Stillbirth as an evolving family conversation

By John Denham, Kristy Putnam and Freya

Talking about stillbirth and our stillbirth experience, is a lifelong venture. I just wanted to share the opportunities that have come up quite naturally, years later and with another child in our home. This may be either inspiring or uncomfortable to read and of course it is a bit of both for me to share.

We experienced the stillbirth of our son Quinn 5 years ago and then 3 years ago we adopted our daughter Freya. We honour Quinn at home. We keep his ashes in an urn made of juniper, we have a picture up and we recognize his birthday with a cake. When people ask how many children we have we sometimes answer “two, one was born still”. Quinn and stillbirth are part of our lives and that’s just the way it is, so we try to acknowledge it as it comes up.

 Our daughter Freya is very perceptive and she is very verbal. She has always known about Quinn and as she has developed, she talks about him, asks about him and even plays pretend games that involve him. Here are a few examples of how she has talked about him.

 

We get questions:

“Why did he die?”

“Did I ever meet him?”

“Did he talk before he died?”

“Are you sad that I didn’t get to meet him?”

“Were you (mom), his birth mother?” (Freya of course has a birth mother)

“Why are you crying” (sometimes we cry when he is brought up and we let her know that that is okay).

“What letter does Quinn’s name start with?”

 

We get statements:

“That’s Quinn” (pointing at the picture).

“Quinn is my brother.”

“I wish I could have met Quinn.”

“I’m sad that I didn’t get to meet Quinn.”

 

We get pretend games. Whenever someone is important Freya loves to pretend to be them:

“I’m Quinn, I’m a baby”

“I’m Quinn and I came out of your tummy and I didn’t die. Wah, wah, wah…”

 

This year Quinn would have started Kindergarten and together we all tried to imagine what he would have been like and we had fun with the various characteristics she came up with based some kids that she knows. We talk about Quinn as she brings him up, we answer directly, honestly, simply and age appropriately. What we have found is that it simply makes Quinn and stillbirth a reality that we can talk about in our home and we are very grateful for that.

You gotta love the honesty and openness of children; we sure do!

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