Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Sorry, folks, no kitties today.

Just got home from therapy to find in my mailbox (besides another bill from the local hospital) something in a slim envelope from the big city hospital we delivered in (UC). From the "Spiritual Care" department. Great.

((Before I go any further, let me just reiterate that at the hospital, we specifically asked for pastoral care/clergy to NOT come by. I know many people find a great deal of comfort with religion and "spiritual" guidance during times of stress -- and everyday life for that matter. That's great. Excellent. Whatever gets you though. But it's not for me. It's never been for me. ))

So, I sit down with my really-bad-for-me-lunch and open it up.

Dear Ms. E___,
We wish to express our sincere sympathy at the death of your little one.
(Miscellaneous theoretically comforting thoughts, grief is natural, blah blah, we grieve because we love, blah blah blah, our prayer for you, blah, God's love, etc etc. )

On Sunday May 4, 2008 your loved one will be remembered, along with other patients in a special memorial service. Blah blah, practical information, etc., if we can be of further help, blah blah blah.

The Spiritual Care Team
Big City Hospital

I know, I know, it's common for hospitals to have memorial services, especially for "little ones" who didn't make it. Clearly, this is a big hospital that treats a lot of patients, and they see a lot of loss. I'm sure this one memorial service is "remembering" every patient who died in the last year.

There are a few things about this that piss me off right away, others that pissed me off the more I think about them. (And yes, I'm just feeling angry today. Very angry. That's another post for another day. Or later today. We'll see how mad I am.) I'll qualify as I go.

First thing, right off: the death of your little one. Which little one would that be? The one who died inside me? Or the one who died in my bed while I was literally out of my mind with pain, grief and horror? If you're going to start what's supposed to be an even remotely comforting letter, how about getting the decedent right? Or decedents. Which leads me to the next thing:

This letter was mail-merged within an inch of its life. Clearly. And, you know, being a big city hospital, as I said before, there are probably a lot of losses. Don't they have enough underpaid clerical workers to divide up the sympathy letters to be even a little specific? How about a name or signature (or signature stamp, for pete's sake) instead of "The Spiritual Care Team"? Do you think they have jerseys, or jackets with that on the back, like a bowling team? Is there no one person I could call, should be in need of Clerical help with this matter? Very personal.

(By the way, when I was trying to get the records and pictures that were taken of the boys, I was passed through to no less than 6 offices over 4 days. Three days after I gave up the social worker called me back.)

I considered, for a moment attending the service. Maybe it would be comforting to meet others who had similar losses. Except for a few things. This was for everyone who lost someone at the hospital. Would they divide us into deadbabyparents, orphans, widows and so on? I doubt it. And seeing as this letter was sent by the Spiritual Care team (Go Team!) and the service would be held in the chapel, it would, no doubt, be a religious service.

Again, if this works for you, great. If not, then what? What if I don't find comfort in this kind of organized way? I guess I'm on my own. We're on our own. Is there no other way to comfort grieving patients?

Our local hospital also holds a service, though the grief counselor says it is not really religious, and it's just for those who've lost children or babies at the hospital. Technically, we count, I guess, even though we didn't deliver there. It's a local effort and the OB nurses all participate -- on even sings. We are still considering going to that one. We'll have to see. It's being held in a local park the Sunday after Mother's Day. The day before the boys' official due date. I guess a lot if it depends on how functional we are.

Did any of you go to an organized memorial service (by the hospital or some other organization)? How was it? Are you glad you went, or do you regret it? What was it like?

It's amazing how not helpful people can be, even when they make the effort. Even when they should know better.

We are still trying to figure out something to do for the boys. I know that we need to memorialize them in some way. It's just harder to figure out what to do than we thought. Hard to talk about even. I asked my dad about getting a marker at the cemetery where my mother and most of my family is buried, so that it would be place we would go anyway (as opposed to having to come back here to see it, years from now). My dad said he'd look into it, but we'd have to get two whole graves just to bury their ashes there. It didn't seem right. I asked him again, and he seemed kind of put off, maybe he doesn't want to think about it anymore, but he said he'd look into what our other options might be.

I would even be happy (well, you know what I mean) just to bury their ashes alongside my mother's grave. Just dig a hole and put a plant over it or something to cover the rough dirt. But that would mean no marker. Not there, anyway. I really want something...permanent, something that will... I can't think of the word. Something that will remain. So that others might know they existed. That they were loved.

After my mother died, the preschool (a Hea.d.S.tart) where she was a special education teacher for 10 years had major renovations done. And they put up a plaque for her, honoring her in some way. I don't remember, but it's in a prominent place. I have these fantasies of making a huge donation or contributing to some playground equipment, or something for the school or the kids there. And there could be a plaque saying something like, "In memory of Sharon and her grandsons, Jacob & Joshua." Or something. Or call it J&J's Playground.

Of course, it's just a fantasy. And we need a realistic way to remember the boys, to put something solid in the ground, or somewhere, to remember them. I want this.


Tash said...

I'm really sorry. Our delivery hospital actually sent us an invitation to a party for "NICU Grads!" Yeah! Because I guess no one informed that office that Maddy graduated to Children's, where she up and died. (shhh, I ripped this up and Mr. ABF knows nothing of it.) I left them a hostile message. Which is sad, because that hospital was nothing short of wonderful.

We did attend a service at Children's and sadly, they hold theirs TWICE a year. So it was babies through young adults. And it was BRUTAL. It was in an auditorium, and the air was so thick, it was suffocating. Bella burst into tears within minutes, without anything having happened yet -- you could just FEEL it. I was a mess. It wiped me out for a week. It was also about two months after she died, so I was still pretty fragile.

We did go to the outdoor candlelight ceremony in December, and that I liked. (FIL standing us up, notwithstanding.) Something about being outside is much less uncomfortable -- gives the grief a place to go.

We have yet to do anything organized for Maddy, and I feel like such a fucking bad mother for that. But I simply couldn't bear to, I couldn't think of what on earth I would possibly want to do. Someday, I probably will. And I'll let you know.

Rachel said...

I'm so so sorry that you have to deal with letters like that. It's one thing to send you an invite to a generic service, it's another to claim that this service is being held in part to remember your boys. Especially if this is not what you want.

I love the idea of supporting a playground in your sons' honor. One place you might look is: Donorschoose.org. It's a website where teachers can make requests for items they need. Many of the requests are small, and you might be able to get your family to join in supporting a project. It would be a small start towards a permanent memorial.

Julia said...

Our hospital's invitation was to ask us if we wanted A remembered. We had the option of submitting a page for the booklet they print or just coming. We chose neither, but at least the invitation was done sensitively. I am sorry that was not your experience, and I do think telling them how badly they mishandled this is appropriate, if you are up for it, of course.

Can you ask the cemetery where your mother is buried whether it would be ok to bury the boys next to her and to modify her grave marker to reflect that? THey do that a lot in the Old Country. I am not sure it's possible here. The school thing sounds lovely, though.

CLC said...

I would follow up with Julia's advice. Hannah was buried with my dad, so technically that took up one spot, but they will just use the marker that is there and engrave her name on the side with the date. You would think that ashes don't need to take up two spots or that they could even just engrave their names on the marker and you could tell them you are keeping the ashes(but secretly bury them there yourself?)

The playground sounds like a fanastic idea, maybe you can get your friends to help raise money- run a race or something and get them to sponsor you or something?

I am sorry the letter was so insensitive. I am not aware of anything like that at my hospital but I probably wouldn't have gone anyway.

luna said...

never went to any kind of service. we did our own ritual which included planting a lemon tree.

what about a plaque on a bench at a park you got to or something like that? ~luna

Mrs. Spit said...

I really, really wanted to plant an Oak Tree for Gabriel. They are large and live forever - everything he wasn't and won't be. Unfortunately, it would never even come close to fitting in our back yard, so I think we will plant one in a city park, and have the city put a plaque up.

Maybe if donating a park is too expensive, you could donate a piece of equipment? Perhaps their are family and friends who would donate as well?

Antigone said...

I got the same invite recently. You don't live here do you?

I threw it away. Mail merged is right. @ssholes.

Jen said...

I agree with those people who said you should look into burying the boys with your mother. When my best friend lost her son at twenty weeks, the funeral home made arrangements for her grandfather's grave to be opened and her son to be buried with him. She was left with the impression that this was sort of their standard procedure for babies, since it was suggested TO her and her husband not BY them.

Ya Chun said...

STE- that's a pretty sucky letter. I live in a big city and our big hospital was not so dumb. I haven't heard of any service. Probably wouldn't go. We held our own service recently, please see my blog for a rough idea of what we did.

our neighbors wanted to pool together to plant a tree. We thought we would worry to much about the tree! I think a park bench or playground equipment would be good. something that would be useful to come from this tragedy. we also had people donate in Serenity's name, we were happy with our hospital so to the social services perinatal support, which gives newborn items to homeless and poor moms. I guess her name will go in a log somewhere, maybe get published once. that's good for me. Nothing is really permanent, not us, not a grave.

so, instead of a tree, we did butterflies. it was really uplifting. also, gratifying more quickly than a slow-growing tree!

I hope you findsomething htat helps you.

Also, i saw something about oct 15th (?) as a national infant loss ay and lots of candle light services etc. even if you just do you own thing that night with others across time and space...