Review of Stillborn: The Invisible Death by John DeFrain
by Kara L.C. Jones

Stillborn: The Invisible Death
by John DeFrain with Leona Martens, Jan Stork, Warren Stork
From the University of Nebraska & Lexington Books
ISBN 0-669-11354-9


Had the good fortune to meet John DeFrain at the MISS conference this year, and I have to tell you that this book is the literary manifestation of the man I met-- to a T! This is a stunning collection because it is so thorough and inclusive of many points of view, but also because it was written and complied in the early 1980s!!! Based on this work, I cannot imagine *why* the support system for bereaved parents in this country sucks so badly! I would venture to say support still sucks because this book is *not* mandatory reading for every doctor, nurse, care giver, social worker, family member on the planet!!!! IT SHOULD BE!

It's difficult in this little review to tell you everything that's here in this book. I encourage you to get a copy and read it-- trust me. But I will say a few things. One, this book is a compilation of interviews with 350 bereaved parents across the U.S.. The interviews were thorough and let the parents address anything and everything you can think of-- anything and everything that you have experienced if you are a bereaved parent yourself. DeFrain is true to his mission and represents every voice here. No one is left out. Every point of view is expressed.

The other amazing thing is that DeFrain is obviously here. I mean he obviously read and heard the interviews with these parents and was *affected* by that on an emotional level. But his academic stance does not get in the way or try to hide any of that. He facilitates the reality of these bereaved parents without canceling out their experience through the use of that academic or clinical speak you sometimes find in other books. This is not to say he hasn't presented a work that isn't worthy of inclusion in any academic or medical setting! I'll say again that anyone who has or might have contact with bereaved parents should be required to read this book!

There is an amazing section included here for addressing surviving siblings. I have seen more and more children's books coming onto the market to address grief, but this book by DeFrain shares an insider view of several hundred families and how they have coped with stillbirth. I think this is an invaluable discussion of sibling grief.

There is information here about how "it is almost normal to go a bit crazy" after a stillbirth and there is validation for how "very few people [who haven't experienced stillbirth firsthand] have any idea how long it takes to recover from this crisis."

DeFrain talks about all kinds of coping techniques including enduring bitterness, ambivalence during a subsequent pregnancy and more. And he addresses these issues directly without *WITHOUT* without judgment. He simply shows what all of us go through but rarely find space space in which to discuss or acknowledge.

There is also an amazing transcript in the back of the book that will give you a real feel for what a support group - a good one - functions like. And there is a sample questionnaire that you can fill out just as the 350 parent contributors filled out for this book. And there is sooooo much more!

I literally have about 100 out of 245 pages marked in one way or another. There just isn't any way for me to incorporate everything here without going into a lengthy discussion. So let me just share the following quote from the book and tell you to GET THIS BOOK AND READ IT!!!

"Most family members who do not talk about the baby, we presume, avoid doing so because death makes them feel uncomfortable. In general, we believe that this is a dreadful mistake. A conspiracy of silence envelops the grieving parents and makes it more difficult for them to heal rather than less. We have heard hundreds of parents talk bitterly of this conspiracy. A baby may be dead, but the fact that the baby once lived is much more important and must be recognized by remembering and talking."

A-*f*cking-men! (or Awomen if you are a feminist :))


Kara lives on Vashon Island which is a much more awesome place than she ever imagined it would be. She is a poet, bookmaker, wife, teacher, bereaved mom, facilitator, receptionist, founder, struggling p.t.barnum, turtle faithful, editor, artist, and a million other things that will prevent you from putting her in any one particular label box! Kara teaches through local art centers, artists in the schools programs, KotaPress and independently. To find out more about her, see:

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