A grief like no other: after stillbirth claims a child, what then?
The birth of a child is supposed to culminate in the sound of the newborn’s robust crying as it first encounters the world, senses stimulated all in a rush. And it’s the sound expectant parents are relieved to hear because it reassures them that the baby has been born healthy.
But this was not what Tammy Anderson and her husband Darren would experience when their daughter Emily was born on May 10, 2006. Emily’s birth was silent because she was stillborn. So, as a tiny life came to an end before it could even begin, a long and intense voyage into grief and a difficult search for meaning were just beginning for her parents.
Bereaved mother Tammy Anderson’s book, ‘Losing Emily: A Journey through Stillbirth to Finding Peace and Embracing New Hope,’ came out of that hard process. Though a small book, it offers enough insight, personal experience, empathy, and hope to fill volumes.
Devastated at her loss -- her family’s loss -- Anderson nonetheless found the emotional resources to seek out information on why her pregnancy with Emily ended so wrenchingly. Understandably, she was full of questions and she wanted to know everything about why her pregnancy had ended in such a cruel way.
Aside from information aimed at the medical and academic community, she found that there wasn’t much information on which to draw. Therefore, and determined that some measure of good would come of her family’s grief, she decided to share her thoughts and feelings about what had happened –how they coped, and are still coping still. The good news is that the pain and grief, incomprehensible unless you have to deal with it yourself, are manageable.
How, though? ‘Losing Emily’ asks and answers that question very well. In fact, it is hard not to regard it as essential reading for women or families who might lose a child to stillbirth. For their relatives and friends trying to support them through this difficulty, it’s just as necessary.
As Anderson explains very well, it’s hard to know what to say to someone dealing with this particular situation. Assurances like “it was meant to be,” or “you can try again,” or expectations that after a suitable time bereaved parents will finally “move on,” are well-meant, but misguided and hurtful. Following Emily’s birth, Anderson’s physician patted her thigh and said “try to get some rest,” words which Anderson cannot recall today without a stab of hurt.
Given that there seem to be no “right words,” what do you say? Anderson answers that clearly; you express the support you are willing to give, the things you are willing to do, the ways you will be there, the ways you will listen.
Anyone might do well to read this book, and virtually no one will read it without feeling the sting of tears – it’s that moving. Those working in the medical profession in obstetrics and nursing, and those working in family support ought to find it particularly relevant, and I recommend it highly. As one who works in public libraries, I’d call the book essential for parenting collections – it’s that important.