Surviving My First Year of Child Loss: Personal Stories from Grieving Parents contributors are listed in alphabetical order by first name. To read complete essays, order your copy of the book.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Isobel born still at 39 weeks, 2 days
Alanna and her husband Simon are proud parents to baby Isobel Olivia Salter, born sleeping June 2015, and their rainbow baby Theo, born May 2016. Together they offer Still Parents retreats and workshops for bereaved parents in Northern Ireland.
I discovered that the anticipation of doing something was mostly, if not always, worse than actually doing it. So many times, when things seemed too difficult, I would think of Isobel and tell myself that I was doing it for her. I reminded myself that if I could get through labour knowing my darling daughter was gone, there was nothing I couldn’t do. Nothing I had to tackle would be harder than turning away, and knowing I would never ever see her face again, as her little coffin was closed.
Callala Bay, New South Wales, Australia
Charlie lived born at 23 weeks and lived 40 minutes
Alice is a mother of three and works as a nurse in Aged Care. After losing her third child in 2014, Alice decided to write about her experiences to help navigate her grief and hopefully support and inspire others dealing with loss.
Getting out of bed. And that, was the start of it. I don’t ever remember consciously deciding to get back up and live, but this is the closest to it. Little by little, I let them back in. I never consciously shut them out, but my mind had turned its back on everyone in my life, my grief was selfish. I couldn’t see that I wasn’t the only one that was hurting. Opening the doors to my family was the start…
Ryan born still at 40 weeks
Amanda is an English teacher who has found great comfort in words since the loss of her firstborn son, Ryan. She lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, their dog and two boys – one in her arms, and one in her heart. You can read more of her work at As Long as I’m Living.
A perfectionist by nature, I badly wanted to make sure I was grieving the right way. I wasn’t in therapy or group support. Neither had appealed or worked for me, so I had been working through my grief with my husband and a few women I had met online and through friends. Was this the proper way? I had no idea. But it was my way and it had been helping so far. That seemed enough at the time.
Francesca born at 25 weeks
Andrea is a wedding photographer and bereaved mother who has found healing while discovering art. After the loss of her daughter Francesca, Andrea has found purpose in helping others grieve and heal by expressing their feelings through art. Her current life goal is to spread love and kindness in memory of her daughter. Read her work at Missing Francesca.
I am not who I used to be but that does not mean I am less, it means I am just different. And sometimes different can be good, you just have to accept the change and strive to do good with what you are given. This is exactly what all of us, bereaved parents, are doing… the best with what we are given.
Felix born at 23 weeks gestation without a chance to live
Ariane is a freelance journalist, mother of seven children, and mom to two.
Saying that it was just the sewing that saved my life would be an exaggeration. But in the aftermath of Felix’ death, it made me plan something and do something with a purpose, showing me that despite all I was going through, I still could get meaningful things done.
Ethan died after 3 hours of life
Chiara was born in Milan, Italy “sometime in the last millennia”. She moved to Belgium where she eventually found Richard, the love of her life, and Tyler their dog. In 2015 Chiara and Richard lost their son Ethan, after complications during pregnancy. They now have a second child Aidan, who will grow up knowing all about his big brother in heaven.
I felt so torn between the two worlds. How do I focus on the life growing inside me when all I can think of is the other baby I can no longer hold? The answer for me was to take a day at a time. Some days I thought about the new baby, other days, despite my best effort, I thought only about the child I lost.
Amya Mirica, who died three days after a full term birth, is survived by her identical twin
An entrepreneur and consultant, Chris is also an avid fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy films and novels. He is the father of twin girls, Ananda Mae and Amya Mirica. While still hurting from the death of Amya Mirica two days after she was born due to congenital defects, Chris continues to look forward to new challenges and loves spending time with his wife Nathalie and their daughter Ananda Mae.
I realized that the single biggest lesson for me was that we all grieve differently. I think it is fair to say men tend to grieve differently than women. For me, the grief journey has been largely internalized. To an outsider, it may not have looked like I was grieving at all, but I can assure you the pain was just as real.
Sofia Noelle born still at 37 weeks
In 2013, Christine and her husband Nick were overjoyed to be expecting their first child, but Sofia Noelle was stillborn at 37 weeks. Christine’s life and priorities changed drastically as a result and she left her job with the federal government. Christine felt a desire to connect with and help others who had experienced similar heartache. She spent time working with the Kelly Ryan Foundation, a non-profit organisation that helps pay burial expenses for those who have suffered the loss of a pregnancy or an infant. Christine, her husband and their two-year-old son live in Connecticut.
As weeks passed I decided to make a promise to myself. Although she was not here with me, I wanted my daughter to be proud of me. I got out of bed every day, showered, put make-up on, got dressed and faced the world.
Gnadenhutten, Ohio, USA
Jensen Grey born still at 38 weeks, 2 days
Danielle’s life was changed forever when her son Jensen Grey was born sleeping on 5 April, 2016. Even though Jensen was born silently, Danielle refuses to stay quiet about his life and the stigma around stillbirth. This was never the motherhood Danielle expected, but after her and Jensen’s dad’s lives took separate paths she embraces being Jensen’s mom with the support of family and friends. Read more at His Story and follow A Story of Loss and Love.
Deep down I knew that my life wasn’t supposed consumed by the wreckage of losing him. That’s not what he would have wanted for his mom. I had always promised him and myself, that I would be the best mother to him that I could.
Gurnee, IL, USA
Nathaniel Willis born still at 39 and a half weeks
David is husband to Amanda and father of two girls at home – Abigail aged 6 and Felicity aged 19 months – as well as dad to Nathaniel, born still on 6 February 2014. David works in the medical device and healthcare industry, is active in church life and loves to be outside.
One of the hardest things to deal with was the perceived notion that I was not grieving, that only my wife was grieving for the loss of our son. No one said this but it was implied in a question I got quite often. The question was how is your wife doing. This wasn’t the follow up question of how are you doing, this was the question I was asked repeatedly. Sometimes I was happier to answer this than how I was feeling but I needed some acknowledgement of my grief too.
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Benjamin died at age 4 due to hypoplastic left heart syndrome
Elizabeth is a speech pathologist who works with children with special needs. She is also a wife and mother to three children, two on earth and one in heaven. She hopes that by sharing her experience of losing her four-year-old son Benjamin, she may inspire other bereaved parents on the same journey.
I have realized there is no right or wrong way to celebrate my son’s birthday. It will always be a hard and painful day, but I can and do celebrate Benjamin. He was here and he lived for four amazing years. On his birthday, more than any other day, my husband and I can share that with our hearts bursting with pride and love. On December 11 of each year we focus on his life – rather than his death – and shout to all who will listen, “Benjamin was here and he was our son!”
Daisy, Timothy, Titus and Sarah, all miscarried in early pregnancy
Emily is a mom to seven children, three on earth and four in heaven. She resides in Seattle, Washington where she enjoys homeschooling and cooking, as well as being outdoors for hikes and time near the ocean.She is passionate about life, love and family.
As I allowed myself to grieve over all four of my babies now in Heaven, I found I was able to love myself, my family, and my perfect baby girl in a deeper and complete way. Embracing the waves of grief, flashbacks, sleepless nights, and anxiety allowed me to be able to talk myself through each step and reassure myself even though things were not okay now, they would be someday.
Georgia Jeanne died at 40 days due to congenital heart defects
Heather is a previously unpublished writer who uses her creative outlets as a means of recognizing and navigating through her grief after the loss of her daughter Georgia Jeanne in 2014.
I am unapologetically in love with my children, whether I can hold them in my arms or I carry them in my heart- they are a part of me and I will live my life in a way that would make them proud. My daughter died, but she also lived, and both are equally important to acknowledge.
Luisa died at nine days due to severe hypoxia during birth
Julia became a single bereaved mom when her daughter Luisa unexpectedly died shortly after birth. Surviving this loss without Luisa’s father by her side complicated this journey, but she did not give up. Supporting other moms going through similar situations gives her meaning and strength. Julia shares aspects of her life on IG under @juliet1805.
Getting better didn’t happen overnight and I was often too impatient with myself. But I persevered and healing came in increments. Now I have many more stable days than bad ones. My story will continue and Luisa is a big part of it because she will always be my baby girl and I will always love her in the way a parent loves that child that is no longer present.
Elizabetta, second-trimester miscarriage at 16 weeks
Karen is a full-time mum to her eight children. She lives in New Zealand and volunteers at a local Sands Group, as well as at the schools and clubs her children attend. An article she wrote on baby loss has been published in a parenting magazine, and she has documented her journey through poetry at The Elephant Speaks.
I embarked on trying to heal my heart with kindness, I wanted to remember my daughter, Elizabetta, without the hurt and anger I carried. I wanted to heal the world, fix a broken hospital system that does not treat second trimester miscarriages as birthing a child, but most of all I wanted peace.
Alex Morgan, died by homicide aged 23
Katja is a solo mother of three children. Her son Alex was a victim of a homicide at age 23. Trained as a lawyer and journalist, she left her profession to be a full-time mother, later becoming an avocado farmer once her children were in their teens. She has worked tirelessly for justice for her dead son as a means of channelling her grief and help her other children come to terms with their brother’s violent death. Read her story at Katja Faber.
Yet there are aspects to this life-changing event that have altered who I am for the better. I no longer agonize about what life is about; I now know – it’s about living with grace and love and gentleness. I no longer fear death. I let the future unfold without attempting to plan or foresee every last detail. What will be, will be.
San Diego, CA, USA
Karina, died of broken neck from fall aged 12
Keem struggles to rediscover herself after the accidental death of her 12-year-old daughter, Karina, in 2015. She finds joy in her son Mark, and together with her husband, they rely on their faith in hope. They established Karina’s Joy Foundation to perpetuate Karina’s joyful spirit and giving nature through youth scholarships and acts of kindness. Keem shares her grief journey at Celebrating Karina.
I don’t have answers. I simply intentionally survive one moment, one day, one week, one month, one year…and then I do it again. Maybe, someday I’ll have survived enough to live and perhaps even thrive. In the midst of my own darkness I can trust and hope that a rainbow might appear. I anticipate the single moment when the light breaks through the heaviest clouds to splash vibrant colours across the sky. The colours might dissolve quickly, but then I wait for the next one to come. One stormy day at a time, I am expecting rainbows.
Fontana, CA, USA
Bradley David born at 28 weeks and died after four days due to cardiopulmonary failure and abdomen perforation
Lindsey lives in Southern California, USA, with her husband and two children – Zachery in her arms, and Bradley in her heart. She is an avid runner, stay-at-home mom, and a blogger at onemotherofaday, writing about running, food and her grief journey.
I have learned that joy and grief can live side by side. I am living proof. In those early months, I couldn’t see into the future where happiness and sadness could coexist. I didn’t think that was possible. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. That tunnel was long and dark and scary but that light is there. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. You will survive this first year and the second and the third and the next seventy years after that.
Esperance, Western Australian
Brendan, Kavyn and Alex, all second trimester stillbirths, and Cianan who lived seven hours after being born at 22 weeks
Megan is a wife and mother, living in Esperance, Western Australia. She is passionate about writing and creativity as an outlet for grief and loss. She facilitates mandala and creativity workshops in her local area. Find out more on Facebook and follow @4ravens.
There has been much written about the therapeutic benefits of writing including improvements in mood and psychological wellbeing, as well as general health. I have experienced the benefits of writing about my experience of pregnancy loss. Journaling is not without intense emotions especially when you write about traumatic experiences. Sometimes revisiting those traumatic events triggers upset and stress. I discovered for me the benefit gained from journaling far outweighs the negative aspects.
Sacramento, California, USA
Oliver Martin Gensler born still at 40 weeks
Rachel’s first son Oliver was stillborn at 40 weeks. In his honour, and in service to his brothers, she writes his story to ensure he stays present. When not writing, she spends her time teaching preschool. She lives in California with her husband and two sons, born after Oliver’s loss.
As I navigated through that first year I realized a simple fact. There would be nothing worse than getting over it. Surviving the loss of Oliver and pretending as if it was something I never had to think of or deal with again was an impossible conclusion. ‘Getting over it’ is a misguided, but hopefully well intentioned, notion forced upon the grieving by the world unaffected.
James, died shortly after he was born at 40 weeks
In December 2015, Rebecca lost her son James at just 19 hours old, due to undiagnosed vasa praevia, which ruptured causing catastrophic blood loss at birth. James was her first baby and conceived through IVF. You can read more about her experiences at A New Normal.
In time, I hope the happiness James gave me will become much more poignant than the sadness. He has made me look at life through different eyes and makes me appreciate things I used to take for granted. He has taught me what it feels like to be a parent and some people sadly never get to feel this incredible bond. He will always be my son and I will always be his mother. Nothing can ever take this away, not even death.
Aveline Mae born via emergency C-section at 24 weeks and died after 34 hours and 41 minutes of life
Ryan is a financial analyst in southwestern Michigan. When he’s not working, he enjoys making people laugh and spending time with his wife, Leah and their dog, Zoey. He’s passionate about fatherhood and bringing honour to his first-born daughter, Ava. To learn more about his story, visit Wings of Ava Mae.
I am not one to wear my heart on my sleeve or express my emotions when I am moved by anything, good or bad. Ava changed that perspective completely. She changed a few things. Nothing has impacted me more than my Ava. Out of every person I have known in my life, I knew her the least amount of time. There isn’t anyone who has altered my outlook on life like she did. Surprisingly, she has helped me work towards being a better man, a better husband, and a better human being.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Grace still born at 24 weeks after a severe case of pre-eclampsia triggered the need for early induction
Samantha graduated from Professional Writing at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Canada. Since losing her daughter Grace to stillbirth, she has been driven to help others on their grief journeys and has recently been certified as a grief facilitator. She hopes to support others while honouring her own loss.
The ability to channel pent up energy into something productive and positive has greatly helped me to avoid falling into a deep darkness. The hardest part is accepting that at this point in our journey people expect us to feel or be a certain way. Sadly, as a friend recently pointed out, we can’t control our feelings but we can choose what we do with them.
Naomi Laura born still at 36 weeks, survived by her twin
Sarah and her husband are parents to twin girls, Naomi (unexpectedly born still) and Lydia. The friendships formed with other bereaved parents have helped Sarah survive, and she hopes to be able to do the same for others. She writes more about her girls at Baby Girl Kumquats.
I knew I was supposed to find rest in the words people spoke and the images they shared. ‘Naomi is in a better place.’ As her mama, away from me was not a better place. ‘She no longer feels pain.’ I wanted to scoop her up and soothe her when she toppled over and hit her head. ‘Her great-grandma is rocking her.’ I should have been the one rocking Naomi. ‘You will see her again, and you get to spend all of eternity with her.’ I wanted to see her now, sitting up, rolling over, taking her first steps and saying her first words.
Noel James, born still at 22 weeks when a premature rupture of membranes caused pre-term labour
Sophie is a photographer with a background in archaeology, and a creative soul. She loves to travel with her husband Antony, and together they celebrate the life of their only child Noel by bringing Noel’s Spirit Teddy along on all their journeys. Sophie participates in annual grief-centered art projects as a way to heal and incorporate Noel in her life.
I take part in creative projects that were difficult at first, because they brought the grief to the surface once again, but have also acted as a catalyst for healing. It is another way for me to honour him, and to process the loss.
Bozeman, Montana, USA
Beau, born still July 2014
Tara gratefully breathes in the mountain air surrounding her home. She lives with her high-school sweetheart husband and their three young daughters. She frequently writes about grief, and has had several essays published on Scary Mommy and Parent.co. You can read more of her work at Tara Rigg and Facebook.
Each time I unroll my mat in a new class is a new opportunity for me to heal, to grow, and to learn. Physically, yoga slowly melted my baby weight away, and slowly it strengthened my weak heart. I found that by making my body stronger, I was stronger in the face of my grief.