Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 16 January |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Giuseppe Antonio Tovini
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

How I Am Living Through the 5 Stages of Grief Before My Son Is Born

Sakhorn/Shutterstock

Tommy Tighe - published on 04/14/16

Applying Kübler-Ross to find the great light beyond the darkness

There are few concepts in modern psychology that have endured in popular culture better than Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ model of the stages of grief, developed in her 1969 book On Death and Dying.

While she later clarified that her proposal was a nonlinear, non-predictable progression, her five stages have become part of the cultural consciousness. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I’ve been thinking about these stages as I am living through the experience of receiving a fatal prenatal diagnosis for our fourth son.

In my own journey, even as it is ongoing, I already see in myself and my prayerlife the stages proposed by the model.

Denial

As my family sat in the dark ultrasound room, my wife and I knew something wasn’t right. The technician wasn’t clicking and printing pictures and didn’t spend the usual time pointing out the various features of our 20-or-so-week-old baby. Instead, she curiously looked at the screen and clicked buttons that added different colors to what she was seeing.

She only told us that we would need to follow up with a doctor immediately after the ultrasound, nothing more.

But I looked at the screen, and I saw the words that started this whole life-changing process:

There isn’t any fluid.

We walked into the office of the OB/GYN on duty, who took the route of not saying much. “Things don’t look good,” was followed with a dismissive, “You’ll have to speak with your doctor more at a next appointment.”

That’s it. That’s all we were told.

With the words from the screen, though, I was able to Google our baby’s scenario before that appointment finally came the following week.

All searches pointed to one thing: renal agenesis.

When we saw the specialist, he confirmed what we had already suspected.

Prior to that appointment, God heard plenty from me about how wrong doctors can be, how the baby’s position may have been blocking the view of the kidneys, and on and on and on.

They were all excuses keeping the rushing tide of emotions at bay, a denial that could only hold so long.

Anger

The first time we went to Mass after getting the news, the simple act of sitting in the pew felt soul-crushingly difficult.

At one point the littlest of our brood started having a meltdown, and I promptly escorted him to the back of the church. I was glad to get up and walk away, to be honest, as just the sight of the crucifix was making my blood boil.

At the back of the church was a stained-glass window of the Sacred Heart, with Jesus looking directly into the eyes of anyone interested in looking up.

I screamed at him silently in prayer. How could he do this to us? How could he allow this to happen? We were working so hard to be faithful to him, and this is the thanks we get?

My anger was intense, and it enveloped me.

It didn’t feel good, but it felt just. It felt like he deserved everything I could throw at him.

Bargaining

The anger could only last so long, of course, because it is flat-out tiring.

After it passed, I moved into the realm of using my prayers to bargain with God.

While I felt a miracle was unlikely, it seemed that if I promised him something, he might be willing to step into time and space and do something incredible.

I looked for bargaining chips, things I could promise him. Of course, all of my ideas came with an if.

If God would step in and perform the miracle that would save my baby, I would start to do these things.

Depression

At some point, the prayers stopped.

Not only had it become difficult to pray, but even when I mustered the strength to do it, it felt pointless. It felt as though nothing was going to come of it. From my vantage point it had  become clear a miracle was not in God’s plans, and there seemed to be no value in continuing to ask for it.

There seemed to be no value in anything.

  • 1
  • 2
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
DAD, HOW DO I?
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on Y...
FORGIVING COUPLE
Bret Thoman, OFS
An exorcist teaches 4 steps to forgive
Philip Kosloski
What is the Holy Cloak of St. Joseph?
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Why God loves ordinary stuff: Pope Francis' r...
POPE FRANCIS; Ash Wednesday
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Vatican: Imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday...
D'CRUZ FAMILY
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the family of 12 siblings with a very sp...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.