Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Importance of Rituals

Genevieve shares with us the importance of rituals

"Previously, I hadn't found ceremonies around loss particularly helpful. While respecting the cultural importance and religious significance of grieving rituals, I hadn’t experienced their healing power. Until now. On reflection, I think the key for me was in the timing. "

Last century, while at medical school, I studied the various models of grief. 
here was a 5 stage model, a 7 stage model, the K├╝bler-Ross Grief Cycle and a couple of others, the details of which didn’t deposit firmly enough in my memory bank to now recall.

Being young and eager to know “the answers”, I asked “But which model is right - which one most accurately describes the grief process?”

Grief is messy. There is no right or wrong.  There is no neat stepwise process or clear signposts along the road.  Everyone does it differently.

I learned about Grief’s complexities and idiosyncrasies firsthand, very soon after medical school.  In the November of my intern year, my partner, Adam, died of testicular cancer. 

I continued to get better acquainted with Grief over the next 15 years, thanks to multiple personal losses, including five miscarriages.  So when I lost my infant daughter, Amalie in December 2014, I thought I knew what to expect.  But as it so often does, Grief threw me a few curve balls.  I discovered that not only do different people grieve differently, but that individuals grieve differently at different times. 

Previously, I hadn't found ceremonies around loss particularly helpful. While respecting the cultural importance and religious significance of grieving rituals, I hadn’t experienced their healing power. Until now. On reflection, I think the key for me was in the timing. 

Within a couple of months of losing Amalie, life around me had ostensibly gone back to normal. Most people were treating me as if nothing had ever happened. In a way that was good, as I didn't want to be wrapped in cotton wool, but on the other hand, it accentuated how far from normal I felt. I often felt quite isolated, cut off from the world as if I was trapped in a Perspex container watching everyone go about their daily lives but not being able to connect with them. The colour had been washed out of my life. I felt flat and empty.

Then three months after Amalie died, my colleagues organised a tree planting and memorial service.  After getting council approval, we planted a coastal banksia tree in parkland near where I live.

It was a really beautiful service. A few people talked and many people cried.  The skies cried too (a few brief showers which gave way to sunshine) and the birds sang.  I scattered some of Amalie's ashes in the roots of the tree as it was planted.  
It was an exhausting day but the ceremony was exactly what I needed at the time.  As well as the symbolic value, it reminded me that people really do care - the love and support by those present (in person and in spirit) was palpable, and it meant the world to me.  

After feeling increasingly disconnected, the emotional distance between me and those around me was all but obliterated.  Connection is a powerful healer indeed.

I’ve been visiting Amalie’s tree daily since the service. Visualising her ashes being incorporated into the root system of the tree as it grows and strengthens is comforting and meaningful beyond words.

I've woken up each morning since the service feeling that little bit lighter and more positive about the future.  I know there are still hard times ahead, but I'm ready to face them, knowing my family, friends and colleagues are there to help me through them and to catch me if I fall.

I still don't have any answers for my past-medical-student self, but I feel I've got to know and understand a new facet of the complex creature that is Grief, and for that I am grateful.


If you require support after reading this blog please contact 
Sands on 13 000 72637

Genevieve Yates

Genevieve is a GP, medical educator, medical writer and musician from the Northern Rivers region of NSW. After a long and difficult road to motherhood, her beautiful daughter, Amalie Ella, was born in December, 2014.  Tragically, Amalie died of neonatal sepsis after only four days.
Through her clinical work, teaching and writing, she hopes to she can use her experiences to help support both patients and other doctors in managing the complex emotions surrounding fertility issues and perinatal loss, and also encourage more open discussion in the general community.

Her website can be found at:

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Learning to live again

Fiona is realising that there is hope and that life will continue following the death of her precious Manaia: 

After having the worst possible two weeks since Manaia passed away, I saw something that I believe was Manaia telling me that he was okay. And that I'll be okay. 

I know that the journey of grief is never ending and I'm only 3 months into mine.

Whether you've lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death, you will always carry that loss with you, no matter where you go.

What I've learnt so far in this journey is that although the darkness seems overwhelming and at times it feels as if the grief will consume you, you we will get through this.

The sun in all its glory will rise again and again. You will learn to live alongside the grief and with time the grief will take a minor place in your heart. You will learn to live again, to love again, to laugh again and one day you will once again feel true happiness, just like you did before your loss. For you and I that day may not be today but every day that passes, each day you survive, is one day closer to all those wonderful things.

And if you are just beginning this journey remember that you are not alone, you are never alone. There are so many wonderful resources for support, never be afraid to ask for help. 

If you require support after reading this blog please contact
Sands on 13 000 72637 

Fiona Mataafa

My name is Fiona and I am a 23 year old first time mother who lost my only child, my 4 month old son Manaia, after 128 days in NICU. I reside in Victoria with my partner Charlie. I hope by sharing my experiences as a bereaved parent that I'm able to, in some way, bring peace and comfort to others going through the heartbreak of child loss.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Preppie Tidal Wave

Danielle shares with us her emotions as she realises her precious son, Jasper, was supposed to start prep school.

Tuesday January 27th started out like a normal day. Rush rush, taking my 2.5 year old rainbow to Kindy, making sure we hadn't forgotten anything. The occasional tantrum on the way, mostly because he can't take his trains to Kindy. Hubby hadn't gotten back from night shift so I was doing the Kindy run alone. Driving to Kindy, I see schools open. I see children excitedly, and some not so excitedly getting out of cars for their first day back at school. I still haven't realised.

I get to Kindy; I get Harrison out of the car and help him inside. I am making his breakfast and a mum about my age comes in. The Kindy teachers start fawning over the new Prep child who used to come to the Kindy last year – “oh look at you in your new uniform – look how grown up you look! Thank you for bringing him in to see us!” And it hits me like a tidal wave. Jasper was supposed to start prep today.

I rush into the bathroom to clear my thoughts. I have to settle Harrison and get home – I think to myself. I manage to get through the next 10 minutes, made more difficult that Harrison wanted mummy to stay and read and cuddle him, but I needed to get out of there. But I couldn't hold it in all the way home. My chest feels heavy and the all too familiar and terrible ache in my heart. The ache that makes you feel like you can’t breathe or think. The ache that is physical and feels like your heart is dropping right out of your chest. I sat there and cried.

I cried selfishly at first. I cried because at first I forgot. I cried because I wish I didn't have to remember and that it isn't fair. Because I was the ‘unlucky one’ who didn't get to bring my baby home. Because after 5 years it still hurts. Because I will never buy Jasper a school uniform. But then I cried for his younger brother. I cried because his little brother will never experience the joy and jealousy of watching his older brother go to school before him. Because there will always be a big brother missing who he won’t play with – who won’t get to amaze him with thrilling stories of school and who won’t be there when his little brother also starts school. He doesn't have a big brother to look up to, to protect him.

When I pull myself together and get home, I soak in the bath and try to collect my thoughts. I think about the school we wanted to send him to and wonder how he would have coped. And the sad thing was that I couldn't imagine it. And sometimes that hurts more. I can’t imagine what he would be like today. I went on the computer to chat to a friend for comfort and like a knife through my heart I saw my Facebook feed – pictures of proud parents showing off their little prep kiddies in their new school uniform. Parents who have every right to be so proud of their children, but who unintentionally add to the pain. I had to close my computer. I couldn't interact on social media on this day.

Milestones like this hit me like a brick. And they are usually compounded by the lack of support I receive. My husband is my rock but after working night shift, I can't wake him up because I feel guilty. Many family members believe I am ‘wallowing’ and should just forget about him. It has been 5 years and I can never forget about the small little boy, who fought so bravely for life for 10 hours. I can’t simply ‘forget’ the little boy who isn't here, and I can’t put it out of my mind the milestones in life he can never achieve. Although I have a wonderful rainbow that brings me joy and heals my heart a little bit every day, he is not a replacement for the brave little boy I lost. His milestones are his alone and do not replace the milestones that Jasper should have had.

I cannot wait for my rainbow to achieve his milestones and I look forward to them every day, even if it does bring along a reminder of what we have lost.

If you require support after reading this blog please contact 
Sands on 13 000 72637

Danielle Hall

Wife to Corey and Mumma to two boys: Jasper Rhys in heaven and Harrison Phillip Robert in her arms. Jasper passed away after PPROM at 23 weeks and birth at 26 weeks, surviving for 10 hours in the NICU unit. Currently completing a Master of Social Work with the goal to aid in the safety and protection of all children, because all children deserve to feel safe and loved.