How Could There Not Be Grief?

Posted on February 16, 2022 by Lisa Thomas under Uncategorized
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At the beginning of every month . . . actually more like toward the middle . . . I’ll flip through the funeral records from the previous month.  Why, you may (or may not) ask?  I’m counting.  Of the families we served, how many chose to have what we call a full traditional funeral with a visitation followed by a chapel or church service?  How many held their loved one’s service at the grave side?  How many cremations did we have and of those, how many were direct cremations with no services and how many held some form of something?  But no matter how I may break down the services requested by the families who called upon us, I always start with one category . . . total number of services, broken down by adult or infant/children.

Thankfully, most months our infant and children services line is blank.  No one was forced to give up their little one.  No family had to bury their future.  But not December.  For December that line told a different story.  During a month that’s supposed to be filled with joy and family and celebrations of the season, three precious little souls had been snatched away by Death.

As I contemplated the circumstances surrounding each loss I was reminded of an observation made in my presence several years ago.  This person, who I would like to clarify right now did not work at the funeral home, was talking about a mutual acquaintance’s recent loss of a pregnancy, and in the course of said discourse, actually uttered the words, “I don’t know why they bothered having a service. It wasn’t like there was anything there.”  The implication was that at four months, because the pregnancy did not reach full-term . . . because the parents never had the opportunity to hold their child and play with her, to see her smile and reach the milestones we often use to mark an infant’s progress, it didn’t matter.  They really didn’t lose anything . . .

After I overcame the urge to physically assault this person, I explained that the grief was real—they had lost much more than evidently this individual could possibly imagine.  The excitement as they awaited their child’s arrival . . . the hopes and plans and dreams for their little one . . . all the memories they would have made together and the future of their family . . . it all changed in what I’m sure felt like the blink of an eye.  The excitement turned to sorrow . . . the dreams disappeared . . . the memories stopped in that one moment.  How could there not be grief?  And how could they not recognize and acknowledge their loss?

Although I don’t often mention it, my husband and I lost our first child, at between four and five months into the pregnancy.  So I can tell you from experience how devastating it is.  And this was at a time when you didn’t publicly mourn that type of loss.  Not a lot was said, nothing was done in the way of ceremonially acknowledging what had happened.  But I do remember at church one Sunday morning, a gentleman just about the age of my parents came over to my husband and, unaware that I could hear him, asked if I was all right.  Because he knew.  He knew because he and his wife had also lost a pregnancy decades before, and he remembered the pain of that loss, even after so many years had passed.  His acknowledgement of mine meant more than he could ever know.

So, if you are unfortunate enough to lose a child to Death, whether during pregnancy or after birth, never . . . never be ashamed of your grief . . . and don’t let anyone else shame you into hiding it.  What other people may say or think doesn’t matter.  How they may have handled the same type of loss at some point in the past doesn’t matter.  This is your loss and these are your feelings.  This is your grief and you are allowed to process it all in the manner that is best for you.  And if that includes a full-fledged funeral or a cremation with a memorial service or a simple graveside farewell, so be it.

Never hide your grief—any grief—just because someone else doesn’t understand it.


About the author:  Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926.  She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there.  Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.

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