Monday, September 10, 2012

Grief

When Toren was born a few hours after we found out he had died, I remember thinking, “Thank god that’s over.” I didn’t realize, it was only just starting.

Having a stillborn child has been a very confusing experience for me, among other emotions. After he was born, I went into such terrible shock, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know if I was his mama. I didn’t know if I was supposed to think of him as my child. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do about it.

At that time, I didn’t know the importance of grieving. I didn’t know that I had to learn how to grieve. And I didn’t know that you can’t stop it. I will never accept that my baby died, but I will accept the grief.

It’s been eight months since our son died. The first eight months of our lives without him. The shock is only just starting to wear off and the full implications are making themselves known. My husband, Peter, was talking to another bereaved father whose daughter Amelia died at birth last year.  He said someone asked him if he was able to put his loss behind him. He replied that Amelia’s death is like a road that stretches out in front of him. Peter said this is how he feels about Toren’s death, that it stretches out ahead of him for the rest of his life. I tend to think of it more like the sky – it covers everything I do.  We are both ok with this.

The sad truth about losing a child is you never get over it, you never get past it, you never put it behind you. You just learn to live with it. I feel like it could take my whole life to learn how do to this.

The healthiest way to move forward with a loss is through remembering. I have learned this through talking with other grieving parents, from my own experience and from what I have read. When someone dies, you don’t stop talking or thinking about that person. Their photos and letters become like treasures. The most important part of them, the part they left with you, is indescribably precious.

But how do you “remember” someone who didn’t even have the chance to take his first breath? For parents of stillborn children, creating memories mostly happens after  they die, not before like everyone else. I am creating memories in a few different ways which I will write more about in time.

One way that many families try to cope with their loss is to help others. Our family has joined up with two other families to start a non-profit foundation to support anyone affected by the death of a baby during pregnancy or very shortly after birth. The organization is called Still Life Canada – Stillbirth & Perinatal Death Education, Research & Support. After sharing experiences, we came to realize that services and support are lacking in Vancouver for bereaved families. Working on this project is an outlet for our grief. Currently we are working on registering as a charity but we’re also forging ahead with fundraising, educational and memorial events. You can sign up to follow our activities at www.still-lifecanada.ca. Or if you’re on twitter, @StillLifeCanada. I will blog more about it as we progress.