Loss after Loss

 In the past I always had a good relationship with my Dad. He’s the type of parent that you felt could solve any problem. No matter what went wrong, I always knew that once I got my Dad involved it would be sorted out! The situation would either be problem solved, or there would be another way of looking at it that made it ok. 

Losing Isobel has been the first situation that my parents can’t resolve for me, either by fixing it or by changing my perspective. My Mum has responded to this with love and emotional support. My Dad however has struggled. ‘Struggled’ is me being charitable. On an emotional level my Dad has been useless – actually worse than useless, as he has actively hurt me on a number of occasions. Before I start that rant, I must say that my Dad quietly paid for Isobel’s funeral and our cemetery plot without being asked to. He helped me sort out my tax return when I couldn’t face it. He came and put a nail in the wall so we could hang a portrait we got for our wedding. If I needed something ‘done’, he would be the man to do it. If this practical support was accompanied by silence on the subject of Isobel, I think I could accept it without much upset. Unfortunately he has seen fit to express his views about the situation, all of which have been extremely hurtful to me. 

It started with him saying that Isobel “just wasn’t meant to be”. I can understand someone saying that about something that never happened, an unsuccessful job interview, putting a bid on a house that fell through or something like that. How he could think that about my perfectly grown, perfectly formed 7lb2 baby that when she died was four weeks older than my nephew (who my Dad adores) was when he was born, was beyond me. When he went on to talk about ‘fate’ I just explained that I didn’t believe in any of that and certainly there was no destiny or fate positive enough to make the experience of losing my first born daughter acceptable. 

Isobel became the elephant in the room. An unspoken change in our dynamic. When I phoned home and Dad answered, he would immediately pass the phone to Mum as if he were terrified to talk to me or ask how I was doing. Once I rang home upset and as usual he hastily got out of talking to me. Later he sent me a text with a joke about owls. I appreciated the sentiment but wondered at the emotional ability missing that he wasn’t able to text me saying “Sorry you were upset earlier, how are you doing now?” Other times he texts me about the progress of Arsenal, the football team that Simon, not me, supports. This is the sum total of most of our contact. 

When I found out I was pregnant again, I didn’t tell my parents for a time. When I told my Mum, we agreed not to tell my Dad for another couple of weeks. My Mum then told him I think when I was around 12 weeks. That was 7 weeks ago and not once has he mentioned my current pregnancy or asked me how I am feeling or coping. When I was at home over Christmas he offered me wine, when I said I wasn’t drinking he said “getting pissed” would probably do me good. It seemed like he couldn’t tolerate the thought of me being pregnant again and so was just pretending it wasn’t the case. 

All of this is nothing compared to what he came out with yesterday. It all started with the magazine below. This is the article about stillbirth that Simon and I were interviewed for in November but the magazine just came out this week.  

I brought it to show my parents, as its not available to buy in their area. My Dad declined to look at the magazine and then progressed on to a monologue about how we shouldn’t still be talking about Isobel and dwelling on it, concluding that this was unhealthy.  In his opinion, we should have drawn a line under her death and moved on by now (bear in mind it has been just over six months since Isobel died). His opinion was that the days when stillborn babies were immediately removed from parents and never spoken of again were much better. He made some horrible comments about the fact that we spent four days with Isobel before she was buried and said that he thought this was damaging for us and was probably the reason we weren’t over it yet. He talked about her and how she looked as if she was a monster, saying her face still gives him nightmares and he wishes he wasn’t forced to see her body. He couldn’t believe the magazine printed her picture, saying it would terrify people. He said she wasn’t a real person as she never lived and therefore should not be grieved. 

Where do I start with all of that?! I tried to explain that in the days people didn’t hold their babies or talk about stillbirth they were still devastated and heartbroken, just silently, and that they probably developed greater psychological difficulties as a result of the repression. I explained that I never have nightmares about Isobel’s face as its not an image I try to avoid or push away, unlike him, which is why it’s one that comes up for him unwanted. I said that it benefits Simon and I to talk about Isobel and to speak about stillbirth as it helps us to feel that her short life could still impact the world in a positive way. It felt like a pointless discussion though, where my views were not being listened to. 

  The icing on the cake was my Dad saying that if I want this baby to survive I need to eat meat, and how unhealthy it is to be a vegetarian. Clearly the implication of this is that Isobel died because I didn’t eat meat during her pregnancy. Of course I know this is complete nonsense. I eat perfectly well and my iron levels are always high. Isobel had no growth problems and all her organs were perfectly developed. She was a healthy baby, killed by a crappy placenta that stopped working. It still was so hurtful that he would blame me in that way for my baby’s death. By my Mum’s reaction it was clearly a view he had expressed to her previously. 

I held it together until I left my parents’ house and then still while I drove home. Once I got home though I was really upset. I am working so hard everyday to try and cope in healthy ways, to express my emotions, to process my feelings, to confront challenging situations – it’s exhausting. To have that criticised by one of the people who should be cheering me on, so proud that I am still functioning, was really devestating. I can tolerate the idea that Dad is grieving too and lacks the emotional literacy to communicate that, so has convinced himself that pretending she never existed is best for him and would be best for us. I just don’t know if I can forget the things he said. I feel like I’ve lost my Dad as well as losing Isobel. 

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22 thoughts on “Loss after Loss

  1. You’re post made me cry. I am so sorry you’re dad expressed himself in such a hurtful way. I hope at some point he will realize the impact of his words and his expressions are just a result of his grief that he is unable to deal with and/or express appropriately. I’m so sorry. Many hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, for someone holding up his coping strategy as the one we should all be adopting, he’s not doing too well with relationships!!!! It was so hurtful, writing it made me cry too! Thanks for your kind words xx

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  2. I am so sorry your dad said such awful, hurtful things. And I’m sure this is extra excruciating coming from him. I really hope that at some point he realizes how hurtful he’s been and offers some apologies (not that you’d be able to forget). I can only imagine how hard it must be to feel like you’re losing your dad on top of your precious daughter. Hugs to you. xoxo

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    1. Thanks you, I don’t really want to see him at all just now and have him pretend the conversation never happened (his favourite coping method!) but am sure in a little bit of time I’ll just accept it but you’re right I won’t forget what he said. It’s sad because I would have said we were very close before and I can’t see that coming back but you never know! Thanks for commenting xx

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  3. I’m so sorry that you’re having to go through this added stress. I can’t imagine how it must feel to have your dad behave in that way. Just know that you’re doing brilliantly. You were a wonderful mum to Isobel which is why she grew so well and would have been so healthy had it not been for the problem placenta that you couldn’t have foreseen and you’re a wonderful mum to this little one too. Big hugs xxx

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    1. Awww thank you, lovely words to read and I will come back to them again I’m sure. I know I’m not coping with my loss perfectly, I can’t imagine there is any such thing, but I know I’m doing my best and I think I’m doing well! Regardless of what my dad thinks it does help me to talk and to remember Isobel so he will just have to get used to it! Xx

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      1. You have to do what is right for you. I talk about Lentil all the time and have lots of pictures of him around the house. I still can’t believe anyone could have nightmares about Isobel, she was adorable, nightmares about the situation yes, but not her beautiful face xxx

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  4. Oh my goodness. I don’t even know what to say to any of that. I’m so sorry that you aren’t getting the support you deserve, need, from one of your closest family members. I can’t imagine how that must feel and I don’t want to put words into it. Wishing you must peace and strength.

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    1. Yes I think that’s why it’s tougher, I think he should be my biggest cheerleader and fan!!! I think I’ll stick to asking him for tax advice and leave the emotional conversations to other people! Thanks x

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  5. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Your dad is way out of line. It doesn’t excuse it but I think it is a generational thing. My dad has said some fairly dodgy things in the past too… He comes from a time when you weren’t meant to talk about feelings. It sounds as if your mum is supportive and is more understanding. I hope that with time he begins to understand how hurtful he is being. X

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    1. Yes he’s definitely old school in how he thinks emotions should be managed! The funny thing is I’d think he’d admit that he’s not the happiest person himself so not sure why he thinks everyone should be modelling themselves on him!!!! Thank goodness for mum! Thanks for reading and commenting x

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    2. I agree with Nara. I doubt that your father is saying these things to hurt you. He is also in a world of pain because he couldn’t rescue you from this horrible loss. He may see himself as a failure subconsciously because he couldn’t take care of this loss for you like he has in the past. By putting Isobel’s death aside, he doesn’t have to think about his own pain.
      I am not saying he is right, far from it. But he is behaving like so many men were raised: be a man, man up, don’t cry.
      I am so sorry for this double loss for you. I hope he figures things out and gets help. His behavior is not healthy for him or anyone around him. My condolences for you to have such Horrible losses. Just a thought, can your mother help him get help? Keep doing what you’re doing. You are awesome!

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  6. I’m so sorry. 😦 Has your mum tried talking to him? My stepdad told me a few months after we lost Lily that he had told my mom “they can always have another”. He told me my mom was quick to put him in his place and he then realized what he said was wrong. I hope your dad realizes how hurtful he is being. Hugs.

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    1. Thanks Liz. My poor mum can’t talk to him at all, she’s very much on her own. They don’t have a good relationship at all. I actually feel more sorry for her than I do myself! I’ve had no contact from him since Sunday so am not expecting any revelations from him any time soon. But I’m feeling ok in accepting that his views are his, but they are wrong and I know myself the way we’re dealing with it is right for us.

      Am glad that your mum was able to help your stepdad to understand a little better xx

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  7. I’m so sorry you’ve had to experience this on top of everything else; it’s just not fair. The only thing I can think of that would cause such a change from the way he was before is that perhaps there’s something in the family history – maybe something you don’t know about – that he was never able to deal with, and this is triggering that unprocessed pain? In any case, the things he said are crazy and what he said about the photos is really hurtful. I hope the solidarity and comfort from BLMs can make a small dent in the hurt he has caused.

    (BTW, I’m veg too! Vegan actually, for 9.5 years. I get physicals and bloodwork done every year and all my numbers have always been normal. Whatever people try to say about it is just BS and it’s usually because they feel threatened for some imagined reason.)

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    1. Thank you. I think it hurt him to know I’m hurting and he can’t fix it so he’d rather pretend it never happened and wishes he hadn’t seen her as that is stopping him from pretending she didn’t exist. That’s my take anyway! It’s upsetting and I wish he understood but in reality I have lots of people for emotional support so he can just be a practical support person! Thanks for the solidarity fellow veggie!!! Xx

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  8. Oh my god! I’m so shocked (and angry) that your dad would say something so hurtful to you.. as if you’re not heartbroken enough already. He should have kept those nasty unnecessary thoughts to himself tbh.. there was just no need.
    I know it’s his way of coping, but I still believe he could have hidden them and supported you how you needed.

    Huge hugs to you, I know a blow like that feels terrible.. especially from someone so close.

    Isobel is a wee beauty and you are and always will be a fab mummy ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m so sorry.

    I’ve had similar from my father but not to the extent you have suffered.

    You’re absolutely right about the damage it does to people to not talk about it. Stigma and taboo on this hurts everyone and helps no-one.

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