I watched the tears drop from my nurses’ eyes as they gently took my blood and when they hugged me goodbye at the end of their shifts. My sweet curly red-haired son died and was born still after his cord knotted when I was 37 and a half weeks pregnant – he was nearly 6 pounds. My nurses and family remained by my side, the specialist who induced me followed up on his day off and my family doctors cried with me at home.
I was deeply moved and comforted by my caregivers’ expressions of grief. While I was living my worst nightmare I could not help but wonder what it was like for my healthcare colleagues to grieve and bear witness to our devastating loss. As a nurse I experienced grief of my own patients as well as identified with their families’ losses – these moments transformed me.
When my son died in 2001, I could not find research on nurses’ experiences of grieving when a baby dies and how this changed them. Healthcare professional grief was and continues to be hidden and not often discussed. Given I was a nurse and a researcher, I decided to invite my colleagues to explore nurses’ experiences of grieving with me through the use of digital video in order to create a research-based documentary. I chose this medium to conduct my research so I could share my research to a broad audience.
I also wondered how mothers lived and transformed with the loss of their babies. Again, little was known of mothers’ experiences when a baby dies and so I decided to do my own research using the arts and film. Today I am working on a fourth documentary exploring children’s experiences when a baby sibling dies; another hidden and often unrecognized grief. Fathers, who are also often overlooked, are included in this children’s documentary.
It is my hope that these documentaries of grief, loss, resilience and transformation open up spaces for sharing experiences with one another and that we as a society will embrace grieving and loss as a natural human experience so we can feel less isolated and alone. These films are my son, Ethan’s, living legacy and reflect the love and continuing connection my family and I have with him.
- More by Christine Jonas-Simpson
Published on Nov 13, 2012 Christine Jonas-Simpson is an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at York University in Toronto. After the loss of her own baby boy in 2001 she began to focus her arts-based research on how human beings live and transform with loss. She is currently working on a documentary series and is the author of the children's book, Ethan's Butterflies. More by Christine Jonas-Simpson Read More…
This ground-breaking documentary shares what grief is for nurses who care for bereaved families with perinatal loss. This research-based documentary answers the research question: What is the experience of grieving, for obstetrical and neonatal nurses caring for families who experience perinatal loss? Nurses describe the professional and personal impact of grieving, what helps them and how the experience has changed them and help them to grow. The documentary makes the invisible grief of nurses - visible. It aspires to support nurses so they no longer feel alone or isolated in their experiences of grieving, as many nurses can carry the Read More…
Why did baby die?: Mothering children living with the loss, love and continuing presence of a baby sibling
Why did baby die?: Mothering children living with the loss, love and continuing presence of a baby sibling captures the profound impact children have on a mother’s grief after the loss of her baby. In this research-based documentary mothers also tell how young children respond to the loss of their baby sibling. Despite the permanence of the physical loss, children continue to connect with their deceased siblings in various ways while creating new meanings of their experience of loss and love which they carry into adolescence. Funded by Faculty of Health, York University; and the Health, Leadership and Learning Network: Read More…
A Spiritual Book For Parents and Young Children After the Loss of a Baby When a baby dies one of the first concerns a parent has is the impact this loss has on their young living children. It is difficult to know what to say or how to talk about the death of a long-awaited sibling. Ethan's Butterflies provides a way for parents and professionals to connect with young children who experience the loss of a sibling. This story is written from a young child's perspective and told by a pink elephant named Emma. Emma describes her deep sadness, anger Read More…