Grief and Its Impact on a Marriage

The loss of a baby or babies can and does have an impact on a marriage as each parent attempts to regain their equilibrium and balance after such a devastating loss. The loss of our child(ren) changes us forever. We lose our innocence and the future is forever changed. Add to this the fact that men and women grieve differently, and the impact on a couple’s relationship is not always a positive one.

Generally speaking, women tend to be more open about what they are feeling than men. Women may have one or two girlfriends, a sister or mother with whom they “open up,” express what is on their minds and how they are feeling. Men, on the other hand, don’t usually have close relationships with other men which would include speaking about their emotions or the sharing of feelings and thoughts. Traditionally men have been inundated with messages such as “suck it up”, “crying is for wimps” and “act like a man”. In such an atmosphere, with no safe place to express their emotions, men have not been dealt a fair blow when it comes to expressing those inner emotions.

It is important to note, however, that things are changing. Thankfully there is more dialogue regarding men’s feelings, not only by the men themselves but also by society as a whole. Parenting magazines are offering support articles for men on how to help a partner with breastfeeding, through the pregnancy, dealing with loss of a baby or babies and more. Internet Sites have sprung up providing ample opportunity for men to write about their feelings, express their pain, joy, feelings of insecurity and fears about parenting. Support groups for men and dads are more readily available in many communities. Book stores now carry books for fathers regarding parenting, relationships and grief. Oprah Winfrey has done a couple of shows regarding men and their inner feelings and fears. All of this is important and hopefully, over time, will help bridge the gap between men and women!

It is acknowledged that not all mothers and fathers experience difficulties in connecting while grieving. Some couples are brought closer together, communicate regularly and feel much closer in their time of greatest need. What I would like to explore in this article, however, is the possible negative impact of the loss of one or more of babies on a couple’s marriage. Further, understanding that men and women grieve differently and what some of those differences can be is helpful. We also need to understand a little bit about Grief itself:

  • Grief is a journey, not a destination;
  • Grief has no timeline;
  • Grief is personal. There is no right or wrong way to grieve;
  • Just when you think that you are feeling OK and doing well, Grief will “rear its head” and you may feel overwhelmed all over again. This is normal;
  • Some of the triggers for Grief could be a sentimental song, a beautiful sunset, a singing bird, a garden of flowers blowing in the wind, watching another child play and laugh, or for no apparent reason at all;
  • Grief can leave individuals with a sense of isolation, loneliness, anger, powerlessness, guilt and/or fear. All of these emotions are normal;
  • Grief has been described as an “open wound” which heals over time, but which also leaves a scar.

When we look at Grief from some of these perspectives, it stands to reason that mother and father will not always be on the same time line as each other and or be grieving in the same manner. Initially a couple may cling together and share their pain with tears, embraces and conversation. It isn’t unusual for the father to be the one in charge of making funeral arrangements, talking to the undertaker, hospital staff, choosing a casket, working through the finances and paperwork. He may also have to deal with other children at home, handle his job and the ramifications of his absence, worry about his wife and answer questions from family and friends. One father indicated after the loss of one of their babies, that he was sick and tired of friends calling and asking him how his wife was doing! “What about me? I lost a baby too!” They had skipped right over him and minimized his pain and grief. Juggling all of this and trying to find time to grieve the loss of his baby or babies is a monumental task for a Dad to face.

Mother probably has family and friends whom she can talk to about her baby or babies. She may need to focus on physically getting better in the case of having had a c-section, and may also need to take care of a surviving co-multiple(s).

After the funeral, it may be harder and harder for Mother and Father to “get together” on an emotional level, to speak about what they are feeling: of their fears for the future or the fears each has for the survivors of their multiple birth – “If I get attached to this baby, will she die too?”. One may “blame” the other for the loss, even inadvertently. It may become necessary to seek some bereavement counseling from: a cleric, grief counselor, social worker or psychologist who specializes in grief issues. Your family doctor can assist you in this regard or refer you to an appropriate support individual.

If, as a couple, you already have a child or children, this may add another difficult component to your grieving journey, or not, as each individual family will decide. Sometimes the need to continue to be available for your other children can be a boon. Having to remain mobile, available and responsive, for one or both parents, can sometimes be helpful in spite of mourning for a lost child or children.

Sometimes one or both parents may find the opposite and find it difficult to continue to be an attentive and available parent. One or both may experience feelings of being overwhelmed, pressured, resentful or of wishing to simply withdraw. All of this is normal and doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. Try your best to keep the lines of communication open with your children. Let them know you are feeling very sad at the moment, need some quiet time, or are thinking of their dead brother or sister. Let the child know that they didn’t cause your sadness but you are sad, nevertheless. It will be helpful for him (or them) to know that feeling sad is a part of grieving and your reactions and feelings were not caused by them. By being honest with your child or children about what you are feeling, you will be helping them and yourself, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

It may be helpful to try to keep in tune with whatever your partner may be feeling and to try and distract your other child or children for a time, in order to give your partner some space to him/herself. A role reversal may occur at another time for the other spouse.

Here are some suggestions to aid a marriage in time of grief. You and your spouse may add some others that will work for you.

  1. Don’t expect your spouse to be a tower of strength when he or she is also experiencing grief.
  2. It is very important to keep the lines of communication open.
  3. Be sensitive to your spouse’s personality style. In general, he or she will approach grief with the same personality habits as they approach life. This may be in a private manner or open and sharing, or some place in between.
  4. Talk about your loved one(s) with your spouse. If necessary, set up a daily time period when you both know that it is time to talk about your loved one(s).
  5. Seek professional help of a counselor if depression, grief or problems in your marriage are getting out of hand.
  6. Deal with things as they occur. Do not overlook or ignore anger-causing situation. It is like adding fuel to a fire. Eventually there will be an explosion.
  7. Remember that you loved each other enough to marry. Try to keep your marriage alive: go out for dinner or an ice cream cone; take a walk; go on a vacation.
  8. Be gentle with yourself and with your mate too.
  9. Join a support group for bereaved persons. Attend as a couple, come by yourself or with a friend. Do not pressure your spouse to attend with you if it is not his or her preference.
  10. Join a mutually agreeable community betterment project.
  11. Do not blame yourself or your mate for what you were powerless to prevent. If you feel personally responsible or blame your spouse for your loss, seek immediate counseling for yourself and your marriage.
  12. Remember that there can be a loss of sexual desire or hypersexuality during the grieving process. You can discuss this with your mate.
  13. Be aware of unrealistic expectations for yourself or your mate. Try to remember that your spouse is doing the best that he/she can.
  14. Marital friction is a normal part of any marriage. Don’t blow it out of proportion at this painful time.
  15. Try not to let everyday irritants become major issues. Talk about them and try to be patient.
  16. Be sensitive to the needs and wishes of your spouse as well as yourself. Sometimes it is important to compromise.
  17. Work on your own grief instead of wishing that your spouse would handle his/her grief differently. You will find that you have enough just handling your own grief. Remember, when you help yourself cope with grief, it indirectly helps your spouse.
  18. As one grieving mother stated: “Value your marriage. You have lost enough!”
  19. Hold on to Hope. With time, work and support you will survive. Life will never be the same, but you can learn again to appreciate it and the people in your life.
  20. Allow yourself and your partner to feel whatever it is you are feeling without judging yourself or each other.

Bibliography

Grief and its Impact on a Marriage, Fact Sheet by Bereaved Families of Ontario – Ottawa.
Men & Grief, by Carol Staudacher, 1991, New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Healing Your Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas, by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., 2001, Companion Press

Other reading resources:

When a Baby Dies: A Handbook for Healing and Helping, by Rana K. Limbo and Sara Rich Wheeler, 1993, RTS Bereavement Services
The Worst Loss: How Families Heal from the Death of a Child, by Barbara D. Rosof, 1995, Henry Holt and Co.
Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy After Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Loss, by Ann Douglas and John R. Sussman, M.D., 2000, Taylor Publishing Co.
Trying Again After Loss, by Ann Douglas and Lynda P. Haddon

Talking to Children About Death

How do I explain to my child about death?

Begin by teaching your child that death is a necessary and inevitable part of life – This might include discussing ‘smaller losses’, such as the death of a pet or a plant. Such discussion lays the groundwork for a deeper, more painful loss when it occurs. It also lets your child know that is okay to talk about the painful feelings that death can bring.

Tell your child simply, but honestly, about the death – Depending upon the age of the child, choose words that are simple, age-appropriate but also straightforward. Be ready to honestly answer any questions that your child might have. A child has very keen senses and will sense that something is wrong, if you decide not to tell him and ‘spare’ him the pain. When a child senses your sadness but it has not been explained to him why you are sad, he is most likely to internalize the feelings of ‘something is wrong’. As a result, his anxiety levels will rise and he may see himself or his behaviour as the reason for your sadness. Prepare your child in advance by explaining to him what he will see at the funeral home and/or how the funeral/memorial service will progress.

Grieve with your child – This time gives you both a perfect opportunity to grieve together, to hold and comfort each other and work through some feelings together. It can be very beneficial for both of you. Your child may have feelings of guilt, that he somehow was the cause of the death. You will need to assure your child that this is not so. He did not cause the death nor could he have prevented it.

Avoid clichés or euphemisms when discussing death with your child – If you indicated the person ‘has gone to sleep’, your child may fear going to bed in that the same thing may happen to him. Even using the words ‘lost’ or ‘gone’ can plant the idea that the person who died will eventually be ‘found’ or ‘come back’. This can increase a child’s anxiety levels. It is perfectly all right to use words like ‘died’ or ‘dead’ to describe what has happened.

Questions children may ask – It is not unusual for children to ask the same questions over and over. They are attempting to process the information and to understand the finality of death. Answer your child honestly each time any questions are asked, even if the question is the same one asked again and again.

Children working through their feelings of grief – It may be helpful to put together a memory book together. Include notes, drawings, cards, feelings or other special items. Feelings can be expressed through play and even puppets – anger, guilt, sadness and maybe the realization ‘that all of the toys now belong to me and I don’t have to share them any more’. These are normal emotions that a child may experience. Try not to judge your child for any of these feelings. Like adults, children grieve in their own fashion, even brothers and sisters may grieve differently. Speak to your child again about the loss over the ensuing weeks and months. Don’t be shy about mentioning the deceased’s name and don’t feel your child will not have feelings if he goes several days without mentioning the loved one.

How do I tell my child about the death of his sibling and when is the appropriate time? – If you have a photo of your baby/child who has died, perhaps keep it in a prominent place in your home. You may refer to the photo from time to time and include the deceased child in some conversations. The photo invites conversation when your child/children wish to speak of him. The prompt of the photo encourages your child to speak of her deceased sibling when she wants or needs to and not when the parents may feel it is time to talk.

Some families celebrate special occasions by lighting a candle that will burn all the day long, as a memorial. Make your surviving children a part of these celebrations. Some choose to light a candle on the Birthday of the deceased child, the day he died, as well as meaningful holidays and any other occasion that may be special for your family. In this manner, from the beginning, all of your family is aware of this child and he or she can remain a part of the family. One family found a toy bear who was holding a wooden block with the letter ‘J’ on it, being the first letter in their deceased triplet son Joey’s name. This bear is included in each special photo so that Joey too, can be remain a part of their family.

Some families never speak of their dead child again. In these cases, this denial can cause additional pain and suffering beyond the actual loss. At age five years, twin girls both contracted the same disease. One survived and one did not. The parents removed all clothes, toys, photographs and possessions of the dead twin and she was never spoken of again. At about age 40, the surviving multiple, spoke of her tremendous sense of loss, isolation, confusion and pain as she was not permitted to speak her twin’s name nor was it fully explained to her why her sister had died. She spent many, many years feeling guilty for surviving the disease that killed her sister. She felt that her mother, in particular, blamed her for living while her sister did not. She felt she was less affectionate to her after her sister’s death. She advised she spent so much of her life ‘looking’ for her twin in crowds and on the streets.

Sometimes when we delay, postpone or deny the existence of our dead child, it is because we have not yet faced our own feelings regarding our loss. In such cases, it may be wise to seek some professional assistance in order to help fully address the issue.

Should your child be a part of the funeral arrangements? Depending upon the age of the child, you could ask him if he wishes to be. He may also wish to spend some time alone with his dead sibling or together with you. He may wish to help choose what his sibling will wear or which piece of music will be played at the service. For older multiple birth children, it is not unusual for them to have confided in each other as to what they would like to occur at their funerals. It may assist a co-multiple to be a part of the funeral arrangements and knowing decisions are being made that his co-multiple wanted. Being a part of the arrangements could be very helpful for a co-multiple in coming to terms with the finality of death. It may also be of help to you as you assist and support each other through this most difficult of times.

Be careful not to overdo it – It is good to speak openly and age appropriately with your child(ren) about death and to include them as much as possible in funeral arrangements. On the other hand, be aware of some possible pitfalls of a prolonged focus on the dead sibling within the family. Initially after the death, communication between you and your child(ren) may continue smoothly, but trouble may occur with an extended or continuous ‘over focus’ on the dead child. One family, for example, had shrines to their dead baby in two rooms of their home. The lost daughter’s name was mentioned almost daily as the parents continued to keep her as a current, ‘alive’ part of the family, even one year after her death. An older sibling would constantly bring home pictures of the family with the dead sister included in the drawings.

Although remembrance is important and helps to deal with death, it is also important not to idealize a dead child and make no distinction between them and a living child. There is a risk that siblings may feel that they cannot live up to the image of their dead sibling. While they grow and develop, with the ups and downs that this implies, their dead sibling remains forever ‘perfect’. This is a difficult situation for a child to live with on a day to day basis. They cannot compete with their dead sibling and may forget to get on with their lives through the normal growing stages.

Of course, this doesn’t mean ignoring significant anniversaries as a family, but parents need to be aware of the danger of not providing their living children with space and encouragement to live their own lives to the fullest. Indeed, living in the shadow of a deceased sibling can be a challenge for surviving children at the best of times. All the more difficult, however, if the parents refuse to truly mourn the loss of their child and, instead, establish the child as a permanent, living presence frozen in time.

“Always tell your children as much of the truth as they can understand, if only to establish the most valuable attribute you have as a parent: your credibility.”
– Stan and Jan Berenstain

Article written with input from Dr. Arthur Leonoff, Psychologist/Training Analyst

References

  • Bereaved Families of Ottawa-Carleton
  • St. Mary’s Grief Support Centre, Duluth, Minnesota
  • On Children and Death, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, 1983

Additional Resources 

  • Loss of a Multiple: Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infancy, Multiple Births Canada
  • Loss of a Multiple: Childhood, Teens, Multiple Births Canada
  • Forever Angels, quarterly newsletter of Loss of Multiples Support Network, Multiple Births Canada
  • Loss Series of Fact Sheets covering many topics, Multiple Births Canada
  • Loss of Multiples Support Network, Multiple Births Canada
  • Bereavement Support Kit, Multiple Births Canada

 

Grieving Grandparents

One of the most overlooked areas of grief is the grief experienced by grandparents. Your child has just suffered the death of their child or children and you could not protect nor shield him/her from this devastating loss. Further, you have lost your grandchild(ren). Your own hopes and dreams for the future are shattered. To further complicate matters, the grief process is a long, often painful journey which has no timeframe and which is very personal. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, only your way. With the loss of a baby(ies), we are changed forever. Hopefully the following will assist you, as the Grandparents, in coming to terms with and handling not only your own grief journey but also that of your child.

It is natural to want to protect one’s child from pain but that is not always possible. As you watch your child suffer and the dreams for the future are shattered with the death of your grandchild(ren), you can only stand by and watch. You feel powerless. It is difficult to offer comfort when you are also grieving yourself. You must try to offer comfort at the same time as you grieve.

  1. Take your child in your arms. Hold them, cry with them. Let them tell you how they feel. Listen with your heart, soul and with love. Words aren’t particularly necessary as you hold, support and love each other.
  2. If you are able to share some of your own feelings of sadness, do so. When we share difficult moments together, it makes the burden a little lighter. Concealing your own pain or feelings may only make them feel that you don’t care.
  3. Try to avoid telling your child how they should act. “You can have another baby.” “Try to pick up the pieces and get on with your lives, you are young.”
  4. If at all possible, try to see the baby(ies), to hold him/her, take photos with everyone, name the baby(ies). Encourage your child to do the same. Do not be afraid to use the baby’s name. After all he/she existed and was a real part of your family’s fantasy and future. To ignore the pregnancy or the loss will only make the mountains higher.
  5. Remember that the loss of this baby(ies) is not your fault. You did not cause the baby(ies) to die, but you can be supportive and available when possible to do so.
  6. Do not feel badly if your grief is initially ignored. As the parents try to come to terms with a new reality, they may inadvertently exclude you and not recognize the depth of your grief.
  7. Avoid blaming: “Do you think you exercised too much? Or drank too much coffee?” You might ask, “I know I wonder if I could have done anything differently, do you have similar feelings that are bothering you?” Try not to judge nor interpret any responses.
  8. Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat nutritiously and that your child and their partner does too. One of the first things that falls to the side after a death is appetite. A snack of cheese, fruit or vegetables ensures that health and strength are kept up. Try also to get adequate sleep and exercise during this painful period.
  9. Try to keep the lines of communication open between family members. Offer to assist with meals, childcare if there are other children, share resources and books.
  10. There are things that you can do to celebrate the memory of your grandchild(ren):-
    • plant a garden or a tree in a local park;
    • do some volunteer work;
    • make a donation to a favorite charity;
    • write about your feelings and perhaps give the journal to your child at a later date;
    • do something special on anniversaries or birth/death days.
  11. Grief is a very powerful emotion. Remember your other grandchildren if you have them. Don’t let your grief overshadow your ability to interact with them or others.
  12. If your child and spouse feels comfortable with it, you may wish to include the child(ren) who died whenever speaking about your grandchildren, especially when mentioning how many you have.

One bereaved grandmother advised that she was told by her son and his wife (both doctors) that she must never refer to the babies again (they died at 5-1/2 months gestation). This grandmother felt blocked and ignored regarding her own feelings. She felt that being doctors, they should be in a better position to understand grief, loss and how to deal with them. This is not always the case and while no doubt being able to dispense wise advice to their patients, were not able to acknowledge their own pain and loss. Denial regarding their loss was also inflicted on the grandparents. If such is the case for you, join a bereavement support group, try some grief counseling or speak to a good friend, doctor or religious support person. You don’t have to go through this alone. Your feelings are real and painful. You, too, have suffered a loss but you may need to explore some avenues on your own in order to obtain appropriate support.

Other Resources

Grieving Grandparents, by Sherokee Ilse and Lori Leininger, Wintergreen Press Inc.

Loss Organizations

Loss Support Network, Multiple Births Canada, www.multiplebirthscanada.org

Centre for Loss in Multiple Births (CLIMB), Alaska
E-mail: climb@pobox.alaska.net

Trying Again After Loss

By Ann Douglas and Lynda P. Haddon

It takes courage to try again when your previous pregnancy has ended in miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of an infant(s). You know that there’s a chance that you may experience another loss, but you’re willing to risk it all for a shot at the ultimate prize: a healthy baby(ies) that you can call your own.

As committed as you may be to having another baby, it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit nervous about planning another pregnancy. After all, you already know that not all pregnancies result in picture-perfect happy endings. Like it or not, the innocence that you enjoyed when you found yourself pregnant for the very first time is gone forever. You can’t get it back.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself experiencing a smorgasbord of different emotions when you first make the decision to start trying to conceive – everything from joy to worry to outright panic. Some days, you may feel convinced that becoming pregnant again is the only thing that will bring joy back into your life. At other times, you may wonder if you’re crazy to even think about exposing yourself to the possibility of heartbreak again.

You may also find that your partner has mixed feelings about trying again, whether or not he’s actually willing to express these emotions to you. After all, he’s not just worried about the well-being of any future babies you may conceive: he’s also worried about the impact of any subsequent losses on you as well as dealing with his own feelings of loss, helplessness and grief.

If you’re having difficulty deciding whether or not the two of you are actually ready to embark on another pregnancy, you might find it helpful to consider the following questions:

  • Have you both had a chance to work through some of your grief for the baby or babies who died? Grief can be an exhausting emotion – one that demands far more of your time and attention that you want to give it. Grief is unpredictable and can come to the fore with previously unknown and unplanned stimulants. If your baby(ies) died recently, you may still be going through a very rough time emotionally and you may not be able to embark on another pregnancy just yet.
  • How would you cope if you were to experience fertility problems? If you don’t think you’d be able to weather the emotional highs and lows that couples typically experience when they are having trouble conceiving, you might want to postpone your baby making plans a little while longer. While the fact that you managed to conceive in the past means that you have an excellent chance of conceiving again this time around, you have, at best, a 20% chance of conceiving in any given menstrual cycle. That means the odds of being disappointed during the first month or two of trying are extremely high. Are you emotionally strong enough to cope with that disappointment?
  • How would you cope if you were to experience the death of another baby(ies)? While you may not want to even consider this possibility, it’s important to go into your subsequent pregnancy with your eyes wide open. If you’re still feeling emotionally fragile, it may be too soon to jump back into the fire again.
  • How would you cope with the stress of a subsequent pregnancy? The worry doesn’t end when you manage to conceive. If anything, it’s just beginning. That’s why it’s important to be sure that you’re up to coping with the stress of what could very well be the most nerve-wracking 40 weeks of your life.
  • Are you expecting too much of your subsequent pregnancy? If you expect a new pregnancy to wipe away the grief you are feeling for the baby or babies you lost, you are setting your expectations too high. No other baby can possibly take the place of that other baby in your heart. We are different people than we were before our loss. We can learn, however, to place our grief in a place that permits us to move forward with our lives, albeit forever changed.
  • While losing one more or all of multiple birth babies carries its’ own unique issues, it is important to have tried to come to terms as best as possible with these issues while considering another pregnancy. There is the loss of a unique parenting style. Parenting a singleton child is very different from parenting twins, triplets, quadruplets or more. While pregnant with these multiple babies, fantasies run high as we proudly show them off to friends and families, walk and bathe them in our minds before birth. In our mind, we may even have struggled with how to get the triplet stroller into the car. This unique parenting style is lost when the multiple birth pregnancy changes.
  • Have you considered the possibility of another multiple birth? When multiple birth babies are conceived “spontaneously” or without fertility assistance, there is a marked increase in your chances of conceiving multiples again in subsequent pregnancies. Your age is a facilitating factor as is if you have already had several children. It isn’t unheard of to have multiples again after loss. And, of course, those using fertility assistance will also increase their chances of a repeat multiple birth. Consider the family who lost triplets at 22 weeks and then became pregnant with triplets again and carried successfully. Or the family who lost a twin then successfully delivered twins again 18 months later.

One mother who lost twins and found herself pregnant again six months after their loss had some important feedback for others. She noted that she and her husband had difficulties marking the first year anniversaries that arise after a loss: Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Birth/Death Day, Christmas, etc. while being pregnant with a new baby. While their new baby is a much wanted Treasure, she advises that parents need to be aware of possible conflicting feelings about being pregnant at the same time as dealing with loss emotions around the anniversaries of losses. These unexpected emotions took them completely by surprise.

In addition, Mom noted that as her subsequent pregnancy inadvertently followed one year later the time line of their lost pregnancy, they became aware that they could have been preparing for a birthday party for two two-year olds rather than celebrating an upcoming first birthday for a singleton. The family was aware that but for their loss, their lives would have been totally different and they needed to work through their feelings in this regard.

While there are a lot of factors to weigh in deciding whether or not you’re ready to start trying to conceive again, your best bet is to listen to your heart. Most couples instinctively know whether they’re ready again or not. Consider these words of wisdom from Cynthia, 35, who experienced a series of miscarriages before giving birth to her second living child last year: “If you have to consciously decide, then it’s probably the wrong time. It’s kind of like being in love. You always wondered how you would know when you were, but when you were, you just knew it. I think it’s the same. When you’re ready to try, you’ll want to try. It’s really that simple.”

Ann Douglas is the co-author of Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss (Taylor Publishing, October 2000) and The Unofficial Guide to Having A Baby (IDG Books, 1999). Ann has written over 30 books, many addressing a wide variety of parenting issues. She is the mother of four living children as well as Laura, who was stillborn in October of 1996 as the result of an umbilical cord knot. She can be contacted via her web site atwww.having-a-baby.com

Lynda P. Haddon has been working extensively with multiples and their families for over two decades. She has three grown daughters, including dizygotic twins. Her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. Lynda has spoken on several occasions to healthcare professionals regarding the unique issues of loss in multiple birth. Lynda has been Chair of the Loss of Multiples Support Network for Multiple Births Canada for 15+ years and has been providing support and assistance to bereaved multiple birth families for over 20 years. She has also revised and revamped Multiple Births Canada’s three Loss booklets and written many articles on various aspects of loss in multiple birth.

Holidays and Grief

Holidays and grief are often inevitable after losing a baby. There will be several times during the year which are very difficult for bereaved families – birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, to name some but probably the most difficult holiday will be Christmas. Automatically the mind conjures up ‘family’, presents, food, noise and a festive air! For bereaved families, this can be a very difficult time of year.

The following are some ideas that may assist you through stressful milestones and special occasions.

  1. SIMPLIFY! Christmas Holiday stress, even in good years, is from the long list of ‘have-to-do’s’. Reexamine your priorities to begin some new, healthier traditions. Only attend parties you feel are truly important. Ask family members to exchange gifts only for children in the family rather than the adults (or encourage them to make a donation in your child(ren)’s name to a meaningful children’s charity, POMBA Canada or CLIMB, for example. Stop shopping for the adults in the family who probably already have everything they need. Consider not sending cards this year.
  2. Do things differently than your normal routine. Attend your religious service at a time other than you would have normally. Visit your relatives rather than having them visit you. Or, you may take a vacation over this time period.
  3. Begin to build a pleasant time with family and friends. Don’t feel guilty if you do have a good time.
  4. Make sure that there is a balance in your life – eat, sleep, rest, pray, read, work and relax.
  5. Responding to happy greetings can be difficult. To a “Happy Holidays” wish, you may respond, “I’ll try” or “the same to you!”
  6. Do some volunteer work in the name of your child(ren). Visit someone who is unable to get out, make a donation or send flowers in your child’s name.
  7. Light a special candle in remembrance to your lost child(ren).
  8. Donate a new toy or clothing to a children’s shelter.
  9. Try to keep in mind the feelings of your other children and to make it as joyous for them as you possibly can. Speak freely to your family members of what you feel capable of coping with or being involved in.
  10. You may wish to keep a journal of your thoughts at this time, or even as a letter to your lost child(ren).
  11. There is no right or wrong way to handle the day. You may feel ‘safer’ following family traditions or you may wish to begin some new ones or just to deviate for the time being. Your wishes can change year to year.
  12. It is best to try and do what is most helpful for you and your family. If a situation looks especially difficult over the holidays, try not to get involved.
  13. Try not to imagine the future. Take one day or even one hour at a time.
  14. Allow yourself time to cry, both alone and with your loved ones.
  15. Some hospitals may allow you to hang an ornament for your child(ren) on their tree.
  16. SHOP EARLY! Don’t leave it to the last minute and end up feeling overwhelmed.
  17. Holidays and special occasions magnify feelings of loss. It is natural to experience the sadness that these occasions can bring. Try not to block these feelings as it is unhealthy. A good cry to release built-up sorrow can leave you better able to face your day-to-day holiday stress.
  18. Hold onto HOPE! – the anticipation of the holiday is often worse than the actual holiday. Future years will most likely bring some healing and ability to enjoy this time of year again, in ways that are hard to imagine when you are weighted down by sorrow.

Adapted From

  • How to Help Ourselves Through the Holidays; Bereaved Families, Ottawa
  • Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths.
  • With contributions by: Elizabeth A. Pector, M.D.

Suggestions for What to Do With the Baby Shower Gifts and/or Nursery When the Babies Have Died

A frequently asked question is what to do with Baby Shower gifts and/or Nursery when the babies have died.

The following suggestions are offered in order to provide some ideas as to how to handle this situation. Be sure to choose something that works for the both of you.

  • If you don’t want to keep the gifts for your next pregnancy, then return them assuming the persons giving you the gifts want them back. It may be that some want them back and some do not.
  • If the person giving you the gift does not want their gift back and you do not want to keep it because things have changed dramatically and you don’t wish the painful memories, consider donating each to a worthy cause, e.g. a women’s shelter, hospital, immigrants’ shelter. Some communities have homes for unwed mothers and they are very grateful for baby gifts. You could write each gift giver a short note indicating that their “very special baby gifts” have gone to such-and-such a cause in honour of your own special babies.
  • Consider keeping one, two or more (one for each baby) of your gifts, e.g. stuffed animals, for your babies’ Memory Boxes.
  • It may be that you have received special, expensive gifts which you don’t feel comfortable keeping. For example: Royal Doulton baby dish sets or snowsuits. Call the people who gave you the gifts and ask if they would like them returned. Take the opportunity to let them know of your idea to donate the gifts and let them know which place you have in mind. They may agree to having their gift donated as well. A phone call asking specifically for feedback when you are not sure what to do, will help decide on a mutually acceptable course of action.
  • A gift is a gift, regardless. The generous spirit of giving shouldn’t change if the babies die. When a gift is given, ownership of that gift is transferred. If you don’t feel you want to return the gifts or even some of the gifts, it wouldn’t be incorrect but you may still feel conflicted. If you are in doubt ease your mind by calling the giver.
  • Take your time when deciding what to do with the gifts. Initially, you may be taken up with mourning and funerals. Don’t be pushed by well-meaning relatives or friends to decide too quickly what to do with the gifts. If you are pushed to make a decision, it could add additional stress. Give yourself a few months to complete the task. You may disperse the gifts with your partner or you may ask a close family member or friend to help you.
  • The same with taking apart a Nursery. Many families set up a babies’ room ahead of time. There are no hard and fast rules on how to handle it. You might ask family or friends to take it down and store it before you come home from the hospital or you may wish to do it yourselves. If the latter, close the door and enter the room only when you feel ready to do so. You could move the cribs, equipment and toys to the basement or put them in storage so they will be out of your sight and you won’t fear tripping over them and triggering painful memories. It isn’t terribly expensive to do the latter. You may also choose to leave the Nursery for your next pregnancy. WHATEVER YOU CHOOSE TO DO IS RIGHT. Don’t be talked into anything that you feel might not work for you.

If you have any suggestions that you would like to see added to this list, please write to me and let me know.

 

Do We Still Have Triplets?

The triplets were born at 29 weeks gestation, at about 2-1/2 lbs., 2 lbs. and 2 lbs. respectively. At ten days old, the eldest and largest succumbed to complications due to his prematurity. The parents were, naturally, devastated and the father asked me, “Do we still have triplets?” Without even hesitating, I answered, “Yes, your babies remain as they were conceived and you are still the parents of triplets. Nothing can change that. The difference is you have two on Earth and one in Heaven.” This makes perfect sense to me.

To call these precious babies “twins”, from this point forward, is not correct for a couple of reasons: 1) three babies were conceived and three babies were born. To call them “twins” denies the short life of a precious, much loved and wanted child, and 2) the simple truth is the two living siblings are surviving triplets and not twins at all!

The question, “Do we still have twins (triplets? quadruplets? multiples?)” is one of the most common questions from parents who have lost one or more of their multiple birth babies. Those working with multiples and their families or whom are bereaved parents who have conceived multiples and lost one or more, have no difficulty in understanding that surviving children remain twins, triplets, quadruplets or quintuplets. Making others understand such a concept, can be an enormous challenge. Sadly, some of the most painful denials come from family members.

One mother who delivered premature twins and one succumbed some 10 hours later due to birth anomalies, tearfully explained that her mother-in-law never mentions their deceased daughter. Her mother-in-law did not attend her granddaughter’s funeral and, four years later, continues to celebrate the birthday of her “’singleton’ granddaughter.” In addition, this same mother received a card from a co-worker reading “Congratulations on the Birth of your Daughter” even though her co-worker was fully aware she had been carrying twins.

This mother was inconsolable as she recounted her story. These are enormous hurdles for any parent to face: their grief has not been recognized; their daughter’s life has not been recognized or acknowledged, and Mom has not been given “permission” to grieve by either her mother-in-law or co-worker. She remains confused as well as very hurt and angry that her twin daughter’s life, albeit a short one, is completely denied. Mom would love nothing more than to talk about the loss of her child and the future that would have unfolded. While she and her husband feel that they are the parents of twins, others do not understand or share the same point of view and no doubt due to their own inadequate feelings around death, especially that of a child, choose to ignore the loss and celebrate the life of a “singleton child.”

This kind of situation is a very difficult for any family to have to deal with and, unfortunately, not all that uncommon for parents with surviving multiples. Not only is the birth and short life of their child (even if only in utero) denied, but the parents are not provided a safe place to share their sorrow in surroundings with people who understand and care about them. These parents are not “permitted” to acknowledge that they lost a child as well as a unique parenting experience, nor that their surviving child(ren) has lost a unique sibling relationship. The message given to many such bereaved families is that they must “carry on.” Research has also shown that in such situations, parents suffer compicated and prolonged grief when their loss is unrecognized by the people closest to them (Patricia Swanson, et al.).

Children are not interchangeable. Each and every child is important, no matter how short their stay with us. Hopes, joy, dreams, love and future planning are tied up in awaiting the birth of a child and dramatically affected when those dreams are brutally cut short. Parents with surviving multiples have the burden of extreme feelings, both at the same time: Joy at the birth of their child and Despair at the death of their child.

Whether or not parents wish to divulge their personal history will depend upon the situation they are in. With extended family or good friends, they may be open about the loss of their baby(ies). With strangers at the Mall, the parents of two surviving triplets may choose to just let comments pass, “Oh, how wonderful. You have twins!”, or even, the very painful comment “Be thankful you didn’t have triplets.” Which ever way you choose to handle the situation is the right way.

There is no doubt in my mind that the above mentioned family still has triplets, two with them here on Earth and one in Heaven.

Lynda’s Note

Many thanks to Dr. Beth Pector for her feedback and input on this article. 

 

Memorial Ideas

‘How can I remember my child(ren) in a meaningful way?’ is a common question from bereaved parents.

Here are some memorial ideas for your consideration

Immediately following the death:

  • It may be possible to take hand and/or foot prints of your baby(ies). These can be framed in a shadow box with an engraved nameplate. The hospital staff will be able to guide you at/after delivery if this is at all possible. Depending upon how long the infant has been deceased while in utero, it may not be possible to make casts.
  • Have photos taken of both/all of your babies together as well as apart. This will be the only time they will be together and later in life these photos can become extremely important, not only for the parents but also for the surviving co-multiple(s) in actually seeing his/her sibling(s). One family noted that these photos were important in confirming to them that they did, indeed, have another baby. In some areas professional photographers donate their time and take the photos for free. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is one such organization. Alternatively, you can take the photos yourself, or ask a friend or hospital staff person to take the pictures for you.
  • Consider taking photos of hands, feet, ears as well. Baby(ies) can be carefully wrapped to facilitate such photos.
 For the funeral or memorial service:
  • Consider releasing homing pigeons either at the baby(ies)’s funeral or memorial. Try the yellow pages or internet for a local business offering this service. The birds are for rent for services and memorials. Note: Releasing mylar helium-filled balloons is not recommended as deflated balloons have been found in the stomachs and intestines of whales, turtles and birds. It is a difficult and sometimes painful death for unsuspecting animals. For the most part, regular balloons are biodegradable, but the strings, ribbons and cords are not. These parts remain a hazard for animals.
  • Consider involving the grandparents in the memorial or special services. They, too, have suffered a loss (and also grieve that they were not able to protect their own child from such a loss), and including them in a part of the service plans will help as you rely on each other’s strengths for mutual support;
  • Consider involving older children in the funeral and/or memorial service. Young children don’t always understand the concept of death, but involving them in funeral arrangements helps them better understand what is happening and why their parents are upset and sad. Left to their own devices, children can internalize negative feelings and interpret those feelings as if they, themselves, have not ‘been good’ and as a result their parents are sad, upset or angry. Including them and explaining the situation in age-appropriate language ensures they understand that the situation is not their fault, and helps them feel connected rather than left out or marginalized;
  • If the service occurs when there is still a survivor(s) either in hospital or at home with a sitter, allow yourself to be mentally, emotionally and physically present at the service. You are in the right place at the right time, so try not to be hard on yourself with thoughts of your surviving co-multiple(s) and that you should be with him/her/them.

Support at home

One idea, as a bereaved grandmother explains, occurred when her daughter and son-in-law returned home after losing triplet babies.

My daughter is home from the hospital and I will be going to take care of her this coming week so her husband can go back to work. I thought I would pass on what a loving thing their friends did. When my daughter and her husband arrived home, they were greeted by friends who [had arranged] a “shower” of love and comfort. They brought presents like plants for the house, gift certificates to the video store, cooked meals for the freezer, etc. One woman’s gift was to clean my daughter’s windows in a couple of weeks. Since we live in a desert environment, this is a very loving thing to do. They also brought covered dishes and spent time with the couple and just let them guide the conversation. My daughter said she felt so loved and cared for by so many people. One woman (although she was a little nervous about it) brought her newborn (2 weeks old) and let my daughter hold him. This did not upset my daughter. Instead she said it gave her a chance to hold a baby in her arms and it just felt so natural. I thought this was such a wonderful, thoughtful thing that made their homecoming less painful.

On birth or death days

  • Light a special candle on either the birth day or death day or both, whichever works for you;
  • Make a donation in your child(ren)’s name;
  • Do some volunteer work in your child(ren)’s name;
  • Some families spend the birth or death day at the cemetery with a picnic;
  • Some families do not want to take away from their surviving co-multiple(s)’s joy, and so if the death day is the same as the birth day, the family will set aside a different day in which to remember their deceased baby(ies);
  • One couple donates a baby layette each year in their son’s name to a male child born in the same hospital on the day their son died.
  • Consider planting a tree or flowers. One couple planted daffodil bulbs in a forest spot they liked, and went to visit them every spring and just sat in the quiet to think.

Helping a surviving co-multiple learn about their beginnings

Having photos around the house or perhaps making a memorial book can not only help with the grief process but also provide an opportunity for questions at a later point in time. Photos (even just one) around the house will encourage a surviving co-multiple(s) to ask questions, and provide an opportunity to explain and answer questions in age-appropriate language.

Down the road

  • Make a difference in the life of a child and ask the school board if you can help a child learn to improve his/her reading skills;
  • Donate a book to a local school or public library each year in your child’s name;
  • Plant a tree in a private space, or get permission to donate one to a public space;
  • Buy a bracelet and include a charm that might symbolize your child.  This is discreet and it would not be necessary to explain anything you did not wish to share.

Following is an idea from a triplet family who lost one of their young sons at 21 months due to complications from his prematurity.

Our fifth family member…

A friend of mine from Oslo, Norway, who also lost her young son, shared this poem with me. Loosely translated from Norwegian and paraphrased, it reads:

We are four in our family.

We are five in our family.

We have an invisible one in our family.

If you don’t know our fifth family member, you don’t know us.

This poem sums up for me the importance to us of always including our Angel Joey as a member of our family. This is especially so as he is one of our triplets. People will insist on calling our boys ‘twins’… but they are not. We have many pictures of Joey from his brief time with us but every year at portrait time, we want to make sure he is with us. Another friend suggested including some memento of his or even a framed picture in our family portrait. I found a small, stuffed bear with a blue ribbon and holding a wooden block with the letter ‘J’ on it. This is our ‘Joey Bear’. For the past two years, Joey Bear has joined us in our Family portraits. He is a small reminder that we are not as complete a family as we once were. One is absent from us physically but always present in our hearts.

If there has been a baby shower, ideas for what to do with the gifts

Gifts given belong to the receiver. This might not hold true if the gift is a family heirloom, e.g. silver cup or spoon. You may wish to return any special items. However, all other shower gifts or gift certificates can be kept by the receiver or returned, as you see fit. An option might be to donate some, or all, of it to a needy cause such as your community home for unwed mothers or other charity. If this latter option is chosen, think about writing a note to the giver of the gift and letting them know that their generous gift has been forwarded to a worthy cause. Reasons that gifts/certificates might be passed along include: the parents feel unable to keep them as they are a reminder of their loss, fear of more “bad luck” or parents want their next pregnancy to have a more positive outcome.

Organizations

Multiple Births Canada – Loss Support Network
Telephone: (705) 429-0901 Toll Free in Canada: 1-866-228-8824
WS: www.multiplebirthscanada.org
Email: loss@multiplebirthscanada.org

Center for Loss in Multiple Birth (CLIMB)
Jean Kollantai, PO Box 91377 Anchorage, Alaska 99509 USA Telephone: (907) 222-5321 WS: www.climb-support.org
Email: climb@pobox.alaska.net

The Compassionate Friends of Canada
Tel: 1-866-823-0141 WS: www.tcfcanada.net
Email: nationaloffice@tcfcanada.net

Bereaved Families of Ontario (BFO)
Canada Telephone: (416) 440-0290 WS: www.bereavedfamilies.net
Email: admin.bfo@axxent.ca
Email: info@bfotoronto.ca

Books

  • Forever Our Angels, Hannah Stone, Lulu Publishing (2006).
  • Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby, by Deborah L. Davis, Fulcrum Publishing (revised edition 1996).
  • The Worst Loss: How Families Heal from the Death of a Child, by Barbara D. Rosof, Henry Hold and Co., N.Y. (1995).

Suggested Loss Reading List

There are many helpful books on loss and grief available. Here is a loss reading list of some that I have found to be particularly helpful and supportive. I am very pleased to note that support literature for surviving co-multiples is on the increase.

If you have a read a book that you have found helpful and would like to share it, please let me know.

Step into the Light: Living in the Shadow of the Ghosts of Grief , Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., Companion Press, 2007, 152 Pages, ISBN 978-1-879651-51-7 $13.95US; $17.95Cdn.

Wolfelt has written many thoughtful and supportive books on grief and here is another one.  He looks at why many of us carry our grief rather than mourning it.  It isn’t uncommon to feel afraid to face what hurts us.  We may fear losing control and never getting it back.  We may fear crying and never stopping (in fact, we do eventually stop crying.  After about 20 minutes, our body slows down and crying stops).  We may be under the impression that if we do not face our losses, then they didn’t really happen. We may be under the mistaken impression that if we “ignore” the pain, it will go away.  We may fear that the pain will be so great that we could “break.”  As common as such feeling or perceptions may be, Wolfelt encourages the reader to address that which we fear will destroy or cripple us and to mourn so that we can move forward and “step into the light.”  If we do not so, the grief will never leave us and will be carried forward with us to raise its ugly head and undermine us at every opportunity.

Here are a few quotes (from several) which touched me:
Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live – Dorothy Thompson
If my grief softens, I’m afraid I’ll have to admit he is never coming back.  And that is what I don’t want to face.  A workshop participant.
One heals suffering only by experiencing it to the full.  Marcel Proust

If the reader has difficulty in recognizing his/her pain, grief, physical problems or addictions, Dr. Wolfelt has included a survey to assist with learning about and/or recognizing which issues readers might be experiencing.  When it is all in a list before us, it can be helpful in coming to terms with what we are (may be) dealing and help us move forward to get the help and support need.

Another thing I appreciated about this book was the almost “interactive” nature of it.  Wolfelt encourages the reader to read the book with a pen and to underline anything that speaks to you, and/or to create a reflective journal of those words, phrases, paragraphs which meant something to you, and to add your own thoughts and feelings as you progress, hopefully towards the light.


Always My Twin
, by Valerie R. Samuels and Illustrated by Najah Clemmons, Trafford Publishing, 28 pages, softcover

At last a book for young co-twin survivors! Samuels gave birth to twin daughters Gina and Julia at term. Gina had Trisomy 13 and Holoprosencephaly and lived for 9 days. As Samuels describes, “She died in my arms, but not in my heart.” In order to honour Gina and help Julia deal with her loss, Samuels wrote this book. It is narrated by Julia who explains her parents sadness at losing her sister and joy with having her.  It is an easy to read children’s book, using language aimed at about age 5. It explains how the pregnancy began as two and that one of the babies died.

Always My Twin  is interactive in that the reader can complete sentences explaining how they feel about losing their co-twin, paste in a photograph and complete their own Family Tree. The touching illustrations “speak” so that the young reader can understand and perhaps relate to what they, too, might be feeling.

The book may be little, but it fills a gap for young co-multiple survivors in a big way!

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, it can be ordered online at: trafford.com/05-0937 or from Valerie herself at samuelsvr@yahoo.com

Sibling Grief: Healing After the Death of a Sister or Brother, P. Gill White, iUniverse Inc., 2006, softcover, 112 pages

When a child dies, people close to that child feel the loss: the parents, the grandparents, the siblings. While we tend to focus on supporting and providing resources for parents, the grandparents and siblings also have unique experiences. This book focuses on sibling loss and as bereaved parents, we need to be aware that the loss of our child(ren) also affects our living children. Depending upon the age of each child when his/her sibling dies and under what circumstances (born still, illness, accident, suicide), the situation can be very difficult for siblings as well. Not only are their parents not emotionally available to them for an amount of time (sometimes years), they have lost a comrade, partner, playmate, friend, confident and so much more.

While this book does not touch on multiple-birth co-sibling loss and the unique challenges faced by the survivors, nevertheless, there are many parallels included which parents will be able to relate to, understand and act on to support and assist their living co-multiples in dealing with a co-sibling’s loss.

White, who lost a sister when she was 15, has broken her book down into the different ages at which loss might occur and provided guidance and insight for parents at each stage. She breaks down the healing practices into 5 steps: learning about sibling loss and the grief process; allowing yourself to grieve; connection with other bereaved siblings; telling your story; and finding meaning in the loss.

There are a plethora of resources listed in her helpful and supportive book, also broken down into detailed categories so that bereaved siblings can make other connections as they might need. This book would not only be a terrific resource for professionals whose clients are looking for grief support around the death of a sibling but also for parents having lost a child(ren) and suporting/helping their surviving child(ren) deal with their own emotions around the loss.

Journeys: Stories of Pregnancy After Loss, edited by Amy L. Abbey, Woven Word Press, 2006, 183 pages, softcover

Losing a child is a parent’s worse nightmare. In our fantasies about our lives and how they will play out, we never envision that we will lose a child. In fact we have the most beautiful baby (or babies) in the world and everyone lives happily ever after. The truth is, that sometimes parents lose their baby. There may be no discernable rhyme nor reason to the loss, making the loss much worse as we blame ourselves, our bodies, the world.

Getting pregnant after a loss has additional issues: Will we lose another pregnancy? What are my chances of losing another pregnancy? When is the optimum time to try again? When another pregnancy does occur, time lines can be emotionally depleting, especially if they mirror those of the unsuccessful pregnancy. Such fears and questions are normal.

Journeys: Stories of Pregnancy After Loss, edited by Amy L. Abbey, chronicles stories of loss by parents whom have suffered the worst kind of loss. This touching and caring book speaks to the pain of losing a much-wanted and loved baby, through miscarriage, stillbirth or just after birth. One by one parents recount how their pregnancy progressed, some knowing ahead of time that their precious child would not live to feel the sun. Parents speak to their innocence about their pregnancy, their joys, and about the journey of the distress of their loss. Some share their disbelief with the news of their child’s prognosis and of processing that knowledge. They share how they coped through their loving relationships with each other, family and friends. Some had other children but the emptiness remains in spite of the subsequent joy of the birth of a healthy child.

I think it is important not only to tell the stories of precious lives lost, but also in letting us know that we are not alone in our grief. By sharing their stories, these courageous parents have honoured the short lives of their babies while at the same time extending a hand and loving spirit to other grieving families experiencing the same situation. Together we are so much stronger and the path, while still bumpy and often uphill, is somehow made a little better.

  • The Loss of a Multiple: Miscarriage, Stillbirth, Infancy , Multiple Births Canada
  • The Loss of a Multiple: Childhood, Teens , Multiple Births Canada
  • Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of your Baby , Deborah L. Davis, Fulcrum Publishing
  • Living When a Loved One has Died , Earl A. Grollman, Beacon Press
  • Men & Grief (a guide for Men surviving the Death of a Loved One), Carol Staudacher, New Harbinger Publications
  • On Children and Death , Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Collier Books
  • Questions and Answers on Death and Dying , Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Macmillan Publishing Co.
  • When a Baby Dies: A Handbook for Healing and Helping , Rana K. Limbo and Sara Rich Wheeler, RTS Bereavement Services
  • When Hello Means Goodbye: a guide for parents whose child dies before birth, at birth or shortly after birth , Pat Schwieber and Paul Kirk, Perinatal Loss
  • The Worst Loss: How Families Heal from the Death of a Child , Barbara D. Rosof, Henry Hold and Co., N.Y.
  • Forever Our Angels, Hannah Stone, 2006, Lulu Publishing, 96 pages, soft cover, $7.95 US.
    Web site: http://www.lulu.com/content/216306

Hannah Stone suffered three pregnancy losses along with the births of five healthy children.  Each of her children were much-wanted but not all of her babies were able to stay to be a family on earth.  While Hannah located books on loss, grief and others offering coping strategies, they did not meet her needs of wanting to know her feelings were normal and not feeling as if she needed to hide her loss.  As such, she decided to create the book she never found in the hopes that others might also find solace as she needed.

Her book, while not addressing multiple birth loss, is a collection of about 15 personal stories of miscarriage.  Grieving parents share their confusion, grief, numbness, having to put on a ‘happy face’ for others and some acknowledge their anger at God for taking their baby before s/he had a chance at life.  This is not a book about being fair.

When we share our grief and say our baby’s(ies) name, we honour our Little Lights of Life and confirm that our Forever Angels remain in our hearts.  The future is forever changed.  Parents learn that the world can be a cruel place and their discussion centres around the struggle to find a new “normal.”

While Forever Our Angels rips at the heart, families suffering the early loss of much wanted babies, will no doubt find comfort in knowing they are not alone in their grief.

Remembering Our Angels: Personal Stories of Healing from a Pregnancy Loss, Hannah Stone, www.lulu.com, March, 2007, softcover, 138 pages

Courageous and very sad families have shared their stories of loss(es), how they have handled their loss and how their lives have changed as a result of losing their precious baby(ies). While these stories are difficult to read, they are also compelling and the fact that these parents are honouring their children by sharing each aspect of their short lives, the reader cannot remain untouched. In fact, we shouldn’t be untouched. Nothing about losing a baby is fair or right.

Stone includes one family’s story of loss of one twin, and I submitted an article addressing some of the challenges multiple birth families must face and how friends, family, professionals and the community can do their part to support and assist each bereaved family.

For Surviving Co-Multiples

  • The Survivor , Lynne Schulz, 2003, Pleasant World – with Foreward by Lynda P. Haddon
  • Living Without Your Twin , Betty Jean Case, Tibbutt Publishing
  • The Lone Twin: Understanding Twin Bereavement and Loss , Joan Woodward, 1998, Free Association Books
  • The End of the Twins: A Memoir of Losing a Brother, by Saul Diskin, The Overlook Press
  • Twin Loss: A Book for Survivor Twins, by Raymond Brandt, Courier Printing Co.

Unprepared for a life without a child

My name is Lindsay and four years ago in 2003, I lost my twin daughters, Emma and Hailey. My story actually starts in October 2002.

I was really sick, throwing up all the time I had dropped about 30 pounds. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, so I went to the local walk-in clinic and the Doctor there told me that I had food poisoning and put me on the B.R.A.T DIET. He told me only bananas, rice, apple sauce and tea for 4 days and if I couldn’t keep that down, then to go to the hospital. So off to the hospital I went with my husband and father in tow. I think it was about 3 days later cause the sickness was starting to affect everything I did. I couldn’t drive to the store without pulling over several times to puke. and I was constantly calling in sick to university and to work.

When we got to the hospital I met a Female doctor who checked me over and asked if I could be pregnant? I thought for a second and said I could be but I am still getting a period. She did a pregnancy test on me and lo and behold I was pregnant! Her exact words to me were, “We usually like to have a parent in the room when we tell these kinds of things to teenagers.” I was so shocked by her words that I never even thought to tell her I was 25 years old. Not a child.

I burst out laughing and said, “It’s ok you can tell me. Did the test come back positive?” She kind of looked at me funny till I told her how old I was and that my husband and father were in the waiting room. I had a lot of relief when I found out I was pregnant. I knew from the time I was a little girl that I was going to have a set of twins. Don’t ask me how I knew, I just did. We started to collect baby stuff times two … everything we had we had two of in preparation for our twin daughters. The doctor gave me some pills which helped control the nausea.

On Dec. 25 2002, I had pains in my stomach they only last a couple of minutes but they brought on this major wave of nausea I was sick for a long time. I went in to see my doctor and he said everything was fine and sent me to an obgyn. I finally got an appointment for and ultra sound on Feb 15 2003. When I went in to the ultra sound room I asked if my husband could come in as a well. Initially they refused. The technician doing the ultra sound started with the screen facing me then this look of panic came over her and she turned the screen away from me very quickly and she left the room telling me something was wrong with the machine. When she came back to the room she had another technician as well as my husband with her. My husband stood in the corner of the room opposite from me and as soon as he saw the screen he came over and started to rub my arm. I was starting to get upset as no one was talking to me or telling me what was happening. We were finally told there were no heartbeats to be found. There was nothing they could do and I should go home and rest. They would call my doctor and let him know what was going on.

I was so distraught I thought just maybe, maybe she had made a mistake. We went home and I spent the entire weekend crying in bed with people coming and going. At this point I was 24 weeks pregnant. On Feb. 18 I called my doctor but he had no idea what was going on He told me to make an appointment for the next day which I did. I went in to see him on Feb. 19. My doctor called the ultrasound dept at the hospital while I was in the room and started quizzing them asking why he didn’t have any paper work on me and why he wasn’t informed. Their excuse was they were busy.

It was February 22 before I was admitted to the hospital. I was induced and drugged, so the next couple of days were a blur. My parents came everyday and sat with me and my husband stayed every night. Finally on February 26 2003 at 4:45 pm I delivered my twin girls. One was 11.3 ounces and the other was 1 lb. 3.7 ounces. I was devastated . My poor husband had left for work no more then 30 min before I delivered. I delivered them sitting on a toilet into a bowl so that they could take them out of the room quickly. My husband got back just in time to see me being wheeled down the hall to the OR for surgery. I needed to have a D&C.

I stayed in the hospital for about two days then sent me on my way unprepared for a life without a child. One of the things I remember from being in the hospital is the day after I delivered my girls. A young man was standing out side my door announcing to everyone that his wife had just delivered healthy twin boys. He was handing out fake cigars to everyone and when he went to come into  my room to give me one I yelled at him. I screamed at him to get the hell out.
I can’t understand why they put women whom have lost a child on the maternity ward. Yes, I had a private room but I could still hear the crying babies and the happy parents.
I miss my girls every day. In September of 2006 I found I was pregnant again. We were terrified that the same thing would happen. I was overly cautious during the pregnancy, but my doctor referred me to a fetal assessment center at the children’s hospital so that I could put my worries to rest. We are now the proud parents of a little girl who was born on June 1, 2007.