My Grief Book

A Doctors for Life, Book of the Year

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In 1999, we were eagerly looking forward to the arrival of our sixth child. Then, during a routine ultrasound, it was discovered that our baby had a life threatening abnormality. With that discovery our lives were changed forever. The usually happy event of pregnancy became a grief filled trial as we waited for the birth of our child. Would our baby live? If he died, how would we survive?

This is the story of our long journey through the pregnancy of our baby Thomas, his short life and the difficult months after his death. It is a sorrowful story but also one filled with hope. We did emerge out of that long dark tunnel of grief although at one point we never believed we would. I hope our story will encourage other parents who are facing similar trials.
Grief, Hope and Love contains articles written on various aspects of losing a baby. Interspersed between these essays are extracts taken from a diary written during the year after the death of Thomas.
Chapters include:
The Perfect Birth
Number of Children
How many Children Do You Have?
People’s Reaction to Grief
Saying the Right Thing
Holding a Child after Death
The Viewing
Making Memories
Thomas’ Memory Box
The Thomas Dress
Feeling Angry
The Early Weeks of Grief
The Grief Continues
A Husband, a Father, a Friend
The First Birthday
A Celebration of Love
A Name on a Stone
A Miracle
Another Baby
A Mother, a Child: a Special Love
Suffering: a Reflection
And more

The Foreword from Grief, Love and Hope
Grief, Love and Hope: the Death of Our Baby Thomas is a mother’s grieving for her one day old baby. It is a diary record plus later comment of extremely personal experiences yet without any cloying emotion or sentimentality. It proved deeply moving to this reader.

First and foremost, it is a Book of Consolation for other grieving mothers and fathers in similar crises. It was written for this, and especially because the existing materials in print did not cater for a relationship with God.

Next, it is also a Manual for Helpers, such as loving relatives and friends who don’t know what to do or say; and for hospital helpers; especially hospital chaplains, and all parish priests, and other Christian ministers; and for doctors and nurses and grief counsellors.

 In fact, I would strongly recommend it to every mother and father. And further, it will strengthen the virtue of compassion in any reader. “To console the afflicted,” is a Spiritual Work of Mercy. Or, as my father used to say, “The bulk of mankind are in the greatest possible need of compassion.”

When Lazarus died, Jesus wept, and so will many readers of Grief, Love and Hope. For my own part, I still remember most vividly how, when I was seven, my mother told me that my two year old brother had gone to be with Jesus, and how I wept unrestrainedly, because I knew that once Jesus got you, He would not let you back.

This book touches on many things: it reveals that heroic silent fortitude of grieving parents; the importance of not shielding little children from dying and death and funerals and burials; the value of holding a wake. It points up a certain “lack” (as the Irish say) in so many relatives and friends who have not yet grasped the time-span and the long-running struggle of living through the various stages of grief for a dead child.

Just think how Job’s three friends were at their best when they sat by him on the ground saying nothing. Once they spoke and philosophized about his plight, their sensitivity evaporated and left impatience, and they lost their power to empathize — akin to those who too soon say, “It’s your own fault!”; “Snap out of it!”; and “Get on with life.”

Indirectly, this book’s quiet waters also stand as a reproach to that modern contempt for motherhood and homemaking and big families.
I particularly like the chapters The Thomas Dress and A Name on a Stone, the contributions of siblings sharing their hidden strengths, not only in words but in constructive activities, and the part about Andy, husband and father, A Husband, a Father, a Friend.

Though it does not say so — this book brings home to us our mystic solidarity in Christ’s Passion in the Community of Saints: “Come, all you who pass by, and see if there is any sorrow like unto my sorrow”; “Rachel, weeping for her children because they are not”; “At the Cross, her station keeping, stood the mournful mother weeping”; “I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons”.

“Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, at least you my friends, for the hand of the Lord has touched me.”

Father James Tierney

From the Introduction to Grief, Hope and Love
The Reasons I Wrote Grief, Love and Hope

Why have I wanted to write such a collection of stories? One reason for writing is thankfulness. After Thomas died, I felt real despair. I thought I would never recover from Thomas’ death. I could see no way out of the situation. Life would never be joyful again. Now some years later, I can see how far I have come. Light did return to our lives eventually. That painful ache of grief did disappear. Interest in the ordinary things of life returned. We have experienced joy even though in 1999 we were sure we would only ever again experience sorrow. Thanks to God, we not only survived Thomas’ death but gained many gifts and blessings. I wanted to record this story of how God rescued us from despair to say thank you for all the grace that has been bestowed upon us.

Occasionally, I meet other parents who have recently lost children. I listen to their story and how they are feeling and I am transported back to the day Thomas died. I recognise their feelings of bewilderment; I can feel their excruciating pain; I know they are questioning whether they will survive this loss and wonder if they will ever be happy again. I want to say to them, “I have been where you are now. There is hope. Things will get better.” Perhaps Grief, Love and Hope will help such parents feel less alone in their suffering and give them the hope that they too will survive.

And lastly, I wanted to make a permanent record of Thomas’ short life and the effect it had on our own lives. I wanted to say “I love you, Thomas. I’m so glad we had you. You are an important part of our lives. I wrote your story as a sign of our love.”

Sue Elvis
This is the story of one woman’s loss and all people’s sufferings. For those who are grieving, it is a story of hope and healing. For those who are not, it will enkindle the heart with compassion and understanding. Rarely, does a story of human sadness bring such light that one can exclaim, with joy, that “God is good!”
Vicky Leach
The very sincere portrayal of the author’s struggle to trust in God is very encouraging because it is the battle with the dark night God allows and that we all feel in our moments of physical and emotional pain. To hear the story of someone who has arrived at the other end of a long dark tunnel gives hope to those still making their way through the darkness.
Father Bernard Gordon
In Grief, Love and Hope, Sue very bravely reveals the depths of her emotions, the highs and the lows, to show that healing is indeed possible. This book written from a faith filled perspective, shows how, rung by rung, it is possible to clamber back to a ‘normal’ existence after the loss of a baby. Helpful reading not only for those who have a lost a baby, but to those who need an understanding of the range of emotions experienced by a grieving mother, to enable them to support and help a mother and her family, recovering from the loss of a baby.
Helen Brearley
This moving account of a baby’s brief life and a mother’s sorrow will do a lot of good. It shows that grief does not have to have the last word. There is a path to deep, lasting hope.
Anthony English