Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Sands helped me feel normal

Sands Blogger Larissa Genat talks about how she found belonging with Sands:

When my daughter Ariella unexpectedly died one week before her due date in January 2013, life as I knew it just fell apart. Everything changed; nothing was the same any more. If you haven’t experienced the death of a child, you may think I am exaggerating, but if you have experienced it, I’m sure you know just what I mean.

Going to the shops was no longer a simple task – what if I saw someone that I knew? What if they asked me questions that I wasn’t able to answer? Or worse, what if I saw a baby the same age that Ariella should have been?

Home was not 100% safe either. What did I do with Ariella’s room? Should I shut the door so I was not confronted by her empty room every time I left the lounge, or do I leave the door open so as to not shut her things out of my life?

Even being with friends and family had changed too. I felt as though I didn’t belong – no one in my family had ever lost a child which meant they couldn’t understand what I felt. While they all grieved the loss of Ariella and were affected by seeing me in so much pain, it simply didn’t compare to the grief I felt over the death of my only child. None of my close friends had children, yet alone experienced a loss.

I felt alone.


I reached a point about six weeks after Ariella’s death when I realised the one thing (aside from the obvious pain and grief) that was really affecting me: I constantly felt like the odd one out. No one in any of my social circles had experienced the loss of a child and that made me feel like an outcast. My family and friends were always loving and supportive, but I still felt like they didn’t understand. I clearly remember telling my husband that I needed to “be somewhere where the grief was normal”. Everything had fallen apart around me and I just needed to feel normal.

So I went to a SANDS support meeting.

For the first time since hearing the doctor tell me that she couldn’t find a heartbeat, I found a place where I belonged. I wasn’t alone; the grief was normal. And it was so freeing.

I don’t remember a lot from that first night. I remember one of the support workers telling me that my daughter’s name was beautiful and I remember both the sadness and comfort in hearing other bereaved parents tell their stories. I cannot emphasise enough what a difference it made to finally be in a room surrounded by people who understood. They just “got” it. When I could barely tell my story through the tears, they didn’t look at me with pity but with empathy. When all I could do was cry, they offered me tissues instead of empty clich├ęs or attempts at comfort.  They made me feel normal again. And that was exactly what I needed most.

I became pregnant with my son one month later and SANDS supported me through that as well. I stopped going to the support meetings because I didn’t want my pregnant belly to cause any hurt (I remember how hard it was to see pregnant ladies) and began attending the monthly coffee mornings, which are more casual and children are welcomed. At those mornings I was able to talk with mums who understood what a pregnancy after loss was like. Any fear or anxiety I shared was met with understanding and I was never made to feel as though my worries were silly. Once again I had found a place where my grief and fear were normal.

My son Levi was born safely four weeks before Ariella’s first birthday. His presence in my life has certainly brought me healing but it hasn’t erased the grief I feel over my daughter’s death. I find it harder to get to the support meetings or coffee mornings, as having a newborn can make things complicated, but I often find support in one of the SANDS Facebook groups. Before a recent holiday, it was a friend I met through SANDS who helped me face the emotions of leaving my daughter’s things and helped me find a solution that I felt at peace with.

As life moves on and my grief changes over time, I know that the friends I have made through SANDS will always be there. And no matter how much I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere else, SANDS is the one place where I will always feel normal. And that means a lot to me.

Larissa Genat
Larissa is a wife to Marcus and a mother to two beautiful children – Ariella Jade in Heaven and Levi William in her arms. She loves spaghetti bolognaise and the smell of rain, but neither of them could make her smile when, after a textbook pregnancy, Ariella unexpectedly died at 39 weeks gestation. No reason was ever found for her death. Soon after Ariella’s death Larissa began writing. You can find her posts at Deeper Still  and on Still Standing Magazine.


  1. Not feeling like an outcast - being accepted as normal without judgement. In short that is what is so outstanding about the SANDS community. I am so grateful to have found them and Larissa has brought it to a point. Perfectly written and will resonate with probably everyone touched by SANDS

    1. The SANDS community certainly is a blessing. So glad to have met you Lana *hugs*