Category Archives: Grief

Some advice for the family and friends of Ada Nicodemou

I was in the kitchen last night buttering toast for my five-year-old daughter – when my husband gasped from behind his laptop.

I looked up.

“Ada Nicodemou’s  baby was stillborn today.”

He kept talking I think. But I didn’t hear anything else. I didn’t need to.

Ada Nicodemou’s  baby was stillborn today.

bec and georgie 300x400 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.

Bec with Ava, when she was pregnant with Georgie

That’s all I had to hear for my heart to feel like it was suddenly wafer thin and shedding layers. For September 2010 to come rushing back to me. For the moment I too found out that the baby I was carrying – my second daughter Georgie –  had suddenly, inexplicably – died inside me at 36 and a half weeks.

And tears came to my eyes for a woman I do not know. For her husband. And for the excruciating road that lay ahead for them both. A road that I am still on.

This column I’m writing today is not for Ada and Chrys.  Not now. Not yet. Today and in the days and weeks ahead they will be in their own protective bubble. Today, my guess, is that they will have disconnected from the world – both physically and emotionally  – as they try to fathom the cruel hand they have just been dealt.

I remember.

One minute my baby was here. Wasn’t she here? I felt a kick. And now. I don’t understand. She was just here. But we have the clothes. The cot. That new  jumpsuit I bought on Monday. I don’t understand.

I remember.

The raw primal pain. Collapsing in the shower screaming for my daughter. The numbness. The overwhelming desire to stop participating in the world. To just sink into my darkness only to be pulled out again by my two-year-old daughter Ava.

I remember.

But I am here, four years on – strong and happy. I survived something I thought I never could. I have gone on to have two more beautiful healthy, happy children. And my grief somehow sits comfortably side by side with my happiness. Make no mistake  I miss Georgie every single day but she is also an inextricable part of who I am. She has made me more fierce. More compassionate. More wise. I am grateful for how she has shaped me into the woman I have become. These days it is Georgie who is the light in my darkest hour.

Today is not the day for me to offer advice to Ada and Chrys. Today they will be blocking out the world and wanting only to wake up from this nightmare.

No, this column is for Ada and Chrys’s family and friends who right now are in shock and anguish themselves. Who are reeling from the news of Harrison’s death. And who are most likely now asking themselves “What do we do? What can we do? How can we help? What should we say?

And since Ada and Chrys themselves won’t even know yet what they need,  I thought I would step in as someone who has been there and who understands exactly how they are feeling.

So for Ada and Chrys’s friends and colleagues and in fact for anyone who today has been told that a friend has lost a baby – this is what I want you to know …

1. Do not be afraid to say Harrison’s name or the name of any stillborn baby.

Harrison was very real and very loved and he will always be Ada and Chrys’s second baby. Don’t be afraid to use Harrison’s name not just now but in the years to come.  Hearing friends and family use Georgie’s name brings me such happiness I can’t describe. It brings her back to me. So rather than say “the baby” or “your loss” … talk about Harrison and how much you had been looking forward to getting to know him, cuddling him, watching him grow up. Does that hurt to hear? Of course but what hurts more is friends and family behaving as though he never existed in the first place.

2. Give out lots of love and expect nothing in return.

However Ada and Chrys decide to grieve will be the right way for them.  They may shut out the world or embrace it. They may go silent or they may want to talk and talk and talk. But what they will most surely need  is knowing that people care. That they are loved. Send a card. A handkerchief. Flowers. A Christmas ornament bearing Harrison’s name. A candle.  Organise a food roster.  Send a daily text message of love and support and know that you may rarely or never get a reply. But that’s okay.  For me, just knowing that my friends were thinking of us helped us get through each day. Every message I received made me feel like Georgie mattered.

Ada  300x302 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.3. Don’t try to fix the situation.

You want to take the pain away. Of course you do. But trying to explain this tragedy or ‘find the positives’ will only cause more pain.  You don’t know what to say? That’s okay. Just say that your heart is broken for them and for their two year old son Johnas.  Just say that you love them. That you’re sorry.  Don’t ask what you can do to help. Just help. Leave a meal on the doorstep. Arrange a play date for Johnas. Now is the time to step up.

4. Go to your calendar now and circle six weeks ahead of today.

The six week mark – it’s a particular punch in the guts for anyone who is grieving a loved one. At the six week mark people have moved on and you find yourself feeling very much alone. The world is moving around you as though life is normal. But life is not the same for you. At the six week mark, make a call, send an email, post a card – just don’t  stay silent because the silence is deafening.

To Ada and Chrys – on the off-chance that you read this post one day, I wish for you such love.  And know this, you will get through this. One day at a time. One hour at a time.  It doesn’t feel like it now, I know, as you struggle to breathe in and out but you will be happy again.  You will learn to live with this pain – a pain that will not always be so raw. I promise. (I also know that right now the idea of being happy is the last thing on your mind. It feels like the act of a traitor. So for now just focus on getting through each hour.)

And I am offering you my hand of friendship and understanding. Four years ago a stranger reached out to me and took my hand and navigated me through the crashing waves of grief.

Mia Freedman saved my life.  I hope you find your own Mia as this storm of hurt and pain swirls around you. And if you don’t  – my hand is here ready to pull you through the waves.

 

screenshot 1654 300x348 Some advice for the friends and family of Ada Nicodemou.Later this month, Mamamia will officially release a book, Never Forgotten,  for parents like Ada and Chrys and all the tens of thousands of families who have experienced pregnancy loss, miscarriage, still birth and neo natal death. The loss of any child, particularly during pregnancy or soon after birth, is an extraordinarily traumatic process and one it can be impossible for other people to understand.

Mamamia publisher Mia Freedman and senior writer Bec Sparrow have both been there and after helping each other through the grief process began to reach out to other women going through similar trauma.

Mamamia readers and writers have joined together to contribute their stories to this book, compiled by Bec and Mia and edited by Paula Ellery. The book is available as an E-book download or in print form [click here to order].

All the proceeds will go towards charities who help families who have suffered this very common yet widely misunderstood type of loss.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

I was hurting and this is what helped

I have a stock-standard answer that I give when people ask me – and they always ask me – how I survived the death of my daughter Georgie several years ago.

And it’s this: I was saved by friends and strangers; one lasagne at a time.

It’s true.  In those early weeks and months when my strangled heart was so desperately heavy that it threatened to drag me below the waves – small kindnesses were my driftwood.

Lasagnes appeared on my doorstep.

Cards and flowers and letters and homemade baby socks and Christmas decorations bearing my daughter’s name arrived in the mail.

Friends secretly organised weeks of gourmet meals to be delivered. Others paid for cleaners or offered up a weekend at a holiday house on the beach.  Then there was the group of girlfriends who banded together and bought me three months of boxing lessons with a personal trainer so I could start to feel strong again.

Then there was one friend – not a close friend but a friend nonetheless – who simply sent me the prettiest floral handkerchief. I’ve never forgotten it.

lasagne Rebecca Sparrow: I was hurting and this is what helped.

“I was saved by friends and strangers; one lasagne at a time.”

I look back now and the first few weeks and months after Georgie’s death are a bit of a blur. But what it gave me is a lesson in grief.

Not just in living through every parent’s worst nightmare but in seeing first-hand how to care for someone who is grieving.

How often when someone we know goes through a tragedy, do we immediately ask, “What can I do?”  And we’re met with silence.  Of course we are because someone who is grieving usually has neither the energy nor the inclination to delegate tasks.  Just getting out of bed and having a shower is a mammoth effort without having to work out how your work colleagues can ‘help’ you.

Today, what I would like us all to do is to share our stories and ideas of what’s worked for us.

When you have been in trouble – a loved one has been in hospital, you’ve unexpectedly been dumped or fired from your job, when the world has left you sinking beneath the waves – what are the acts of kindness you’ve received that have made a difference?

List them here.  Share your tips and advice and ideas.  Let’s make this post a resource that we can each refer back to in the future.

Share this post. Bookmark it for yourself to refer back to.

So next time someone in your life suffers an unspeakable tragedy or is simply in need of some comfort – you’ll be able to come back here and have an arsenal of ideas.  When your first instinct is to ask ‘What can I do?” … you won’t need an answer. You’ll already know.

Bec’s Suggestions Of Small Acts of Kindness:

Don’t wait to be asked to cook a meal.

Just make something that would suit the whole family – lasagne or bolognaise is always a winner – and just drop it on the doorstep. Better yet put the meal in a disposable container and leave a note to your friend saying “I love you. Enjoy. And keep the container. Xx”

Send a card with a beautiful handkerchief.

One friend did this for me and I’ve never forgotten it (Thank you, Simone.)

If the person has lost a child, make sure you mention that child’s name in the card.

If you’re visiting a friend in hospital (who has been there more than a few days) think about taking them in some non-hospital food that they’re allowed to eat.

Anything fresh like fruit or sushi will most likely be warmly received.

Send text messages without expecting a reply.

Just an “I’m sending you lots of love and strength today.”  Knowing that people are thinking about you and care about you helps enormously.

If your friend has kids, turn up on a Saturday and offer to take them to the park.

Mark 6 weeks ahead in your diary and make a note to call, text or email the person – particularly if they have lost a loved one.

It’s the six-week mark that can really hurt when everyone has moved on with their lives.  A little note in the mail saying ‘I’m thinking about you’ … makes all the difference. As one friend said to me, “Silence is deafening”.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.