Invisible grief: rebuilding after the loss of a baby

Invisible grief: rebuilding after the loss of a baby

UPDATE DAY

Authors of a new book on perinatal bereavement, journalist Jessika Brazeau and psychologist Lory Zephyr recall with great respect and compassion that the loss of a child before or after birth is a painful, even traumatic experience for many parents. They approach this ordeal gently in Le deuil invisible, a book where information and resources are interspersed with moving testimonies.

Although perinatal bereavement affects one in five pregnancies, it seems that the subject still remains taboo. In their new book, Lory Zephyr and Jessika Brazeau tackle difficult questions related to miscarriages, stillbirths, sudden infant death syndrome. How do you mourn a being that you have known little or not at all? How do we experience this situation as a mother, father, couple and family? What place should be reserved in his life for the missing child?

Jessika Brazeau, in a telephone interview, explains that she was extremely touched by the testimonies she collected from bereaved parents to write the book. She was struck by one constant: the discomfort that perinatal bereavement creates in others. 

“For them, it was not uncomfortable to talk about it. Between us, there was no taboo. They told me about the birth, the death, how they felt. They showed me pictures, the ballot box. I often asked them why they didn't tell others about it. And it was always to protect the other. Because the other, it made him uncomfortable. Them, all they had the taste [to do] is to talk about it.”

A mother of two she interviewed told her: “I have three children. But there is one that people don't get to see.”

Jessika Brazeau observed that a fear of forgetting often accompanies perinatal bereavement. 

“Afterwards, you are so afraid that we will forget the baby who died, when you have another one, when you smile again, when you find a kind of joy in life. The title is “rebuilding after perinatal bereavement”. Parents do not want the baby to be forgotten. It came up in all the testimonies, the fear of forgetting.”

A difficult job 

The author found it very difficult to to be confronted with the suffering of the other, while working on this project.

“Basically, I am a very emotional person and when Lory offered me this, I told her: I am not capable. I'm going to liquefy in front of the parents. And there were taboos too: what can I say, how far can I go… I really don't want to hurt them.”

“Lory said to me: Jess, they go through this every day. They carry this suffering every day. It's not you who are going to bring it to light and rekindle the emotions.”

She was still very apprehensive. 

“I was afraid of being emotional and appropriating suffering that was not mine. Afterwards, I carried them, these stories. Emotionally, it was draining, but I wrote, at the end, how much it had changed me, like no one else.”

Rebuilding 

Lory Zephyr, for her part, focused on the psychological process of going through perinatal grief and rebuilding herself. 

“We thought a lot about the title, observes Jessika. It's not going over it, it's not transforming you. You rebuild yourself in a person who is different. There are those who manage to find a meaning so that it is less painful and more tolerable to wear. But women experience a lot of guilt, because it's inside them, as if their body had failed.” 

♦ Jessika Brazeau is a journalist and Lory Zephyr is a psychologist.

♦ Together, they launched the “It's okay mom” platform which deals with parental mental health.

♦ Their mission: break isolation, normalize the challenges of parenthood and restore parents' confidence in their skills.

EXTRACT

You went over and over again the explanations provided by the nurses and doctors you met. You remember nodding your head to signal that you understood, but you realize that your emotion kept you from fully grasping the details of what happened. The loss of a child, regardless of the number of weeks of gestation, the context or the course, can be very painful and even, for many, traumatic.”