Timeline on Grief

Well, I woke up this morning and posed a question on Twitter. “What should I write about today?”

I got a few good ideas but then headed over to Band Back Together to do some work and realized today we have a post up about the timeline for grieving a full-term stillborn baby.

Take a minute to go read (and comment, if you feel led to). But the synopsis of the story is that a woman lost a baby at full term who was stillborn. Her OB cut her off for prescriptions of her anti-depressants and sent her to a therapist who sent her to a psychiatrist. Who proceeded to tell her that grieving her “dead baby” (as he called the baby the whole time) should only take a year, especially for a loss like hers. She was told she thinks about her full-term, fully formed, supposed-to-be-born-alive-but-wasn’t baby too much.

She luckily is smart enough to know better and to know that grief is like a rock in your shoe (though she uses a different analogy).

Well, hmm. {clears throat} To say this psychiatrist has pissed me off is an understatement. Things like this sometimes bother me and sometimes don’t.

Today it does.

Maybe because in 6 days Charlie will have been gone from this earth for 8 years. Maybe because I want to fix somebody or something today. Maybe just because this psychiatrist is a prick.

Grief has no timeline. It’s easy to say “a year” because then you’ve gotten to grieve each “first” with permission. Everybody expects you to be sad on your first Christmas without your child or mother. First Father’s Days are tough when your dad’s just died. But after a year, life sorta does go on for those who aren’t in your shoes (whoever YOU are, whatever YOU’ve lost).

But that doesn’t mean grieving stops.

I feel like grieving, at a certain point, is equal to loving. I think the words are interchangeable.

Some may say that my talking about Charlie and being sad that he’s not here is unhealthy and I’ve been grieving too long. But I think that by talking about him and continuing to be sad at times is an extension of my LOVE for him.

Saying I should (or she should) talk about her son less means that she should pretend he didn’t exist.

Charlie existed.

The poster on BB2G’s son Joel existed.

He may not have taken a breath outside her womb but HE EXISTED. And he was part of her. And nobody should ever tell her that she thinks about him too much.

They were both miracles. As are every other baby or child who has been taken from us too early. My friend Kristine talks about that here.

But her psychiatrist (and I’ve unfortunately heard of other therapists and psychiatrist saying the same thing) completely invalidated her and the existence of Joel. In my opinion this is inexcusable. A good therapist or psychiatrist not only needs to be book smart, but they also need to have AN OUNCE of compassion and this doctor clearly didn’t. A simple look of sorrow on his face might have helped alleviate the hurt he caused, but the knife that was dug into her back by him saying this is just so hurtful.

My heart hurts for her this morning. She’s 2 years into her grief and there are many more years of it ahead. But I choose to change the word “grieve” to “love” for her and allow her many more years of LOVING her son by remembering him and being sad that he’s not with us on Earth.

I love my Charlie by remembering him and being sad that he’s not with me. You can call it grief if you want, but I know what it really is.


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  1. I totally agree with you that grieving is like loving! SHAME on anyone who tells us when its ‘time’ to ‘get over it’ or that grief is going on too long. or that our children were not here. Life doesnt work that way. I love the idea of using ‘love’ in place of ‘grief’.

    (( HUGS ))

  2. Oh this is beautifully said. We grieve because we love and NO ONE should put a limit on love. No one.

  3. Amen, Jana. Amen. I know that I’ve not experienced a loss like that of a parent or child. But I also know that I love FIERCELY. And that love will not die with that person. To suggest that it should is ridiculous at best, and completely callous.

    How dare anyone else deem themselves worthy enough to tell another person how to feel.

    • Right. After 50 years of marriage, to grieve your deceased husband is loving him. When your mother dies at 102, grieving her is loving her. Nobody wants to FORGET them and that’s essentially what he was telling her to do. I promise no book said that, either.

  4. So glad you wrote about this! I will be sharing it for sure!!! I’ve not had anyone tell me to stop remembering my sister who died 5 years ago. I still remember her every day … I have pictures of her … I tell my kids about her or what she would have thought about certain things. I want to keep her memory alive! What really ticks me off is that many people think that same sentiment does not apply to miscarried or stillborn babies. They were miracles, wonderful little lives that we loved so much, we miss them, we want to keep their memory alive too … why isn’t that welcomed?

    • I think because most people don’t understand it. Maybe they think that if they haven’t experienced it and it’s not tangible and they never saw them or held them, maybe it doesn’t deserve as much grieving as someone who lived for 24 days or 24 years or 96 years. *shrugs* I wish I knew. I’m glad you’re keeping your sister’s memory alive by LOVING her even as she’s not here.

  5. Thank you. I’ve known for a while that my feelings (or emotions or whatever) have changed about my loss of Will but I didn’t have a word for it. And now I do. Loving.

    Thank you.

    • And you know? I think the love can actually get stronger. Especially as you move through life and realize that your child is really WITH you in spirit, protecting you and walking with you through your days. I know I realize it more and more and it fills me with a love that’s bigger than it EVEr has been.

  6. I read the post on Band Back Together….all I have to say is what a thoughtless jerk. There is no timeline for grief, time doesn’t heal all wounds, they just scar over.

  7. It’s posts like this that almost make me regret leaving Therapist School. I was studying that, did you know? But I quit. I quit for me. But posts like this remind me why I started and why maybe quitting was wrong.

    Grief and PTSD are two of my main interests (ha! main interests… I am ENAMORED with the human psyche in all of its grandeur). There is not “right” way to grieve. There is no timeline. There is nothing but YOU and YOUR FEELINGS. Anyone who invalidates any part of your process is not worthy of your time.

    My recommendation to anyone who has ever lost anyone is The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Have you read it? I would LOVE to know your feelings on whether or not it rings as truthful to you. I have a feeling that this is a case where it may not.

    • Well, maybe there’s a chance you can go back to school one day… I have not read that book but am going to download it to my Kindle if it’s available. We’ll see what I think!

  8. I am horrified by that therapist. And deeply touched by your analogy and the way you honor Charlie.

  9. love to you. love and peace and understanding to you and yours.

  10. Good lord, are people such thick-headed poopy heads some times! (I had other choice words, but I try not to curse on other people’s blogs.)

    What I have learned recently is that grief is different for every single person, and there is no set pattern or time line that will explain it. Honoring some one’s memory and existence is perfectly acceptable, no matter the length of time nor the reason why. I think it’s beautiful the way you remember Charlie. And so you should. He was a part of your very being, for however short a time.

  11. Love to you and to Charlie and all who grieve.

  12. “I feel like grieving, at a certain point, is equal to loving.”

    Oof. I’m feeling this so much right now. Thank you for putting it into words for me. <3

  13. Her psychiatrist should quit. Seriously.

  14. I read that post this morning, and it made me SO mad.

    You have written the most perfect response here.

    I stand with you and Joel’s mom as you love your babies.

  15. Thank you, Jana. You have no idea how those words make me feel.
    In September, it will be 7 years since my full term little boy was stillborn. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of him several times. If anyone ever tells me I think about my son too much, I have no clue what I would say… But I will use your phrase ‘grief has no timeline’.
    I love him as much as my other children. I mourn the things he doesn’t get to share with his family. I will forever love him, grieve him, and nobody has the right to take that away from any of us.

  16. How sad. I am a therapist and I am EXTREMELY passionate about quality, sensitive, caring therapy for families who have experienced miscarriage and stillbirth. I presented at a conference about how counselors can be more sensitive to this loss and also did a portion of the presentation on some general medical knowledge, just so the clinicians in the audience could understand what a mom in this situation experiences and how it complicates grief.

    I’m speechless about the therapist and psychiatrist. It makes me so, so sad.

    • Oh thank you thank you for speaking up for grieving parents and trying to help other counselors be more compassionate! I once sat on a panel to help healthcare workers (in L&D) be more compassionate. Thank you!!!!

  17. To grieve is to love…. Thank you for sharing this with me this morning. I needed it. If love is grief, then my Emma knows how much she was loved. I wish people wouldnt view my tears as something bad. I wish they wouldnt look away and walk, I wish they would turn around and hug me. I wish people would stop asking me why I am crying or sad that day. Do I really need to tell you…. again? So many wishes… I wish that my house will be happy again, I wish that my husband would want to have another baby, I wish I could look at another child without yearning to take it from that mother because she is complaining about not getting any sleep or hating to hear her cry. I would love to hear Emma cry again. When the tubes were pulled I wish she had cried one last time. I wish I hadnt freaked out when she opened her eyes and looked at me one last time. I dont want her to remember that last look at me like that. I wish I had been able to hold it together better. Crying tears of remorse this morning…. I love her so much

    • Your Emma DOES know how much she’s loved. I promise you that while she may remember that last look on your face but she remembers the love in your heart more. She feels it. She sees the things that you can’t even feel. Of that I’m sure. What you’re feeling is completely understandable and normal. It makes others uncomfortable because they know they can’t fix it. They can’t identify with your grief and you wouldn’t want them to. They long to help but are at a loss for words. I remember walking through the mall the Christmas after Charlie died, wondering what would happen if I grabbed a baby from a 14 year old mother. Obviously in hindsight that wasn’t rational thinking, but it’s part of grief. I was angry at that teen for having a baby when mine had been taken from me. *sigh* So many things I could say. YOu know where I am… here, on FB, even email (janasthinkingplace@me.com) if you need me or just want to vent. Ok?

  18. Ugh. I can’t believe that a licensed mental health professional said that to her. Awful.
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