Sunday, February 24, 2013

An Aunt's Perspective: My Journey of Grief

When Lindsey asked me to contribute to her blog, I was honored.  After losing my niece, Nora, I searched the internet for resources available to me, the aunt.  I searched high and low, tried every google combination of words with "aunt, loss, niece, stillborn, grieving, death, baby..."  Not surprisingly, there weren't a lot of resources for the extended family of those who have lost a baby.

Don't get me wrong, I found plenty of resources for the parents and even some for the grandparents, but where was the blog or book from the aunt or uncle's perspective?  I felt like my loss did not mean as much as the loss from the parent's point-of-view, at least in the eyes of the world at large.  This frustrated me.  Where was the validation of my feelings of loss?  The internet couldn't provide it, bookstores couldn't provide it.  Even my husband's work wouldn't validate his loss and he had to take a day without pay in order to grieve with my family.  Whether it is losing a parent, child, niece/nephew, aunt/uncle, close friend...who gets to make that decision as to how important or how devastated you get to feel by your loss?  Loss is loss.  Bereavement is bereavement.  Grief is grief.  My loss was just as real as anyone else's in my family, so why wouldn't the world recognize it?

And for awhile I endured the unfairness (though, if anything, this experience has taught me that nothing is fair in this world), assuming that I was not entitled to feel this way despite the fact that she was as real to me as she was to Lindsey and Nick, my parents, his parents and sister and niece.  I had spent 9 months, like everyone else in my family, excitedly awaiting her arrival.  I had bought her more elephant patterned clothes, blankets, and toys than one sane person probably should.  I daydreamed about what we would get to do together, what my life would look like now that I was an aunt.  After awhile I decided that I would be my own resource; that I would figure out how to wade the waters of grief on my own and with the help of my family.

Then one day my sister approached me about starting a blog for her grief.  I thought it was a great idea.  I frequent several blogs on a daily basis and through them I have found blogs written by others who have lost their children.  So I knew that this would be good for her, and when she asked me to participate because she had noticed a lack of resources for extended family members of these situations, I realized it would be good for me as well.  In fact, I was so excited to finally provide something that both my sister and I see as a need in the area of loss...outlets for the extended family.

But I am still trying to figure out what I will write on this blog.  The loss of Nora is effecting me differently, which is to be expected.  Most days (I am sad to say) work keeps me distracted from my grief during the day and television and wine keep me distracted at night.  I know that this is me ignoring the emotions that I need to sift through, but some days I just can't consider opening the floodgates to my grief.  Mostly I have been overwhelmed by my grief and the everyday situations of my life (I actually started a new job 4 days after losing Nora, then my husband's grandma died on the day of Nora's service--suffice it to say, the first week of 2013 really sucked).

So to sum up what I have felt over the last 2 months: exhaustion, overwhelmed, numbness, lack of motivation, frustration, anger, deep sadness, emptiness...I'm not quite sure what categories those fit into on the ladder or spectrum of grief, but I'm not really viewing my journey of grief through that lens.  Right now it is more like a roller coaster, I feel what I feel when I feel it, unless it's at work then I push that as far down as humanly possible because I need to be "on" for my students.  (I'm sure Lindsey will think this is unhealthy...but it is how I am starting this process).

Luckily, my family, friends, and even my coworkers have been supportive of my grief, realizing that this pain I feel is raw and real, that my life has a Nora-shaped hole that will never be filled; not by my future nieces and nephews, or my own children.  In fact, those first few weeks after losing her I literally felt like a piece of our family was missing...as if she had always, in some fashion, been a tangible part of our family though she had only been in our life for 40 weeks and 4 days.  When I envision our family now, I see all of us, my parents, Lindsey and Nick, Zach and I, but then there's this hole...a hole where Nora should be.

I will always feel that hole, but now I am getting used to the emptiness.

24 comments:

  1. I feel the Nora size hole too. Beautiful sis, we really do need more resources out there for extended family. Your voice and voices like yours need a place as well, thanks for being that voice.

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  3. I too lost my beautiful niece today. Thank you for sharing your story. It helps to know the grief I am feeling is normal. I wish I could shoulder it all for my sister. I feel so helpless and so very heartbroken for her.

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    1. It is normal to want to take on your sister's emotional burden, but know that just being there for her is all that matters. You can help her by showing your love for your niece, by speaking her name, by sharing what memories you do have, and by talking about the memories you wish you had. It will be hard, and some days may seem darker than others, but let your grief take you where you need to go. Grief is a journey: a sad, heartbreaking, and sometimes lonely journey, but it is a necessary journey. Don't be afraid of it.

      My thoughts are with your family.

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  4. I have to say that this post touched me since I am in the same boat as you. I lost my sweet niece Evie in November of 2012. She went up to heaven after about 4 hours with us.
    I understand the heat-shattering pain of losing a niece, as well as the agony of having to watch your sister going through such emotional turmoil as well.
    A little over 7 months has passed, and I am honestly still working through everything, still learning how to live without the little piece of my heart that will always belong to that sweet little girl.
    I too have a blog for therapeutic purposes, but prayer has been my main resource for venting my emotions and I will be sure to keep you and your family in my prayers as your situation hits so close to home!

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  5. I lost my niece and god-baby on the 21st of june just hrs b4 she was delivered. my sister went to the hosp in labor at 41 weeks n was delivered the news a couple hrs after arriving. I work nights and live 3 states away and wasnt even able to answer her calls that morning. i didnt find out until 2 hrs after her birth... i didnt even know what to say or do just kept telling her how sorry i was. im glad im not the only aunty out there that is frustrated with the lack of help for the extended family... especially when one has no memories to hold onto... i think thats the hardest for me. i wasnt even able to hold her being so far away.

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  6. Thank you for this post. My two month old nephew, Edison, died six months ago of SIDS. I did not realize until recently how much his death has affected me. I have just started to grieve very recently. I guess I have felt like I needed to be strong for my sister and that my grief might somehow take away from the pain that she and my brother-in-law are experiencing. The fact is that I am devastated though and my world has been turned upside down by this experience. I have had a lot of anxiety about death in the last couple of months and often panic at the thought of losing my husband. I am also nervous about having children of my own and wonder what the future will hold for me. My faith is what has helped me during this time though and I am so grateful that we have a God who cares so deeply about everything that happens to us.

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  7. My sister is several states away struggling in the labor of her daughter Annabelle - who she lost 2 days ago. I am beyond sad for her. Devastatingly sad. I fly out tomorrow to be with her and have been searching for ways to comfort her. I feel so lost in my own grief and I have been trying to pull myself together so I can be strong for my sister. I'm unsure of whether I will be able to hold or see Annabelle, as it will be hours until I arrive. It's hard to comprehend how someone you've never seen or known can change you so profoundly. Thank you so much for sharing your post.

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  8. I lost my nephew three months ago.Marcus died a few hours after he was born.I never got to hold him or even tell him how much I loved him.He was my first nephew...the one I was going to spoil.I have two beautiful daughters of my own but their is a hole in my heart for my nephew who I miss so much.I weep for him often..some days are so hard while at other times I am busy being a mother and in all the other things I do.I find it hard to talk to others about it because I don't want to take anything from my brother and sis-in-law's grief and I don't want to make this about me.

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    1. It is now almost a year since Marcus passed away.The pain does get better but I still find it hard to look at photographs of him.He was a beautiful baby who looked so much like my sister-in-law.
      A month ago my sister-in law and brother were with me and we all wept together remembering the baby we all miss so much.As an older sister I sometimes wish I could take some of their pain away but am helpless and so we just held each other and wept.

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    2. My brother and sis-in law were blessed with a baby girl two months ago and yet every time we look at this beautiful baby we cannot forget her older brother. She is more precious to us because of our loss. We miss Marcus every day and speak of him often but looking at his pictures is still very hard.
      The relief and reassurance is this-the pain does get better.

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  9. My nephew passed away a few days after he was born. The time I spent with him and my sister in that time was so special and has changed a part of me forever.
    Even though I was only his auntie I can't believe how much I loved and cared for him and feel a desperate sense of loss.
    Seeing my sister go through this is heartbreaking and I can't believe it's happened to her. She would have been the most amazing mum and I wish I could take her grief away.
    I feel as though I shouldn't be seen to be grieving as much as I am because I don't feel justified in the huge sense of loss I am feeling as an aunt.
    I miss my nephew so much, I can't understand why he had to be taken away from us so soon and why any of this has happened to our family.
    My prayers are with you all and your siblings at this awfully difficult time.

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  10. February 3, 2014. I will always remerber this day. A 3 am message from my brother sparked much excitement in our home. Baby Theodore was here. A few weeks early but he must be here. My boys discussed what their cousin looked like and made plans to see him. Nothing could have ever prepared me for the words "We lost Theo" that came from my tired, scared and heartbroken baby brother. I was able to meet him as I have with all my other nieces and nephews. There was cuddling, kisses, and I shared with him how much love I have in my heart for him. A precious picture is all I have and it hurts. I can relate to this blog and many of these comments. As an aunt I don't have a clue where I fit in this grief process. Many of my co workers who have known me for years have chosen to not acknowledge that I lost my nephew. Why should this loss be any less significant or hurt less than any other family member? I am blessed to have a supportive family, great friends, and a loving church family. I pray for strength for my family to endure this.loss and to honor my brother's request. That son not be remembered as something sad that happened to our family.

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  11. I was to be a Aunt for the 2nd time to a baby girl who was to be borned on July 14 2014 but her time came on may 30 2014 to be with god she was a beautiful baby I didn't get to be with my sister during the birth my mom and sis boyfriend did June 4 2014 is going to be hard for me the funeral.

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  12. Christa ChandlerJuly 9, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    I am 16. My sister is 26 and had 5 weeks till her due date. Last night, my nephew's heart stopped beating. She was induced earlier today and still hasn't gone into labor. I don't know what to do. I was so excited about being an aunt. My nephew had me wrapped around his little finger since the moment she found out she was pregnant. I know I may sound whiny, but I just don't know what to do. I haven't found anything to help me cope. I'm just so worried about her and her husband.

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  13. My sister lost her baby on the 25th July she was 37 weeks pregnant. I feel so sad for hrr and her husband and son. But i feel like there is a hole in mu life now too, even though i have three children of my own, it seems like a dream and ill wake up and all will be ok. I also feel like i shouldnt be feeling like this and dont really want to talk to friends about it as they may think, it wasnt my child.

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  14. I lost my sweet nephew almost 2 months ago. My sister in law learned of his passing on Friday and didn't give birth till Sunday. We didn't know the sex of the baby because they wanted to keep it a surprise but I had been saving all of my sons clothes for her. Losing that baby boy has been difficult and I too find myself pushing down feelings. Complicating matters is my SIL doesn't want to talk to anyone. My husband doesn't seem as grief stricken as I am. I feel like I am alone in my grief and not sure what to do with it.

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  15. I lost my precious nephew early this month from pneumonia with an underlying vsd.I lived with him and my sister and have been there with him for most of the seven months we were privileged to have him.It hurts so bad and I sometimes feel so angry, I'm not sure how to get past this together with trying to be supportive to my sis especially as he was her only child and our only nephew.In the days before he died we were so excited because it seemed like he was going to get his heart fixed only for this to happen.what seemed like a big miracle for us (a way to get his heart fixed) turned out to be the very worst thing as he died on being taken for evaluation in another city.worse still,I was admitted in hospital for the week before he passed and I never got to hold him or kiss him goodnight or even to say goodbye.His birth and life was the best part of this year and my life and his death the worst of both.RIP baby,we love and miss you more than you could ever know.

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  16. I'm losing my nephew now. I feel as if I have no right to feel this way, to feel heartbroken. Then I suck it up but then a few minutes later I feel sad again. I love my nephew even if I never got to hold him or anything I love him. Hes my first nephew. He already has me wrapped around his finger and I'm never going to get a chance to let him know how much I care and love that little boy

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    1. You have every right grieve for your nephew. He is a part of your family and you love him. Never doubt the validity of your grief. I felt the same when my sister lost my niece when she was 28 weeks pregnant. Though my sister has since had two girls, who are the apples of our eye, there will always be a hole that only she could fill. It has been a little over seven years since she passed away and there are times when I still cry. The loss of a child is as bad as life gets. Right now, I'm sure your grief feels unbearable, the days go by like years, but know that you will get through it. It helps to talk about it. My deepest sympathy to you and your family.

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  17. Your post has helped me feel less lonely. My poor sister only had 6 weeks to go with her pregnancy and sadly her little baby's heart stopped. My sister lives in Australia and I live in the UK. I cannot even fly to see my sister due to congenital health problems which prevent me from flying long haul. I feel utterly useless. I was offered support at work but the reality hasn't matched the promises. Sadly.
    I'm truly hoping things will become easier to bear. I am in touch with my sister online as often as possible but I'm at the mercy of the time lag and my sister being willing to talk.
    I just wanted to hold my sister's hand during her sad birth. I just wanted to be able to say goodbye to my beautiful niece. To gently kiss her fragile face for one time. But I couldn't. That hurts.

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  18. Thank you for your blog. It's the first time in months that I haven't felt completely and utterly lonely. I lost my nephew Oliver in August. I remember the day I got the call from my sister, a routine scan turned into a living nightmare. As she told me Oliver would never be here. I couldn't believe it was actually really happening to her, to my family, to me. Oliver was never going to be ok, he was never going arrive like we had planned, he was never going to be here. We sat together and cried, occasionally trying to believe that the scans were wrong this was all a huge mistake.But it wasn't, the nightmare was real.
    The special room off the delivery ward was real, the labour was real, my sisters pain was real. The six of us. - my sister, her husband, my mum & dad and myself and partner managed somehow to carry on breathing until he arrived. Words cannot describe the admiration and respect I felt for my sister and her husband in those trully horrific 48 hours. She was truly incredible and I will forever be in ore of her and do whatever I can to make her life as special as I can. When I met Oliver it was the most surreal experience. Seeing his tiny body, I didn't think anything could be so tiny. He was real, he wasn't a bump or a name, he was a real being and that scared me. I sat next to him and talked to him and a strange calm fled over me. As if this was all he was meant to be and somehow I didn't feel so angry anymore. This soon changed and as I have learned grief hits you in many different waves. The next few weeks where about my sister and getting her through it. Getting her through talking to the funeral directors etc and some how auto pilot turned on. I almost felt relief that the horrific limbo period of news to labour was over.
    As the weeks have past and now the months it's an odd feeling. It's like there is a permanent ache in my heart that nothing can fix. As if the world has changed to black and white and colour will never fully come back. I wake up and get up and do what I need to do but nothing feels as it did. As the weeks pass that changes and I gain relief and sometimes for a couple of hours I forget. At work everyone carries on as if nothing happened, they occasionally ask how I am but this has got less the more time goes on, I feel silly almost for feeling the weight I bare everyday.
    Oliver was meant to arrive on December 3rd, we were even meant to share birthdays. Christmas was all planned, I had a folder on my computer of all the things I was going to make him, how I was going to make my sisters baby shower so special. My dad and mum would of been the most incredible grandparents and for a split second life was utterly perfect.
    I ache for him, I ache for me, I ache for my dad, for my mum, for my brother in law but mostly I ache for my sister. My beautiful big sister who is the most incredible person I know. I feel her heart break and it takes my breath away. I don't no how we are going to get through christmas. How we are going to forget what should of been. A lady on here described it perfectly when she said a whole is missing in our family. That's exactly how it feels.I feel this enormous protective instinct over my sister and family - I want to protect them from everything. Protect them from the family and friends that just don't seem to get it?! That loosing a baby is somehow a taboo subject that people want to avoid and not deal with. No one has really asked me how I am dealing with it all, and I don't want them too, I want them to focus on my sister. I have my amazing partner to help me in my moments of weakness. But it's come as a relief to read this blog and other posts, to read that others are feeling just as I am. I am so sorry that we are but I am so pleased to see that I am not going crazy and that my grief is real and it matters.

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  19. We lost my niece 3 weeks ago, she was just shy of 16 months old. My heartbreak every minute of everyday for what should of been and the pain my brother and his family are experiencing, and that I can't be there with them through this.

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  20. I lost my niece on the 11th of November and felt that I would be looked down upon for having my heart break, not only for what my sister is going through but also for myself. Instead we have both had an overwhelming support from our classmates and staff at our college. I have done everything in my power to carry the burden for my baby sister and my mum has frustrated me as she has let me carry it alone. My sister and I are very close and she told me just today that I am practically her mother as I am always there for her needs. I have 4 children of my own and my niece was my sisters 2nd child. She was only 26 weeks and 5 days when she had gone into labour and unfortunately there was no heartbeat :( I was by her side when she got the news and even had to deliver. I have organised a memorial for her baby to let everyone say good bye. My heart doesn't stop hurting for her. I am glad there is other people out there that understand my pain that I am feeling.

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