Tag Archive | mourning

Hope and Grief

I suppose I had better get this out of the way.

Without putting too fine a point on it, I am no longer pregnant.

It has been a week now and although grief has a nasty way of winding you when you least expect it, coming over you in unexpected waves as it does, I think I am starting to see light at the end of the long dark tunnel and I hope I can look forward to some better days soon.

We hadn’t planned this pregnancy at all – we had given up a long time ago (although I never stopped being broody and wishing for more babies) but I had more or less come to terms with the fact that, at 45, more babies weren’t very likely.

This was my 6th loss too, which seems far more than my ‘fair share’.

Anyway. I need to fold up all my hopes and dreams and plans of babies and young children and lay them back in the ‘hope chest’ and lock it away for now.

Plan B?

I’m not ready to think about that yet.

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Shiva: Death, mourning and hope in Jewish Tradition

ברוך אתה ה’ א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, דיין האמת
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, dayan ha-emet.
“Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, the Just Judge.”
After 4 years of trying, hoping and praying since my last loss, and 13 years in total, and finally after giving up completely, I was unexpectedly blessed with pregnancy again.

Sadly this pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 10 weeks, my 6th loss in total.

There are no funerals for miscarriages, no burials. No family get-together, no ‘sitting Shiva’ together. It is a special kind of grief, more lonely and perhaps harder to navigate than any other type of grief, because in our culture pregnancy loss is still taboo, something we still can’t quite face or discuss openly, and thus the sufferer is largely without comfort or understanding.

The traditional period of mourning in Jewish Tradition is 7 days (thus ‘Shiva’, related to the word 7). But the reality is that grief doesn’t follow a neat progression and cannot possibly be restrained within a 7 day period.

The loss of a child isn’t ‘just’ the loss of a baby right at that moment, but the loss of all the hopes and dreams – the loss of that child’s whole life – years and decades and life events that we thought was ahead of them. And even if a mother is graced with another child, this kind of loss changes you, and you always carry that little bit of sadness with you. You never ‘get over’ loss of a child.

I thought I had completely given up and resigned myself to not having any more babies, to ending my family on a loss. Now though of course, I find old wounds re-opened and longings renewed.

But for now, I mourn. 

Mourner’s kaddish
Jewish perspective on miscarriage and stillbirth
Mourning a Jewish miscarriage 
Jewish Prayer after miscarriage or stillbirth

RIP Whistler

I wasn’t sure how to approach this, as it is all so raw and painful just now so I will just tell you the facts I think.

Whistler

Whistler was a border collie, born and bred on Strawberry Farm near Retford in north Nottinghamshire in the summer of 2003. He came to live in Watford with my sister-in-law and her husband when they moved down there, and were a constant part of my children’s lives from that point onwards.

In December last year, sister-in-law and her husband asked us to take care of their dogs as they were moving abroad and felt that, at almost 13, it would be too much for them. We accepted as the children were already very fond of the dogs and had wanted to have dogs of their own.

It was soon clear though that Whistler was not happy – to begin with I thought he was just pining for his owners; it was such a massive change of circumstances so late in life. But gradually he stopped eating and started to become weaker and we started suspecting that he was actually getting sick.

Two weeks ago, he started having trouble walking and although when we changed to real meat from the dried food he was used to he started eating again, he seemed to be going downhill and so last week we took him to a local vet.

This vet was pretty unpleasant and rude from the outset, almost insisting that we put Whistler down there and then, implying that he would report us to the RSPCA if we refused, but nevertheless shaving him carelessly, cutting his neck in several places, and took a blood sample for testing, gave us a bottle of antibiotic pills, and insisted we call the next morning with a decision. His ‘diagnosis’ was poor teeth.

I called the next morning and told the receptionist that we would see how he did over the weekend and come in again on Monday evening to discuss options.

He improved massively over the weekend, although it was up and down, and we had decided at that point to give saving him a try.

So when we arrived at the vet on Monday evening we discussed with a junior vet about trying to put Whistler through the operation to fix his teeth, knowing that he was very weak and may not make it through the anaesthetic, but wanting to try and save him anyway.

When the junior vet went to check with the head of the practice though he came out and was extremely rude again, and aggressive, absolutely insisting that we put Whistler down, and informing us that he hadn’t bothered to send off the blood sample for testing! He was also constantly referring to Whistler as ‘she’, which made me see red!

At this point I felt very uncomfortable about staying with this vet and so we left to get a second opinion from another vet, and went immediately to another practice in town.

The difference between the two practices could not have been starker. Where the first vet had been rude, aggressive and unprofessional, the second was kind, gentle, respectful and understanding. The premises were also extremely contrasted. Where the new vet’s was clean, bright and professional-looking, the first one had felt like a dirty, smelly, outback, makeshift shack of a place. Thinking back, I am amazed I even considered trusting the first vet.

The new vet agreed that Whistler was very sick and weak, but said that there were various options and that he didn’t want to condemn him without proper testing. He gave him injections of a steroid, B vitamins and an appetite stimulant and asked us to come back in the morning for blood tests.

In the morning we left Whistler there for blood tests and waited for results. When the vet called, around 2pm it was bad news, but the original diagnosis of ‘teeth’ had been wrong. According to the results it looked as though Whistler had some kind of cancer, either a lymphoma or leukemia. Even then the new vet didn’t condemn him, and said that we could come in to discuss his options.

We all went in together, and after discussing it and deciding that we didn’t want to put him through chemotherapy, we very reluctantly decided that since any other intervention would probably only give him a matter of six more weeks or so anyway, that we would call it a day and let him go.

The children said goodbye and everyone except myself, husband and the eldest waited in the car while the deed was done.

Needless to say it was pretty horrible – not at all brutal (it was quite gentle and quick), but it felt kind of evil, everybody felt awful and there were a lot of tears (and some of us actually howled with grief, I am not kidding.) We decided to leave his body with the vet for cremation as we’re not in our own house and wouldn’t have been able to bury him. That felt pretty dreadful too but couldn’t be helped. We took his collar and eldest held it in his hand on the way home.

So ultimately the result was what the first vet had wanted but I was so pleased and convinced I had made the right decision in getting the second opinion, and had it done in a so much nicer place, where we felt that all the staff were caring and considerate and actually understood how devastating it was for us all.

We’re all a bit shellshocked today.

Whistler is survived by his sister from the same litter, Sapphire.

First Sunday of Lent

I am running a week behind now, as life has got in the way. Around a couple of weeks of a roller-coaster of looking after a very poorly, elderly dog, we had to have him put down last night. So right now I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed with grief . The next couple of posts will be short and I may take a break, depending on how I feel. (I may do the opposite and throw myself into blogging as a distraction, I just don’t know.)


Psalms/ Canticles: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-end or 1:11
OT Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
NT Reading: Romans 10:8b-13
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13


We jump back in the narrative again now, as we enter the traditional church season of Lent and follow Jesus through his 40 days in the wilderness, fasting and praying and being tempted by the devil.

The short passage in Romans quotes Deuteronomy 30:14 which tells us that “the Word is near – in our hearts and on our lips”, and states that we must both believe and confess.

When I first joined the Anglican church five years ago I was very impressed by the liturgy which even in its modern form is thoroughly Biblical, and which seemed like a solid buttress against strange teaching and error; and yet it began to dawn on me that despite repeating the liturgy every week, it was no guarantee that the words the congregation were speaking were actually believed by the speakers (or even the clergy).

This passage tells us that confession isn’t enough – belief is required as well (and when you look into the meaning of the Greek verb to believe and the Hebrew word behind it, you see that such belief must not merely be mental assent but a living, active, obedient faith, which is consistent with the whole ‘counsel of scripture’ – see for example the passage starting at Matthew 25:35).

In Pentecostal circles, the spoken word of confession and affirmation is on the other hand considered very powerful indeed – in a sense carrying the same innate power of creation “calling that which is not into being” that God used at the creation of the World, a belief that teachers like Joel Osteen may possibly take too literally – but of course in the Gospel passage, the way Jesus battles with the devil is through the Word of God which he quotes in answer to every temptation.


I’ll be honest and say that I’m not even sure that I have made the points I wanted to here, and I haven’t really covered the passages properly, but I’m going to have to leave it there as I don’t think I’m going to be able to make any more sense than this at this time.

If you can’t get hold of it, find a copy of Michael Card’s excellent album the Ancient Faith trilogy (on two CDs), which includes a lovely song called “The Word is so near”. I couldn’t find that particular song, but I’ll leave you with a youtube playlist of songs from the album. (Actually that song is in the playlist, but only an instrumental piano version – if you can seek out the original, it’s worth finding.)