We at the Addison Foundation believe that it is through speak with other parent in a judgement free zone or one of our grief coaches that you can start the process of moving forward. Our Vice President Michelle Anaya had the pleasure to interview Ph.D., LCSW Cindy Sampson. Cindy lost two children, one to a miscarriage and her 13-year-old to a rare chromosome disorder called Trisomy 13 or Patau’s Syndrome. She enjoys providing grief education. She has spoken to a few classes on Death/Dying and Psychology at some colleges.
1. What do you wish someone would have said to you when you were grieving?
That they are sorry, their heart breaks for me, that they don't know what to say. I wish they would NOT have said that she's in a better place, that everything happens for a reason, and that "Oh, well, you'll see her again someday.", "God needs her", "Stay Strong." Or that "Now, you have lots of freedom!" --I've unfortunately heard all that and more. Also, when I had a miscarriage in 1999, I was told "maybe it wouldn't have been healthy, so this is best. " I would have loved my child regardless, healthy or not. In 2001, I had my daughter, Lois Kathleen and she had a rare chromosome disorder, trisomy 13. When she died of a post-surgical infection in 2014, I was told and still am " Now, she has a perfect body. " She was and will always be perfect to me. I also am often asked if my miscarried baby also had trisomy 13. I don't know but when I hear that, I am offended. People may as well ask if I am defective.
2. How has grief changed you?
It has made me blunter. I'm unwilling to tolerate insensitivity or deal with issues or people that aren't helpful. Life is too short, and I want to focus my energy on representing my children as best I can.
3. Did you speak to someone about your grief? If so, do you think that helped?
Yes, I attended a pregnancy loss support group for my miscarriage- AMEND and have attended grief support groups of the Bereaved Parents of Tampa Bay since losing Lois in 2014. Both groups helped immensely but I still have trouble relating to most people as I lost both/all my children and most in groups have other children/grandchildren.
4. What advice, if any, would you give someone that can't seem to move forward from their grief?
First, accept that grief is part of their lives now and don't try to return to being the same and there's no "new normal" because there's nothing normal about life without your child. Find people who will just be there to listen or be silent if they need that and people who will let them cry and talk about their kids as much as they want. I get my best support from online groups like Addison Foundation on Facebook and Instagram. Encourage people to talk about your child and do things to honor them as they may not realize it is ok with you. I release balloons with friends at my daughter's grave on her birthday and "angel-versary"- the day she went to heaven. Be true to yourself is my bottom line to grieving parents. Don't let others try "fixing you" because they can't. People may not intend to be insensitive, but they will never know they are if you don't correct them.
5. They say there are five stages of grief (denial, anger, depressions, bargaining and acceptance). In 2020 a sixth stage (find meaning) was added. Did you go through any of the 6th stages? If so, which ones?
As a social worker, I've studied Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and it is my understanding that these were meant in terms of accepting one's own death when given a terminal diagnosis or knew the end was near. So, I don't think any of them apply to child loss. The grief is ongoing and while it hasn't gotten easier for me, it got different after, in that I wasn't crying hours daily and I finally accepted that her being physically gone is real although emotionally, I feel her with me constantly. I mainly give myself permission to be myself and if that means I'm depressed at times, then that is who I am. The most challenging thing post loss is that most people expect you to be over it within a year maximum and stop talking about your child as often or being as sympathetic as they were in the beginning, even though your pain and loss is as severe as when it first happened.
6. Do you find talking about your loved one and talking about grief brings you some sort of peace?
Yes, it does even if it also brings out anger for whatever reason. I like an anonymous poem I once saw " If you mention my child's name, you may make me cry," If you don’t, you WILL make me cry. " That is helpful to me. I also view my child in the present tense. "She is 20 in heaven"--not "She would have been 20 if alive. “I have a daughter--not "I had a daughter"--as I often hear--even from Christian acquaintances. And the grief of child loss isn't a season—as seasons are temporary--the loss of a child is ongoing and the season lasts till you reunite with them.
We want to give a HUGE thanks to Cindy for sharing her story. If you have a story about your grief. Please check out some of her other articles on grief below:
If you have a grief story you would like to share or would like to do an interview on grief. Please reach out to our Vice President Michelle via our FB or IG.