Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mourning the Loss of a Child

I get it, Ricki Lake thinks that because she had a part with the successful Independent film "The Business of Being Born" she is now an expert on all things baby and child related.  Unfortunately, her show proves otherwise.  After recently receiving backlash for a show she did on infertility, she did a show on mourning the loss of a child.  Something she has not experienced.  Not only did she not speak from personal experience, she made absolutely no effort to learn anything about the experience, other than to have a doctor on the show who did nothing to help a grieving family.  A doctor who is best known for his work on Diet Rehab.  Because dieting and child loss are so similar.  Not.

Rikki Lake Mourning the Loss of a Child

The above link will show you the segment they did.  Ricki was concerned because after 5 months, the couple was still saddened by the loss of their child shortly after birth.  She was concerned that they were visibly sad and their 4 year old daughter was able to see them being sad after 5 whole months had already passed.  The doctor explained that they should "fake it til they make it" and put on that big happy face for the world and their daughter to see.  Ricki expressed that she felt it was unacceptable that they relieved their child's death every day.

We have had a 4 year old.  We had a nearly 3 year old who lost her baby brother.  I can assure you, we were still visibly sad at 5 months.  There are times we are still visibly sad, 5 years later.  There are days that she is still saddened by his loss.  It was her brother, it was a baby she loved and cared for.  A 3 year old can comprehend that.  They may not understand death and loss on the same level as an adult, but they do get it on their level.

We cried in front of Kaitlyn, we were honest with her, we never faked any emotion around her, we explained that it was ok for her to be sad, for her to be happy, for her to live her life, for her to miss him and for her to talk to him.  She's 8 now.  A dramatic diva, a well balanced child who aspires to be a pop star or a chef at Taco Bell during the summers she's not teaching.

Just a couple of short generations ago, parents were encouraged to get over it immediately.  They were never shown their stillborn babies.  They never got to see what their sweet faces looked like.  They never got to wrap their little one's fingers around theirs.  They never had the opportunity to feel the weight of that baby in their arms, to keep a lock of their hair, to dress them, to have proper services for them or to grieve in public.  Miscarriages were never spoken of.  No one ever talked to those mothers or fathers about what they were going through.  You just got over it.

We are a society so quick to blame the desensitizing of our youth on violent movies or video games.  We argue that children do not understand the permanence or effect death has on family and friends.  Yet, we are expected to quickly get over the loss of a child that we created, the most innocent of lives gone.  Only 5 months later, we should not be showing that sadness to the world or our surviving children.  We should be strong.  We should move on.  We should look for that silver lining at all times. 

What does that teach our children?  What effect does that have on showing our children that each and every life is important and treasured?  How does that teach our children how very important our family is to us?

Ricki Lake has two children.  Two living sons.  Do you know what the difference between her living sons and our deceased son is?  (Aside from the quantity part)  They are living and ours is not.  That's it.  Just because Matthew died does not mean he is any less our son or any less a part of our family.  He is thought of each and every single day.  He is missed every day.  When we hold our children, we miss out on holding him.  There are times you can see a part of him in them, especially in Charlotte.  Him dying does not make his life any less important than the life of the child of anyone else.  We love him just as much, we care for him just the same.

Ricki Lake, I hope that you realize what a disservice you have done to all those parents who continue to grieve the loss of their child.  I wish you would have put forth the tiniest of effort to do any research prior to your show and actually educated society on the reality of losing a child.


Maxie's Mommy said...

I couldn't even watch it all the way through. Five months after the loss of my son, I wasn't even getting out of bed. Literally. I would sleep all day long. People tried to push me all of the time and I needed to move forward in my own time. It makes me so mad. I hear people complain about stuff ALL of the time - stuff much smaller than losing a child. It is always those people who are telling me to move forward. Nobody can know what this is unless they have been through it.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

Here's the comment I left the show: As a mother who lost her son to SIDS (and as a former family therapist), I was extremely troubled by your episode. At 5 months into the grief of losing a child (which is called "complicated grief" and should not be compared to other kinds of grief) the reality of that loss is just starting to sink in. As many organizations (Hospice, Compassionate Friends, etc.) will say, if the parents are able to function at ALL then they are doing well. At 5 months into a loss, some families are just starting to rebuild their lives and get used to their "new normal." At 5 months into a loss, you still haven't even had the opportunity to experience all of the "firsts" of your loss-your child's first birthday without them, your first Christmas without your child, your first Easter...most of all, you haven't even reached the anniversary of your child's death. Pushing a family member to do something that they are not ready to do is not only cruel but incredibly irresponsible. NOBODY grieves in the same manner and what is right and good for one person may not be for the other. When our child died, we had friends ask if we were "still grieving" six months into our loss and were apparently surprised when they found out we were. My husband replied that he did not want to be the kind of father who ever "got over" the loss of his child. What kind of parent would that be? When your child dies, your grief is there FOR LIFE. Some days will be easier than others and the way you express that grief might change, but grief is not a linear process. I have kept a SIDS blog for 2 1/2 years. Although I am functioning at a somewhat moderately normal level now, there are still days when that pain hits me like a freight train and I can't get out of bed in the morning.

LauraJane said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this, I feel the same as you.
It made me angry to think people would watch the segment and conclude blms are crazy for visibly grieving at 5 months and beyond. Ugh. :(

And what you wrote about the only difference between your son and her boys? EXACTLY.

Staci Luker said...

I lost my son in August and my daughter was three at the time, now four. She has grieved right along with us in her own way. That show made me sick. That's like not allowing them to grieve either. It also sends a message that its not ok to show emotions. We should be real in front of our children. Shared on the Barrett's Blankets facebook page and my blogs Facebook page.

Amanda Bonham said...

I couldn't have said it any better. The lines of communication is the only way to proceed on with life. You'll never to get over the loss, but at least it doesn't consume your every cherish moment with the beautiful children you have who did make through full term. Ricki Lake is an actress/talk show host, not a doctor. I wouldn't take her "so called" knowledge over a professional.
Grieving is a process its takes no SPECIFIC length of time to heal. Everyone is different. Putting an expectation on it is just ridiculous and downright inappropriate.

Denise said...

Thank you for your support ladies.

5 months is nothing more than a blink of an eye. Many are still trying to digest what has happened and the route their lives have taken. To assume that they should be functional to the point of reverting back to their "pre-loss" selves is asinine and offensive on so many levels.

Lindsay said...

Denise thank you for sharing. I can't even believe she would touch the subject of losing a child. Unless you have lived it you will never know what its like. I hope that many other mom's write her and let her know that she has no right to tell another mother and father how to grieve or what is the right amount to grieve. I didn't even make it a minute into the segment before getting angry.

Carla O'Brien said...

I just found your blog and loved that you write about this. I lost my son to SIDS in July and was sickened to watch this! I was literally 5 months into my lifetime of grief and almost broke my tv screaming at her. I clearly cry in front of my older boys who were 4 and 2 at the time and I can tell you they weren't even over it at 5 months and I don't think they ever will be. Your blog has brought me much comfort. I'm sorry we share this terrible road together. Bless our boys in heaven