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. In 2013 I have been heavily involved in producing my 4th research-documentary film focused on children’s bereavement, specifically when a child experiences the death of a baby sibling. We (Drs. Christine Jonas-Simpson, Rose Steele, Betty Davies, Leeat Granek and Joann O’Leary) hope our film will be completed by the spring of 2014. In this film children between the ages of 4 and 17 describe the meaning of their relationships with their deceased baby sibling. By presenting the children’s perspectives we hope their experiences of bereavement will be better understood. 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.
Christine’s films can be viewed on Patient Commando.
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