Born Still: A Misunderstood Grief
by Kathy Evans, NJ MISS Facilitator

Editor's note: We are publishing this article because Kathy was kind enough to share this with us after a facilitators' discussion about how to handle situations where people qualify grief -- you know, times when people say things like, "At least you had three months with him alive" or some other very hurtful thing. Let me tell you that anything that qualifies grief -- almost any statement that starts with "at least.." -- stinks! Grief is grief is grief, folks. Love and grief are not qualified by the amount of time with have with our kids.

I find myself writing this, maybe because I hurt, maybe because I feel the need to educate others, maybe because I just have to.

I have belonged to TCF for about a year and half now. I am just two years bereaved. My son died when I was full term with him. In my search for help to assist me through my own grief I have tried to help others understand what it is that we who have lost a baby - a child - at birth feel. Sometimes it is very difficult to explain because he never lived outside my womb. But because he was vibrantly alive inside of me for nine months, I grew to know him as he developed.

Sometimes I think back and try to remember the happy memories of my time with Sean. He loved fettuccine alfredo, but it had to have broccoli or shrimp in it. I think about the kind of music he liked. I think about the kind of songs that he liked me to sing to him. How he liked me to rub him to sleep. I also think about how he hiccupped so often - it sometimes drove me nuts! Oh, how I miss those days. But because of those days, and through this intense pain, I also have joy. I have joy because I had my son at all, because I loved my son, because I mothered him.

When I was first bereaved, I looked at people who had "time" with their children and thought to myself "Well, at least you had them for (however long it was)." I know others who are grieving look at me and think, "Well, at least you didn't get to know him." I know now how wrong I was, and also how wrong they are. No matter what amount of time you have with your child - the pain we feel is the same.

We should never have to bury our children.

I have pain because he died, because I had only ten minutes with him outside my womb, because I never saw his eyes open, never saw his smile, never heard him make a sound. That silence I heard in the delivery room was deafening. I have pain because he lay in a morgue for days waiting to be buried. I have the pain of seeing my son in his coffin, seeing that coffin closed, having a funeral, putting him in the ground, saying goodbye. Pain because I now must visit him at a cemetery. I grieve his loss terribly. I feel that crater burned into my heart, I feel the emptiness that will never be filled, I feel the loss of my future, my life.

You see, I feel what you feel. Our experiences may be different, some may have had their children for a longer or shorter time then I did, but our pain is all the same. Losing a child is a life-altering experience. Things will never be the same - I will never be the same, and I don't want to!


Additional Editor's Note
In our facilitators' discussion, Joanne Caccitore-Garard was kind of enough to also give an example of how we might directly address folks who try to qualify grief. Thought to share it with you all here, too:

To Parent 1: You know it is awful that you don't have any of those precious memories with your child alive- it must seem like you went through so much to only be cheated of the gift of time. How difficult that must be...

And then to Parent 2: And for you, how hard to say goodbye to a child whom you had for three beautiful months and adjust to that tremendous loss...

And lastly to the whole group: You know, let's just take a moment and think about this-- it just is *never* (emphasis) okay for a child to die...and while we are all different in how we got here, we are all experiencing a shared sorrow of our child's death. No matter what age or cause, the experience is tragic beyond our understanding.


About the Author
By Kathy Evans in loving memory of my son Sean, born still November 8th, 1997 (1/15/00)

Kathy facilitates the NJ chapter of the MISS Foundation. Meetings are offered as follows: New Jersey - Somers Point, 2nd Wed of each month 7:30 PM, Grace Lutheran Church (Rear Entrance), Shore Rd and Dawes Ave, Somers Point, NJ, 609-601-0563; Facilitator Kathy Evans with Co-Facilitator Terry Holland.

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