Saturday, September 10, 2011


My last post got me thinking. Many of you commented that you wished famous people spoke more openly about their losses so that this wasn't such a taboo subject. I did a little digging, and I found several instances where people did speak of their loss- I just don't think it receives much press because it's so depressing. Speaking of dead children will never sell as many copies of a magazine as the cast of Jersey Shore. Sad, but true.

In 2008 Annie Lennox spoke about her son's stillbirth.  She expressed the same feelings that many people who suffer a tragedy realize- life is fragile. She explained how his death effected her songwriting, and how it brought depth to her music.

Mike Tyson spoke with Oprah about his daughter accidental death. It was his darkest day. No matter what you think about Tyson, you can't help but realize that he truly loved his daughter and her death took an enormous toll on him.

Lily Allen spoke about her son's stillbirth last year. She expressed something which I've actually felt myself which is anger when people refer to her loss as a "miscarriage". She actually labored and bore a son. Like myself, Ms. Allen nearly died when her son was born. She talked about it at great length in the final episode of the documentary Lily Allen: Rags to Riches.

Gordon Brown wept as he recalled his daughter's death.

Xzibit reminded us to hold our children closer.

Then there are the comments that just don't sit right with the baby loss community in general:

Oprah Winfrey admitted that she felt relieved when her infant son died. She told Piers Morgan that she felt it gave her a second chance at life. I have to admit, when I first read this I was sickened. I couldn't imagine feeling relief over the death of my child. But I've never been a 14 year old victim of sexual assault. I don't know what that's like, and I can imagine that not having the constant reminder would be a relief. What I can't agree with, and what still bothers me, is that Oprah said she never thinks about her child. She never imagines what life would be like if her child had lived. She's glad he isn't here. That just rubs me the wrong way. It would have bothered me even if I didn't lose a child. To me it implies that the money and fame are more important than a human life. I watched the interview, and Oprah talk about her son's death in a nonchalant way. I've seen this woman on TV bawling about the death of her dog, but when it came to her son she was emotionless. That just doesn't sit right with me.

Reverend Run and his wife Justine spoke to People Magazine about their daughter's death. I first read this article a few years ago and it pissed me off. I was especially irritated by Justine's statement: "Women need to know you only need to mourn quickly." She suggested that you, "Don't try to think of [the baby's] eyes." And Rev Run said "We don't have pictures [of Victoria Anne]. We don't look back." 

Wow. Just, wow. 

I don't even know where to start with these two. First of all, they had the perfect platform to help people and to bring awareness to a taboo subject and they failed miserably. Instead they basically suggested that you forget about the baby and move on. Don't dwell on it, don't talk about it, don't feel. Just pretend it didn't happen and everything will be OK. (Maybe I'm exaggerating, but not much). 

In the article it says that they found out in the middle of their pregnancy that they baby likely had a genetic disease (which is sometimes incompatible with life). They decided not to tell anyone, even their children. As a parent I find this incredibly irresponsible. They mentioned that one of their sons was having an especially hard time with the loss- did it not dawn on them that if he had time to process what was happening that maybe he would have dealt with it better? How cruel to drop something on their children when they could have had months to process it (especially in front of cameras, which was for their reality show). They said they didn't tell anyone because they didn't know how it was going to turn out. The defect she had (Omphalocele) was very serious, even if she had survived she would have had to had surgery shortly after birth followed by a NICU stay of at least a month, probably longer. Best case scenario is surgery and lengthy hospital stay, worst case scenario is death. Isn't that something you want to prepare your children for? I couldn't imagine just dropping that bomb on them after the baby was born. 

Then, after the baby died they made it even worse by not allowing anyone to dwell on it. "...You only need to mourn quickly". "We don't look back". Really? I think I have recovered from the stillbirth of my child very well. I have a picture of her in my living room. I believe that you have to fully experience the emotions before you can move past them. I think it's especially harmful for a parent to not allow their children to experience those emotions.

There is a fine line here, and I really think the Simmons family did a huge disservice to the baby loss community. They had the perfect platform to speak about this and let people know that losing a baby is painful. It's not something that you just bounce back from the next day, but they made it seem as if that is exactly what they did. (They even mention how they had their kids out on skateboards the very next day!) While I don't doubt that this was an extremely painful experience for this family, I wish that they didn't feel the need to prove how tough they are and how easily they recovered from this loss. It does a great disservice to parents who've suffered a loss. Especially those who's family and friend expect them to "get over" it. They missed a huge opportunity to help people who don't have the voice they have, and instead they used it for ratings for their show and that just doesn't sit well with me at all. 

Maybe I'm being harsh. I know it's easy to look back and criticize, but these last two examples just really get to me. 


mommacommaphd said...

My first reaction to Oprah and the Simmons was similar to yours.

However, I wonder, with Oprah, if her seemingly bizarre attitude isn't a by-product of the terrible sexual abuse the suffered. Maybe she suffered PTSD or something around the assault/loss and the end result is what we've seen in the interviews?

Another factor might be her age. You hear all the time these bizarre stories of teenagers that give birth in a motel room and go back to a frat party, or leave their baby in a toilet. There has to be some major denial or mental illness/disconnect at play for a person, any person, to not want to save a baby, any baby.

As for the Simmons family- I generally try to remind myself that everyone mourns differently. Perhaps for them, moving past it quickly was their way. What I take exception to isn't how quickly they 'got over it' but that they are telling other families how to grieve. There is no single, best way to grieve. It's not their place to instruct people.

As for how they dealt with their living children- that is horrendous. They really sabotaged their children's grief process by keeping them in the dark for so long.

I had a family member not tell any of her children that their father was having angioplasty for a heart blockage. One son even dropped him off at the hospital and didn't even stay- didn't even know what was going on. I couldn't believe it! The kids were in their 20s and 30s, these weren't little kids incapable of understanding. What if something had gone wrong and their father had died alone, and they hadn't been able to say goodbye!? The decisions some parents make to 'protect' their kids baffle me.

I would agree that from what you share on your blog, you have dealt/are dealing with Brenna's passing in a healthy way. And while the Simmons family might be doing the baby loss community a disservice, you are doing a service with your blog.

B's Mom said...

^^ I agree with you. I think that everyone grieves in their own way, and that is OK. Maybe the Simmons family did get through their grief quickly, and that is OK. What I found offensive was them telling women they need to mourn quickly and indicating that having reminders of your child was dwelling on their death. Everyone mourns at their own rate. I know someone who still had their child's nursery set up five years after their passing. To me that seemed like an awfully long time. But it just took her longer than most people. She did eventually take the nursery down, but she had to do it on her own time. I would never have said anything to her about it, because it's not my place to tell someone else how to heal. The way the Simmons family acted like this is easy to get over was offensive to me.

Thank you for your kind words, by the way. :)

Jayme said...

I totally agree with Lily Allen- I hate when people refer to my stillbirths as miscarriages. My longest labor was my first stillbirth!