It's been longer than usual since my last newsletter as after many years of hoping and waiting for her arrival, our wonderful daughter Phoebe Annalee was born at the end of October. Since then I have been consciously dividing my time and efforts on both ends of the life cycle.
Phoebe didn't come into our lives easily, which has made me more aware of the often disenfranchised grief that can come with infertility and pregnancy loss. In this newsletter I'm including some free-of-charge resources available to individuals experiencing infertility and/or the death of a baby during pregnancy. The recent passing of Bill 141 in Ontario, the first of its kind in North America, is an exciting step in promoting research and awareness of this important issue.
Below I've also listed additional grief-related resources, tips, and my upcoming events which include a spring webinar series and a seminar in Vancouver. On March 2 and April 5 I will be holding free webinars on "5 Ways to Support Children and Youth who are Grieving" so that they are available to everyone who is interested. Please share these resources with anyone who may benefit.
The fierce protective instinct that most parents have for their children tends to be a given. Less recognized is the fact that children, even young ones, also possess a strong innate desire to protect their parent(s) or primary caregivers. This of course is not always evident, particularly on days when it seems that kids are purposely trying to inflict mental anguish on their parent(s). Yet in relation to the really hard stuff in life, such as issues related to grief, dying, and death, most children do in fact try to protect their primary caregiver(s) particularly from feelings such as sadness and worry.
This protective instinct of children and youth can create challenges when it comes to being able to create an environment where children feel comfortable grieving openly, talking about a person who died, asking their questions, and sharing their own thoughts and worries. The following tips can help in creating such an environment:
As a parent, take the lead in starting conversations about death and grief with children. Let kids know that it is important to talk about these things even though they may be sad to talk about.
Let kids know that experiencing feelings such as sadness, anger, and worry is natural and healthy for adults as well as children.
Clarify that if a parent seems sad in response to the child's questions or the child's own expression of grief, the child is not MAKING the parent sad, but rather the parent is sad because of the situation (i.e. the illness, or death). Reinforce that it is healthy and important for families to be able to experience and share their sadness together, as opposed to everyone doing it alone.
As a parent, let children know that even though you are sad (angry, exhausted, etc.) about the illness or death, you are still okay and able to take care of them.
Reinforce for children and youth that it is healthy to find ways of expressing our feelings related to grief, as opposed to keeping them bottled in. Therefore if a parent is sad and/or crying with a child the child is actually helping the parent by giving them an opportunity to express his/her grief.
Let the children and youth know that it is not their job to "fix" a parent's grief. Grief is a natural and healthy response to a difficult situation in life.
Certificate Program in Children's Grief and Bereavement (Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, Toronto)
For the first time ever we will be running this 5-module certificate programover five consecutive days. Modules can be taken individually or all together in order to obtain the certificate (all 5 are required for the certificate). For more information or to register for any or all of the modules please visit here.
Module 1: Monday May 2, 2016, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm: Supporting Children and Youth Facing the Dying of Someone Close to Them (with Andrea Warnick)
Module 2: Tuesday May 3, 2016, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm: When Death Darkens the Door: Supporting Bereaved Children and Youth (with Andrea Warnick)
Module 3: Wednesday May 4, 2016, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm: Supporting Grieving Children and Families Using Mindfulness and Compassion (with Andrew Blake and Marianne Gocker)
Module 4: Thursday May 5, 2016, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm: When Grief Gets More Complicated (with Andrea Warnick and Colleen Mousseau)
Module 5: Friday May 5, 2016, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm: Dancing in the Darkness: Creative Approaches to Working with Grieving Children and Youth (with Andrea Warnick, Lysa Toye and Andrea Kwan)
My counselling office is now located in Toronto on Danforth Ave. Just a two minute walk from Chester subway station.
My main practice day for in-person sessions is Wednesday.
I also offer counselling sessions for adults by phone or Skype worldwide.
I have a formal supervision agreement with a Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Norma D'Agostino. As a result, my counselling services are covered by most private insurance benefit plans.
For additional information about my counselling services please visit mywebsite.
Resolve: The National Infertility Association (USA): Resolve is a non-profit organization with the only established, nationwide network mandated to promote reproductive health and to ensure equal access to all family building options for men and women experiencing infertility or other reproductive disorders.
Late Loss Bereavement Support Group (Toronto): This group held at Mount Sinai Hospital is for women who have experienced a recent (within the past year) spontaneous late pregnancy loss or neonatal death. Late loss is defined as 20+ weeks gestational age.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (International): NILMDTS trains, educates, and mobilizes professional quality photographers to provide beautiful heirloom portraits to families facing the untimely death of an infant. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographers are available to families throughout Canada, the USA, and many other countries.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Network (Canada - Wide): PAIL Network is a non religious, non political organization open to all parents and their caregivers. PAIL Network provides a variety of unique support services that have been tailored specifically to meet the needs of grieving families.
Loving Your Baby (Canada and US): The "Resources" page of the website for Shari Morash's book "Loving Your Baby: A Gentle and Practical Guide to Parenting through Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death" outlines many free resources available in Canada and the US.
Literary Resource - Adults
The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning
I recently broke a self-imposed book-purchasing ban (due to the large number of yet unread books occupying my limited shelf space) upon coming across the beautifully written anthology “The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning.” The newly released 351 page collection, currently available in hardcover, was compiled and edited by George Bowering and Jean Baird after the sudden death of Baird’s twenty-three year old daughter, Bronwyn. In the midst of profound grief following Bronwyn’s death, Baird turned to books in an attempt to make sense of the senseless. After reading numerous works by grief counsellors and psychologists, she realized that what she was really searching for were stories by people who had experienced the death of a loved one. Together with her husband, Bowering, Baird created that very book.
“The Heart Does Break” consists of twenty original pieces by Canadian writers on their experiences of grief and mourning. Many people will find aspects of their own stories in the pages of this poignant book, as it includes narratives about the deaths of mothers, fathers, grandparents, infants, children, lovers, spouses, and friends. Contributors include Jill Frayne writing about the death of her mother, June Callwood, and William Whitehead writing about the death of his partner, Timothy Findley. One of my favourite essays was Hiromi Goto’s moving yet humorous account of the deaths of her grandmother and father.
As with any compilation of works by multiple authors, the writing style varies considerably from one chapter to the next, with some styles likely to appeal to individual readers more than others. This collection should not be interpreted as advice on how to navigate the world in the face of heartbreak. Nonetheless, there are words of wisdom in its pages: “Closure is a myth. You learn to live with the hole in your heart.” This is but one insight of many in this valuable anthology.