6. Participate in a Remembrance Walk with them. There are so many out there during the month of October. As a bereaved mom I find remembrance walks to be powerful experiences. It’s just so moving when your family and friends come out to support you and honor your child that you are missing. I know this might sound weird to the non-bereaved parent, but for those few hours, during that one time of year, when my feet pound that 5k course, I get to really “be” my child’s mom that day. People acknowledge me as “Nora’s Mom” and I get to publicly parent her in ways I never will get to in life. Now wouldn’t that be a good gift to give a friend this October. To find one near you click on this link at Remembering Our Babies October 15th.

7. Stop in for a visit and spend time with your friend. Don’t forget to mention why you are there. Maybe bring over some baked goods or a meal to share. We bring over food in the early days of grief and mourning after a loved one dies, I think a nice batch of cookies would be just as helpful years down the road too.

8. Invite your friend to a remembrance service or ask if you can go with him or her to one they might be attending. See if there is a remembrance ceremony being held in your neighborhood and ask your friend if they would like to come along. It would be a wonderful gesture and if you are uncomfortable bringing up the topic of their child that died it’s a nice way of segueing into the conversation.

9. Send an, “I remember with you” note through e-mail or as a Facebook status. Want to acknowledge your friend’s child this month but don’t know how to say it. Then send an e-mail, private message, or leave a note on their Facebook wall. Better yet, post something on their Facebook or yours publicly saying, “I remember your child with you” this October.

Originally published October 6, 2015

By Lindsay Henke

http://stillstandingmag.com/2015/10/10-ways-honor-friends-child-died-october-2/?fb_ref=Default

My Space will soon be 4

The space

There is a space in our family that cannot be filled. At one time it was tiny, 18 inches long, yet to reach three pounds, long and lean but tucked into a bundle dripping with my tears.

That space inserted itself into every day. She was milestones unmet, crib sheets unused, car seats returned. The pain of her absence stubbornly followed my every moment. Tears in the shower, aching emptiness in my chest and constant wonder over the functioning world.

Our space grew as we did. Two years old, a height evenly between her brother and sister, toddling in places she should be and shouldn’t.

This space came and went. She woke me up in the morning and reminded me over again how life had changed, she was a hair color I would never know and words I would never hear and this spot in every photo where I knew she should be.

As our space got older we got stronger. At four she was probably all kinds of things, probably tall and thin, probably inseparable from her sister, probably the one to like hugs more and dirt less.

We could almost see her, the little person she would have become and this hurt so much more but sometimes less.

When our space inched past 6 she was so far from the baby we held we weren’t sure how to imagine her. She might be the tallest or the shortest or have straight hair or curly forever tangled in a brush.

She wasn’t just remembered by us anymore, her siblings drew her into their imaginations, painted her into our world, dripping with vibrance and swirling colors. Their thoughts of her made our hearts burst and break at once knowing they had glimpsed our emptiness. She was their space to hold too.

Our space will be 8 soon, we’ve held her for that long. She would be begging me for purple in her hair or loving it cropped short. She should be trading clothes with her sister and sharing her bed at night or hiding her things so she won’t borrow them again.

She is the sister my daughter is sure would fix every annoyance from her brothers. The daughter I imagine would have made our life that perfect kind of ordinary. And the child I would give anything to have back.

She is the space we will always hold, she’s changed form and size and intensity over the years but there’s no force greater than what she’s left for us. A family forever holding her place.

See more of this article at: http://fourplusanangel.com/2015/09/the-space/#sthash.c9obvphA.dpuf

View original at: http://fourplusanangel.com/2015/09/the-space/

I love this post written by Jessica author of ‘Four plus an Angel’ it came in my inbox at the most necessary time. I couldn’t have written this feeling, these sentiments or thoughts any better so I have shared it with you.

Namaste,

Thanks for reading.

Sheri.

Quotes from bereaved parents

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minereminder of the voidsay their namealways remember

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Wed.Oct.15th 2014 Child Loss Memorial Service for Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day

langley lawn cemetery childrens plaque

Mourning Mothers held their 12th annual Child Loss Memorial service at 1:30 yesterday(October 15th- Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day) at Langley Lawn Cemetery4393 208 St, Langley, BC There was  a dove release and a display of “Angel Gowns” made from wedding dresses, for stillborn babies or those who have died after birth. We lit a candle for Lily, placed an angel on the cemetery’s Angel Tree. I am so grateful to have found this place, I have been longing for a place to visit where I can remember my girl, having had her cremated, her ashes sit in a love box on our fireplace, we always felt like we had nowhere to go. We wanted to ‘buy’ a bench and have an in memoriam plaque placed on it but unfortunately Langley has decided it appears too negative to have ‘In memory of’ or  birth and death dates, so we decided against it. I cant even begin to describe the anger I felt when they told me this. Anyway, we do have a plaque outside the NICU where Lily spent most of her life but its just too far to visit and a little awkward to stand in a hallway with people and doctors passing by, also when we saw the plaque for the 1rst time we of course took a picture and a security guard told us we were not aloud and questioned why?? We thought are you kidding?! this is OUR plaque for OUR daughter, WE paid for and we will take a picture if we damn well please! Anyways after the service yesterday I felt so completely and utterly drained. But so glad I went.

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.”
― Dalai Lama XIV

lily dovetree

That sinking feeling….

I feel like I am sinking, I have a stone tied to my heart and it is taking my head down fast, I am barely able to breathe through the choking of tears, where is this coming from, why am I so scared?

If I had one wish it would be to freeze time just at this moment so I can figure out what I am so afraid of without doing anymore damage.

I want time to stand still, because I am scared of the future, not looking forward to it, there was a time I wish I could fast forward now I wish it would be still. I don’t want my kids to keep getting older and eventually leave me, I don’t want to realize that they won’t need me soon, I don’t want to continue watching myself slowly age and die. I am scared. Mostly scared, of living right now.

My son who is almost 8 said in a random conversation when I asked him a question- he said- ‘because you always get mad at me’

Those simple 6 words ripped my heart open and here I sit falling into a wayward sinking hole, I cannot stop crying, I cannot understand, where did I go wrong? I love my children –this 7.5 year old boy- I love more than life itself, how can he not know of only my love for him, he is afraid to see me or do something because  I always get mad at him! Not so good. I have failed. I am sinking.

Hope is 1 today, and I am not elated, I am not happy, I don’t think I care.

I am overwhelmed by emotions of anxiety, guilt; I feel like a really shitty mother, to her to my boys, to lily, I am scared to death! Of death, of losing my remaining children, of them loosing me. I cannot get these morbid, sad thoughts out of my head, I feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing anything other than sit and do nothing. I want to do nothing, which actually makes it worse because I feel like I am wasting my time, my precious moments left of life, what am I doing, what is wrong with me.

I was feeling better, almost normal, my new normal -was ok. Lily’s been gone 2 years and 45 days. I feel like I am to blame, like the universe punished me. I was selfish, I didn’t want a daughter because I was scared, I thought of miscarriages while I was pregnant with Lily, I knew something felt wrong and I said nothing. I am to blame. I can’t breathe. I am sinking.

I know I must keep moving…..before I sink to the bottom.

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Why Do We Suffer?

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Why do we suffer

Why?
Why do children suffer?
Why do babies die?
In the end their suffering is gone

Those left behind are the ones who suffer.
Why must we all suffer?

Why?

Caption: Is of my beautiful on the outside and so broken on the inside baby girl  -Lily Emma Olive Hall-  2 days before she died.