It had been an uncomplicated pregnancy. But when the contractions started at 38 weeks, Trish, who already had a 4-year-old son, could tell something wasn’t right. When she started bleeding, she and her husband rushed to the hospital. They arrived at 4 a.m., and their daughter Sloane was delivered, stillborn, just 21 minutes later.
Trish had suffered a placental abruption, a rare and dangerous prenatal event that puts the life of the child and the mother at risk.
Every day across Canada, women suffer perinatal losses, ranging from a first-trimester miscarriage to stillbirth to the loss of a newborn.
Despite being one of the most common sources of grief—some estimate 15-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, 10% of which happen after 13 weeks—it is also one of the least understood.
Women may be discouraged from “dwelling” on their loss so they can attend to other children or focus on getting pregnant again. Ironically, because it’s so common, many feel pressure to “move on,” despite four in ten women reporting PTSD-like symptoms after the experience (https://globalnews.ca/news/3116913/5-commonly-asked-questions-about-miscarriage/).
Trish knew “moving on” wasn’t an option. “I knew I needed to talk to people who had lost babies in some way. I was worried that if I acted like everything was ok, I would still be dealing with the pain—or dealing with it for the first time—five years from now.”
Just six weeks after the loss of Sloane, Trish joined a Camp Kerry virtual perinatal loss group, where she met other women and families processing the grief that comes from losing a child. The groups provide women who have experienced a range of perinatal losses a safe, understanding, and non-judgmental space to process their grief. Camp Kerry has now hosted four groups since September 2020.
“It was very raw and it was very emotional, but it was the best thing that I could have done for myself at that time,” she says.
She said it was particularly helpful to see women at different points of the grief journey.
“The most helpful thing someone told me is there’s no timeline for ‘getting over it.’ Grief is not linear, it comes in waves.”
Courage to break the silence
Kayren’s pregnancy had been an unexpected blessing. After years of trying to get pregnant and multiple surgeries to remove cysts on her ovaries, in early 2019 she had finally felt the joy of a positive pregnancy test.
One night, at home with her step-daughter, Karyen felt a sharp pain. After a few confusing, painful hours, she delivered her baby, A-Jay, at 13 weeks into her pregnancy.
Despite this traumatic experience, Kayren didn’t feel like it was the kind of thing she could talk about in her West Indian community. “In my community, if you talk about your life experience like that, people say, ‘You don’t need to talk about your business to people.’”
That’s when Kayren joined Camp Kerry’s first perinatal loss group in September 2020.
“After the group, the grief became a lot easier to cope with. I felt like I was not alone anymore. And I had people to share my experience with who can relate to what I went through,” she says.
The experience helped her open up to friends and family and on social media. She found that once she shared her story, others began sharing their experiences with loss as well. It even gave her the opportunity to connect with her grandmother, who had lost a child 64 years earlier and still experiences grief.
“It opened up an avenue of conversation with my grandmother that I did not even think would happen,” she said.
“After the group, the grief became a lot easier to cope with. I felt like I was not alone anymore. And I had people to share my experience with who can relate to what I went through.”
The benefits of an online group
In 2020, all of Camp Kerry’s programs went online. Yet the COVID-19 restrictions also gave us an opportunity to envision new ways of cultivating community, including creating the virtual perinatal loss group.
The format allowed women and families from communities across Canada to participate in our grief support groups. Trish and Kayren shared how freeing it was to be vulnerable with people they wouldn’t run into in other situations.
For Trish, the virtual format allowed her to attend the group despite her responsibilities mothering her son. For Kayren, the virtual group allowed her step-daughter, who had moved back to Trinidad and Tobago, to participate as well, bonding the women as they processed the traumatic experience together.
Alé Friesen, who co-facilitates the groups and has experienced multiple pregnancy losses herself, says it’s vital for women to have a place to process their grief without feeling like they’re being judged or expected to grieve in a particular manner or within a certain timeline.
“It’s so important to have our stories be seen and heard without being pushed under the carpet as insignificant or unwarranted,” Alé says.
“Life is hard and grief is harder, and having people around that can help you put one foot in front of the other makes this journey called life much more beautiful.”
Support Women Like Trish and Kayren
As a part of Camp Kerry’s community, you are a part of Trish and Kayren’s stories of healing and hope. Through your commitment and generosity, you are providing safe space for families to find a community of ongoing support. Thank you.
Join us! Please help the Camp Kerry Society to continue providing compassionate spaces for women and families to process all types of grief and loss.
You can also give by mailing a cheque to 145 East Columbia Street New Westminster, BC V3L 3W2. Please make cheques payable to Camp Kerry Society.