Grief is Not a Competition & Stigma Still Exists

Two weeks ago I started writing for Babble’s Being Pregnant blog. I was brought on to share my experience with perinatal grief, miscarriage and loss and because my husband and I are in serious debate over adding to our family – another child.  I am thrilled to be able to write our experience and help remove the stigma of speaking about loss.

Today I finally got the courage to share the story of our 10 miscarriages (personally defined as 9 miscarriages and 1 stillbirth). It was a difficult decision for me although I have spoken about it here and on my personal website – Babble has a much larger audience. With that comes my fears of being looked at as a ‘freak’ , for being cruel for continuing even with our history and for being open enough to speak up about a topic that is a hugely misunderstood stigma.

Today a large audience read my story. I am grateful to have this outlet – I can only hope it is helping others – but of course along with that comes people who wish to continue to silence me – who continue to perpetrate the stigma that what i have experienced was ‘just a miscarriage’.

I received (so far) two anonymous comments that questioned our personal classification of loss and our personal decision to continue to add to our family. People who are under the impression that grief is a competition.

You can read the comments here:

Anonymous   &    Conflicted

My husband – who also lost his son – replied.

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Devan I adore you and I’m incredibly proud of you for sharing our story. I know how difficult it was for you to write this and how uncomfortable you feel having so many people read about such a personal and painful time in our lives. I truly believe that being so open about it sets a good example and will hopefully allow others who are grieving silently feel like it is OK to talk about.

I would like to address the comment that was left anonymously. I’m sorry for your loss. I would never wish anything this horrible on my worst enemy and I will never understand your pain.

I can see why you may feel offend that my wife and I consider Triton to be a stillbirth. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. In a medical opinion, had Triton survived another anther 6 weeks they would feel justified in calling him a stillbirth. However I’m not sure how the manner in which we personally honour and remember our dead son has any affect on your life, let alone would be insulting to women who have lost their children closer to their due date. There are no bragging rites in the loss of life. At 100 years old or 6 weeks gestation there is nothing but sorrow attached to loss. In your diminishing comment you make it out to be an exclusive right to claim your child as a stillbirth. My son Triton was still when he was birthed. He existed.

You said it best, no one can truly understand unless they’ve experienced it themselves.

So here’s what I’ve experienced and I don’t expect you or anyone else to understand. Every pregnancy my wife has been through we planned out and tried for. All of them started out with the our hopes and expectations. Talk of baby names, decisions on where to put the crib, debates on if it will be a boy or girl and whether or not we should find out before they are born.

Going through the roller like ups and downs of losing pregnancies and having children left me terrified to build up those hopes and dreams because it hurts more when they are taken away. By the time we were trying for our third we did NOT let our self take any joy in getting pregnant. Out of fear we allowed ourselves very little celebration. We just held on to what we could and hoped for the best. With Triton’s pregnancy we thought that we had made it past our danger zone. For the first time in a long time we began to celebrate the fact that we were going to have another child. I made Big Brother to Be and Big Sister to Be t-shits for my children to wear as a cute way to let my parents know my wife was pregnant. This was huge for us because we had stopped telling people she was pregnant out of fear. We let our children know that they were going to have a new brother or sister. We were happy.

What you don’t see in the picture my wife placed in this post is the sign she’s holding with the date and how old our son was that day as she stands sideways to my camera in the exact same place, on the same marked off floorboards, wearing the same outfit she did the day before, while I snap a picture to document the growth of her belly. Just like I did the day before that, and the day before that, and for the next 10 weeks leading up to his death. These are the pictures of a child who was loved. These are the pictures that represented hope but now hurt to look at. These are the pictures that silence our living room mid conversation when the accidentally pop into the rotation of our family computers screen saver.

I held my wife’s hand as three of us walked into a hospital and I held her hand again as two of us walked out.

Anonymous, neither you or I got a chance to see our child eat chocolate cake on their first birthday, take their first wobbly steps, speak their first words or look us in the eye for the first time. Please do not down play my loss simply because I didn’t get to feel my son’s first belly kicks. I wanted to feel those belly kicks too but I lost those as well.

Ryan
Proud father to Triton.

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There is NO Competition in grief.

I am going to use this opportunity to further the discussion about the hierarchy of grief – medical classifications of perinatal loss and the stigma that is still apparent with grief due to ‘just a miscarriage’.  While my feelings have been deeply hurt by someone’s decision to question how we honor our son – I am going to do my best to not take this personally. It has really shown me that the stigma still exists – that there is a view (at least by some people) that when it is ‘just a miscarriage’ it is not that bad.  This is the whole reason I started Unspoken Grief – to break down this stigma so there is better support for us.

Devan McGuinness

is the founder and executive director of the award-winning resource Unspoken Grief .

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