Infant loss - Bereaved Parenting - Life After Loss
Michelle welcomed me into her home. It is always a bit awkward to navigate an unknown social situation. Still, after a few moments of small talk, I asked if she would tell me about her daughter, Abbey. We talked about our journey together, the hurdles, difficulties, and small comforts along the way.
In 2014 Michelle and her husband began fertility treatments to conceive their third child. Always wanting a large family, they were overjoyed when Michelle was pregnant. Michelle documented every part of the pregnancy and looked forward to meeting their baby girl. In October 2014, Michelle went into preterm labour, and Abbey was born asleep.
It was heartbreaking.
The deep grief of a child dying is challenging to navigate. Relationships struggle to find their way through. People, meaning well, take actions that hurt. The glaring discomfort experienced when faced with such deep grief can cause people to distance themselves from the situation.
In all the sadness, there was a fierceness to Michelle. She did not change to make others comfortable. She was unwavering in her grief.
"I wanted people to see my baby... She needs to be a part of our family. Abbey is a part of our life."
Michelle had a fierce love in her heart when she spoke these words. And this is where the home breathed love. Abbey was in that home because her family included her in their lives.
"Still every day I cry about her. I think of her 15000 times a day. Every situation we go through, we think about her. We include Abbey."
This is the lesson that Michelle taught me. She voiced the yearning for our children to be seen as a part of it all, even if they are not physically present. Abbey's presence and the reminders of her existence made it clear that Abbey was an integral part of Michelle's life.
At one point, Michelle shared a quote from her local support group. The leader shared this quote at the beginning, "This isn't the pain Olympics. No one can compare their grief to someone else's grief."
Now, two years later, I'm not sure that Michelle and her family wouldn't win these Olympics. They experienced personal tragedies time and time again. Michelle was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and passed away a few months later.
I am sharing this all now because I want you to see Michelle. I want you to hear her story, to listen to the love she had for her children. I want to be an enduring witness to the impact her life had on those she loved.