Tuesday, March 23, 2010

the lonely grief

Perhaps one of the toughest things about grieving an unborn child is that it is a lonely grief. Typically when someone in your life passes away, whether its a grandparent, parent, friend etc., there are others around you who share your grief. Difficult as any loss is, it is common to share memories and stories of loved ones- as well as share the burden of the loss. Outside of the babyloss community, it is so difficult to navigate how to grieve around others- if at all.

For me, it's been a private, lonely grief from the get-go. When we learned the news that at 21 weeks our baby's heart stopped beating, there were a few people who I called during those first few hours while in shock and tears- my parents, my sister, my best friend. When I came home from the hospital to recover, I became incredibly sick for days as my immune system was wiped out. I wanted to inform our friends and family and decided to do so in a brief email. At that point we were so heartbroken and I was very depressed. Messages of condolences poured in and we received a few cards and flowers. Eventually in the following weeks I spoke with my closest friends and family who called. But soon after our loss, our grief became quiet.

People around us did not bring up our baby, probably out of fear of making us uncomfortable. At times I brought it up, but felt awkward, and quickly stopped sharing. DH and I decided to do a private memorial for our son with just the two of us. We live out of state from our families and most of our friends, and its what felt right. At the time that we lost Baby S, we hadn't settled on a name- but had been calling him by a nickname, which we decided to make his name. That is who he was and is to us.

Of course my husb carries grief of our loss too, although he manages it much differently. We talk about our lost baby, but it's always me who brings it up. So over time, I find I bring him up to dh less and less. I began going to counseling immediately after our loss. My doctor recommended it right away, as he would with any patient, and he didn't need to convince me. I needed someone to talk to... someone who could hopefully help me ease my pain in a safe place where I could fully open up and cry.

It has been nice to have a therapist who is there to listen. Although, I noticed after the first few months, when the time came that we would start trying to conceive again, she seemed to shift the conversation away from baby loss. The focus became trying to get pregnant and is now about dealing with this pregnancy. My grief still comes up (when I bring it up), and my therapist will recognize yet only momentarily.

It's hard to share your grief, your love, your yearning for a baby that the world didn't get to meet. I know our family and friends were sad for us and for our baby, but their lives quickly moved on. Despite our best efforts to explain our experience, they will never know what it is like and they will never miss our baby like we do. And it's not their fault, but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with. I sometimes wonder if anyone thinks of our lost child as an actual person who died. Do my siblings miss their unborn nephew? Do our parents think about their grandchild who they never got to meet? I'm not sure. Certainly they have thought of us. But no one knew our child. We did. Intimately. Despite the fact that we can't share memories of his birthdays, family trips etc. So we honor him on our own. Every day. In our hearts.


  1. This is so true. I think it must be really hard for those outside of you or your husband to truly realize what a real baby you lost. You created it together. You felt its kicks, felt the morning sickness, saw it on an ultrasound screen, but probably no one else (or very few others) did. It lived inside you and was a part of you for 21 weeks. You're right that family and friends who never met your baby probably have a hard time comparing it to a "real" person who lived and died and whom they knew. It definitely makes for a very lonely grief.
    I found that the less I talked about my losses, the less other people talked about them too. If you want to talk about your loss in years to come, you will very likely have to be the one to bring it up, but people may be more receptive to talking about it when it's not so fresh a pain as it is now. One great consolation is that you can always talk about it here - to people who understand and who won't trivialize your loss.

  2. I think being lonely is one of the most difficult parts of the grief you feel after losing a baby. You carried your little angel for 21 weeks and have every right to miss him and recognize that he was a person who actually died. Even after losing 2 little ones in the first trimester, I still can't even comprehend what you went through. I hope that over time you are able to discuss Baby S's short life openly. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss. It is sad that we all have that in common, but it is nice to know that at the same time we are all here for eachother and we understand.


  4. As LuckyOnce said, it's nice to have this one place where your loss is not trivialized. That's what makes it so difficult and lonely - your loss is yours alone since the loss is totally intangible even to family and close friends.

    It was interesting to me to see the contrast between how I was treated when I lost my sons (getting lots of comments that minimized or dismissed my losses, being avoided by some people, etc.) and how my parents were treated when they lost their children at ages 1 and 32 (outpouring of sympathy and support through all the rituals - viewing, funeral, burial, etc. and far beyond). My siblings were "real", my sons were not.

  5. What a beautiful post. It is a lonely grief at times and there are not many people to share it with.
    Sometimes I think, because my daughter had a surviving sibling born at the same gestation, it makes it more difficult for people to dismiss her as not 'real.'
    Those final few sentences are heartbreaking. Your little boy is honoured, every single day. xo