My granddaughter was unexpectedly born still in 2003. My daughter-in-law had a healthy, uneventful, full-term pregnancy. There were no indications of any problems during her labor. The medical staff was as stunned as we were when Madeline was delivered without a heartbeat. My background is in behavioral medicine, and I have worked professionally with bereavement issues for several decades, but none of my education or experience prepared me to cope with the death of my granddaughter. I also felt powerless when it came to providing solace to my son and daughter-in-law.

As I felt my way like a blind person through my grief, I rejected many of the “traditional” concepts I had been taught. The words resolution and closure are meaningless to me. I struggled internally to the point of sheer exhaustion and collapse to make sense of the events. I read everything I could find on stillbirth, grandparents, and bereavement. I attended several months of bereavement counseling. I wrote in my journal constantly. I withdrew from most social interactions and proceeded on my grief journey in search of the new normal I read so much about. I embraced grief yet held life off at a distance.

Recently, I searched my memory and re-read many of my journal entries in an attempt to identify a specific moment or event when I felt as though I had turned the corner. It was more of a gradual realization for me. My earliest thoughts and journal entries saw my grief journey as a path distinctly separate from the rest of my life. Viewing it as a separate path was too limiting and furthered the sense of isolation I felt.

Approximately one year after my granddaughter’s stillbirth, I stopped fighting myself; I realized that my grief journey and my life journey are integrated. Grief is part of life, the journey is intertwined. Once I acknowledged this concept, I began to actively re-engage in living. I believe that embracing the joy of family and friends is to honor my granddaughter, in that I am saying that her brief life was beautiful and worthy.

I used to race through life with a to-do list and a lengthy, detailed itinerary. I’ve slowed down now, which allows time to pay mindful attention to my surroundings. I notice and appreciate the wonders of the natural world to a deeper degree, because I am seeing the beauty not only for me, but for Maddy as well. Bereaved grandmother is part of my identity in my new normal; an important part, perhaps an integral part, but no longer the totality of who I am.

Nina Bennett 2011

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Nina Bennett

Nina Bennett

Nina Bennett has 4 grandchildren, one of whom was unexpectedly born still following a healthy full-term pregnancy. She has worked in reproductive health since 1976, and was a childbirth educator for nearly 10 years. A healthcare professional and frequently requested guest lecturer, Nina presents talks and workshops locally and nationally. She is the Principal Investigator of an IRB-approved research study looking at how grandparents incorporate perinatal loss into their families. Nina is a social activist who gives voice to the often silent grief of grandparents through her writing and speaking. Her articles and poetry have appeared in the anthology Mourning Sickness, The Broadkill Review, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Grief Digest, the News Journal, A.G.A.S.T., Different Kind of Parenting, M.I.S.S.ing Angels, and Living Well Journal, as well as many other publications. Nina is the author of Forgotten Tears A Grandmother’s Journey Through Grief. Proceeds from her book are donated to MISS Foundation, and other agencies supporting families bereaved by the death of a baby. She contributed a chapter to They Were Still Born, a collection of first-person accounts of stillbirth.

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