Having 3 girls, we get the question all the time... Are you going to try again for a boy? I just tell them "Actually, Maisey has a twin brother, but he died at birth. Reading this page will tell the story behind losing Ross, and the subsequent process of grieving that follows. If you've stumbled over this page because a google search brought you here and you've suffered the loss of a child in any way, shape, or form, then I'd like to offer some things that helped me.
Talking about it helps; Yes, it can be hard to talk about, but not talking about it ends up hurting MORE than talking about it. Try to talk openly with Family, Neighbors, coworkers, Friends... Their natural tendencies will be to not mention anything about the loss. They don't want to upset you, or remind you about it. YOU need to bring up the subject, to signal to them that it's OK to talk about. It's okay to say your babies name. You can flat out tell them that "It's okay to talk about Ross..."
Crying about it helps
Attending a support group helps. I would say the support group is the most helpful tool listed here. Here's the one my wife and I attended. If you are not local to DC,VA,MD, you can still find valuable online resources on the website:
Writing about it helps
For some parents, Reading about it helps, but I haven't found help from reading yet.
Eventually, Helping others to cope with their own loss helps. Being involved in other peoples recovery, by connecting with other parents is somehow helpful. Most parents find that it's easier to talk and be social with other parents who've gone through it.
Attending a memorial service helps. Until we lost Ross, I had no idea that October is Perinatal Loss Month. Most of the local area hospitals sponsor a Perinatal memorial service for anyone who has suffered the loss of a child. They are open to anyone. Dates for Memorial Services in the D.C. area, are posted on the MISSHARE.ORG website each year
I don't know how many people will find this page who are actually seeking help for a friend or family member, but if you are here looking for advice on how to help or approach someone who's had a loss, please begin by NOT avoiding conversation about it: Use the babies name if you know it. When discussing, don't compare it to the loss of a pet. Actually, don't compare it to any other bad or sad experience you've ever had, unless it's the loss of a baby.
If the parents are still in the hospital, with the baby, it's important to take pictures and collect memories. I already mentioned that a memorial service helps. Help the parents plan it. Help the parents do laundry, make meals, take care of the house or yard, go shopping.... I remember so vividly, how utterly empty, hurt, and heartbroken I felt in the months and years after our loss. I can't describe that feeling, other than to say it prevents you from having the energy/ability or motivation to do anything. You can find more information on how specifically you can help, by following the link to the "MIS website" linked above.
This page is sort of a blog, but I haven't been posting updates as I write them. I've written a little here and there, and not posted it. I'm posting it now, 5 years later, and maybe it will help someone. One sucky thing about loss is that you don't know the timeline of your pain. -The big question being, "How long is it going to hurt this much?". I'm posting my thoughts, in a sort-of time line, hoping it might help answer that question for some.
I'll start by saying that it hurt very much for 3 years, to the extent that I didn't start to write until then. However, that's not entirely true. I found the document I wrote, which was in preparation for my speaking at the hospital's annual perinatal memorial service. I'll post it here, because it represents what I was thinking at 1 year after our loss.
"We lost our son, Ross a little more than a year ago. The void left within me is immensely painful, to say the least. I’m afraid my words here today won’t do very much to alleviate the pain felt by other families who have experienced such a loss. It’s been extremely difficult to move ahead and conquer the grief. I know now, that this scar will never heal completely. I will never forget, nor will I come close to forgetting. It’s a scar that disfigures my life, and it acts more like a brain injury than anything else. I make this comparison, because it affects the ability of your brain to function. At times, it takes control over your thoughts and your actions. It severely degraded the quality of my work, and my ability to relax, concentrate, or enjoy anything.
My wife and I attended this service last year, when our loss was fresh. We had meticulously prepared for the birth of our boy/girl twins. Two of everything was purchased and waiting for their arrival in our home. 5 days before our scheduled c-section, during our final routine visit, we learned Ross did not have a heartbeat. We were thrown into the bazaar situation of grieving the loss of a son, and celebrating the birth of a daughter at the same time. It’s definitely been the hardest thing we’ve ever done. I remember how we felt. I remember wondering how this constant, draining feeling of grief would ever begin to heal. A little more than a year later, I can tell you that I am slowly getting better. That overwhelming sensation of the nightmare is NOT in the forefront of my mind ALL the time. That’s not to say I don’t think about it every single day, because I do. I have not lost the vivid memory of that traumatic experience. I love Ross no Less. I still have plenty of Anger. But I can tell I’m slowly getting better.
One of the coping strategies I learned, is that it’s helpful to have a well-practiced script to share the story of your loss. I knew that this practiced repetition would be the only way I would successfully be able to share my experiences with you, here today. I knew that speaking to you today would be hard. –Because looking back on the memories of the experience, and especially the act of speaking the words, allows all of your brains grieving faculties, to gang up on you, and force you to break down. However, I also know that for some reason, this challenge and the emotions that flow as a result of it, are a helpful thing. It’s a catch 22. The way to get better, is often just as painful as the original experience. They say men don’t grieve the same way as women. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Regardless of gender, it takes foresight and a great deal of effort to continue pushing forward and consistently trying to do the things that will make you better. You need an outlet for your grief. If you don’t give yourself these grief outlets in a controlled environment, -you’re still going to have them. They will be in the form of Anger, shortened patients, and irritability. It can affect your relationships at home and work. If you want control over those aspects of yourself and your life, you need to work on healing. You need to look for ways to let some of the grief out, in a controlled atmosphere. -At a time and place that’s comfortable for you. Finding those ways is the hard part. It’s a process of trial and error that will allow you to discover what works best for you. It’s a lot of hard work.
For those parents who have suffered a loss, there are support groups online and locally that can offer a safe outlet for your grief. My wife and I have found the MIS group (Miscarriage, Infant Death & Stillborn mispals.org) helpful in our healing process. It’s a once-a-month meeting you can attend, on your terms. You can come alone, with your partner, or with a friend, and come or go as you need. By listening to other parents in the group, you can learn strategies that help you deal with the inevitable situations that can blind-side you after a loss. Hearing about other parents experiences is very helpful. Knowing how they acted or reacted, and what their hindsight is, can benefit your mental health, and can help influence the choices you make in the long run. I know I’ve benefitted from the 20/20 hindsight shared by those parents who suffered a loss long before me. Let’s face it, there's no practice for this. Most parents are blindsided, and unprepared. We're not sure how to handle the emotions, the anger, or the decisions that need to be made when this happens. It really helps to have some "heads up" on what is coming, especially that first 12 months. It's something that has helped me slowly improve this year."
-spoken by Jeff Carr at the 2008 perinatal loss memorial service at Fairfax Hospital
As I mentioned, I didn't really start writing anything until 3 years after. So the story begins:
It's been 3 years. Maisey just turned 3 and her brother Ross should should be 3 too. I still can't comprehend why he's not with us. I'm still angry about it. I'm still upset by it. A day has not gone by in the last 3 years where I haven't thought about it. Ross's stillbirth really hurt. -There's no way to say that, that isn't an understatement. We're still learning about how much it hurt, and how deep the scar is. I've come to realize that I will never recover from it. Some scars don't heal, but you learn to live with them, as they become part of you. I could go on about how unfair it is. I could expand on how pissed off we get at the things that remind us of him, 50 times each day.
So, here we are at 4+ years. A lot has changed this year, being blessed with the birth of a healthy baby girl. Part of the reason for not writing or posting was because of the pregnancy. You tend to hold your breath in a way, and lay low, because of the stress of achieving said event and reaching the successful endpoint of it. It's a self preservation of sorts, to prevent further pain. It's extremely difficult to go through a subsequent pregnancy, after a loss. (visit mispals.org for Pregnancy After Loss Support) In my 3 year post, I stated that a day has not gone by where I haven't thought about it. That may still be true, but I'm not 100% sure like I was then. The thoughts are not as frequent, or long lasting, and the pain not as sharp. I admit that I don't know how a successful subsequent childbirth plays into that, but it must.
Time flew and we're now 5 years out. Honestly, it wasn't too much different than the previous year. We've been involved in our local MIS support group, on the board, and on the administrative side. I created a formal webiste for our group. http://www.misshare.org is a collection of resources and information. I did it to honor Ross, in the hope it would reach more people in need of the same support we found so helpful. One thing I've learned is how to love and appreciate a baby. For what it's worth, I can say that I'ved gained a perspective that you can't get any other way. It's applicable everywhere in daily life. Lots of things don't matter, like they would have otherwise. Anything that happens to me, I can honestly say, is not nearly as bad or difficult as losing Ross.
-As an example of "writing about it helps", My wife Jenny wrote an artical for our MIS website. Since she wrote it in this 5 year time period, I'll include it here:
I am the proud mother of twins. Our son and daughter were born, July 6th 2007. My husband and I prepared diligently, joining the Mothers of Multiples club and attending all the baby preparation classes we could find. Interestingly, you won't see me at Mother of Multiples (MOM) meetings. I show up for their Spring and Fall consignment sales but that's it. At those, I get in and get out as fast as I can. It's not that I'm not friendly or don't think it's a great group of people, -but they have what I'm missing.
Five days before our scheduled c-section, at my last non-stress test, I learned our son didn't have a heartbeat. We delivered both babies that day via emergency c-section. It was absolutely the best and worst day of our lives. On July 11th, the day we had originally been scheduled to deliver, we had a memorial service for our beautiful boy, Ross. I watch our daughter Maisey grow, and I love every minute with her. I often think about her brother who should be next to her getting into things. I long for all the trials and tribulations of twins. When I see parents of multiples stressed and overwhelmed by the enormity of all things multiples, I wish they would hug their children and know how fortunate they really are.
When we learned we were having twins, we reached out to neighbors who have twin girls. They told us of the local MOMs group. We started attending immediately. We wanted to be as informed as possible. We stocked up on two of everything: cribs, clothing, double stroller, and car seats. -you know the list. We came home to two of everything but could only use half of it. We wouldn't have made it through without the support of so many people, family, friends and medical professionals. As just one example, my husband Jeff, mentioned to a neighbor in passing, that we only had a double stroller. A few hours later a new single stroller was at our front door.
The early days, weeks and months are such a confused haze. The joy and wonder of a new baby combined with the grief and devastation over the loss of our son, mixed with sleep deprivation makes for challenging days. I looked on line and learned about The Center for Loss in Multiple Birth (CLIMB) http://www.climb-support.org/ . It helped to find others who understood, but it wasn't enough. Our incredible pediatrician took the time and effort to contact the local Miscarriage, Infant, Stillbirth (MIS) chapter for us. I don't know if I would have had the energy or courage to make the call. Besides, I didn't know if we'd "fit in", since we had a surviving baby. I wondered if that would be too difficult for others to hear about within the group. Prompted by the pediatricians call, a contact person from MIS called us. She was so kind and understanding and allayed my concerns about the group not being right for our situation. Jeff and I went to our first MIS meeting, September 2007. It was a hard thing to do but so helpful to be with others who understood. Each month we'd look forward to the meeting but as it drew near we'd talk about what else we could do since we'd have a sitter. Dinner, movie, or sleep but we knew we always felt so much better and mentally healthier after attending. Being able to talk with others who understood what we were going through was invaluable. Anyone who has gone through the loss of a loved one knows- grief is hard work. We've made it a priority to continue our participation in the group. I have said often that the MIS support group is the nicest group of people you never want to meet.
We make it a point to talk regularly about our son, to family, friends and especially Maisey and our 18 month old daughter, Marcey. We are the parents of three children, although we don't get to parent one of them the way we want to. Maisey knows she has a brother. We have his picture out with both girls. On Maisey and Ross' birthday we write notes and release balloons to Ross. Maisey now thinks that any escaped balloon is going to Ross. That makes me smile. She will ask me "Where is Ross?" and "Who's his Mommy and Daddy?" Death/Heaven is a hard concept at any age, at five it's especially challenging to understand and explain.
There will always be a hole in our hearts and a hole in our family that cannot be filled. It's a hard loss. No one got to know Ross as well as myself, my husband and his twin did. I am filled with happiness knowing he had his sister to play with all his little life. He never knew what it was like to be away from his mommy and his sister. I am saddened to my core that he isn't here with us now. That feeling will never go away no matter how long I live. If you look at our family from the outside you won't see anything amiss in our smiling faces, but in every picture we know someone is missing.
I write this to share our family's story but also to give information for others who might have experienced a perinatal loss. If you have or know of someone who has experienced a perinatal loss, I strongly encourage seeking out the support of MIS. It doesn't matter how early the loss or how recent. It has been a life line for our family.
October is Perinatal Loss Month. Most of the local area hospitals sponsor Perinatal memorial services. please check the Upcoming Events section on the website for details.
Jennifer Carr -mother of Maisey Jane, Ross Jeffrey and Marcey Jill
My Tribute to Ross J. Carr
By Candace Garrett 2007
As Maisey Jane grows A smile will always be on her face And a warmth will always pass you by Its Ross He isn't letting go He is there Just in a spiritual way But he is there As you protect her from falling And shield her when she cries Ross will always be right there As a cushion As a balance As a comfort And she will not walk alone And as she gets older That sparkle over her left shoulder will follow In everything she does That's Ross, her Guardian Angel I do believe we all have one And at times like this I think that God has a plan for those He calls home Why Ross?
That part I don't understand But just know that he will not ever be gone As Maisey Jane will keep him alive And I know this is hard But celebrate the gift given to you And pray for the one God sent for As it is... Be strong Jenn Maisey Jane needs you Jeff needs you And we all here at the office need you to be strong I know this hurt... And only time heals this kind of wound But just know that "this" was for a reason Not ever to be mistaken Ross will live Through Maisey (whose little heart knows him strongest) Through you (the strength of a mother and of a child) Through Jeff (Daddies Love) And everyone else who will always celebrate him!