The Very Lonely Experience of Grief

10:41:00 AM

At an 18 week ultrasound our unborn baby was diagnosed with a diaphragmatic hernia. We were told our child would probably not survive after birth because there was not enough room in his lung cavity to allow sufficient lung tissue to develop: he wouldn’t be able to breathe without the aid of a respirator. We prayed for a miracle but Thomas lived only 28 hours. He was born on 9th November.

From my diary

26th November

I saw Dr M for the first time since Thomas died. I don’t know if she was going to say anything about our baby but I got out my photo box to show her anyway. Dr M cried as she looked at the photos…

The receptionist, Jenny asked me how I was, on my way out. I told her we’d had our baby, and it was obvious that it hadn’t crossed her mind all was not well. She’d forgotten we’d had problems during the pregnancy. She was taken aback when I said, “He died two weeks ago.” Jenny also looked at the photos and she also cried. I was quite calm and dry-eyed and felt like the only person in control.

However moods change quickly and this afternoon I am weepy…

I remember how reluctant people were to bring up the subject of our baby. I wanted and needed to talk about Thomas but no one said, “Tell me about your baby. Tell me about Thomas.”  I took my photo box wherever I went, in the hope that someone would want to share the photos of our son.

I hadn’t seen Doctor M for some weeks because she’d passed my antenatal care onto a specialist. When I went to see her two weeks after Thomas’ birth about another matter, I wanted to tell her about our son. I had my Thomas box with me and I wanted to show her all the sad photos. I wanted her to take an interest in our baby who had so recently died. The doctor didn’t immediately ask about Thomas. I thought maybe she wasn’t going to say anything but I was determined to show her all the evidence of his fleeting life. I think I wanted Doctor M to suffer too. I wanted her to feel my pain, to leave her seemingly happy life even for a few minutes and join me in my sorrow.

I was upset the receptionist Jenny didn’t remember that our baby was probably going to die after birth. How could she have forgotten something that we’d thought about every minute of every day for the last few months? And so I wanted her to feel our pain too. I wanted her to cry even a few tears, to relieve me of a few of mine.

I didn’t weep with the doctor or the receptionist. Someone once remarked that we only cry with those people with whom we feel comfortable, those we feel care about us and our sorrow. Perhaps this is true.  But could it have been that I just wanted them to cry instead of me?
When I returned home it didn’t take long for the tears to appear again. I was back alone with my grief. The doctor had probably dried her eyes and was attending to another patient. I’d touched her with my sorrow for a few minutes but it was my pain, not hers.  She couldn’t really feel the depths of my suffering. No one can unless they have had a similar experience.

Grief is a very lonely existence.

But I found out that sharing experiences with other grief-stricken parents helped. We’ve all passed through that one way door of intense suffering. We all, without wanting to, belong to that exclusive club where the price of membership is so very high: the loss of a child. We all know the depths of the pain. And we all realise we are not alone. There is someone else who understands.

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  1. Sharing our pain with others who have experienced the same or similar always seems to help. We don't have to explain ourselves. We just have to be. Hugs.

  2. Colleen,
    I really wanted to share my pain with someone who'd been through a similar experience, someone who I knew would understand. But I knew no one who'd lost a baby apart from a kind friend of a friend who rang once or twice. So the internet and blogs are such a blessing because they put us in contact with kindred spirits and, as you so rightly said, "We don't have to explain ourselves."

    Strange how we feel we have to say something with words when a hug alone can say so very much. To be allowed to 'be' and feel accepted - yes, that helps!

    Thank you Colleen for sharing my story. God bless!

  3. I so relate to you carrying a box around, hoping that someone would ask to see photos. I brought photos to the doctors office. But I was too timid to show them.

  4. Sarah,

    I carried my "Thomas box' around with me everywhere I went for months. I so needed to share my son with anyone who'd take the time to look. Such a need to say, "I have a son although he is not here. Please let me tell you about him."

    I don't think my doctor would have asked about Thomas. Like you, I almost didn't show her Thomas' photos. Then all of a sudden, I thought, "I want her to know how much I hurt. I want her to see the sad photos. I don't want Thomas to be ignored." Grief mixed up with anger gave me courage.

    I wonder if you still carry around your photos of your beautiful daughter.

    May God bless you, Sarah.



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