My name is Nicci and I am a Bereavement Doula from Pretoria (South Africa), assisting parents with miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. I have been a ‘death doula’ since 2015.I have held many angels in my hands and I know all of their names.
Death humbles you. It leaves many wounded and scared (and scarred!) but also just as many people are awakened to the miracle and the fragility that is life. It opens your eyes to the absolute gift it is to breathe (and have those you love breathe) every single day.
I deal with indescribable pain and heartache. My job is not an easy one, in fact, it’s probably one of the most emotionally challenging professions out there. But it is made bearable by knowing that I could help a mommy or daddy carry the load, even if it’s only for a little while.
There is something unique about child loss. Because you don’t only lose a child you love, you lose the promise of that child’s life. You lose the ‘could have beens’. You miss their first day of school. You miss their 16th and 21st and 30th birthdays. You miss out on every little thing that would have made that child ‘yours’.
Like the character in the book ‘The Shack,’ I carry The Great Sadness with me every single day of my life. Sometimes The Great Sadness is quite satisfied to sit in the corner of a room or on the roof of my car and just leave me alone – sometimes even for a day or two. Other days, The Great Sadness would just not let go of me. It will cling to me whilst I brush my teeth, when I feed the dogs, when I pray, when I speak to a telesales agent and decline a cellphone contract for the umpteenth time. It will rear its sad head when I walk in a shopping centre and see something or someone that triggers a memory. Sometimes when I walk pass a baby store The Great Sadness would hug me so tight that I struggle to breath. But the Great Sadness and I have come to an agreement: Whenever I am with a client, it will not show up for a while. But sometimes The Great Sadness breaks it word and all that I can do is be sad with them.
The parents I assist and I usually have a lot of time talk and cry and yes, even laugh. Sometimes it’s much easier to talk about your pain to a stranger – somebody that you don’t feel guilty over because you are ‘burdening’ them with your pain. Someone that won’t judge, just listen – who may shed a tear or two with you but who will not fall apart.
As a bereavement doula I am learning more and more about life, death, loss and everything in between every day. I have seen that parents feel guilty because they are experiencing deep grief over the death of their child. Statements made by well-meaning friends may cause you to question the validity of their deep feelings of sorrow – statements like the following: “Just be glad you didn’t get to know her. This way you won’t have to suffer the grief.” Or “The woman down the street lost all her children in a fire, you are lucky compared to her”
The fact is that grief cannot be compared – not even between parents. Grief will not lessen just because the grief of another person is perceived to be greater. Also, they may have given birth to another child. But this will be another child, not a substitute for the one who has died. I always say babies aren’t puppies who can fulfill a general need. And to be honest, not even a dog can be replaced, how on earth can people expect parents to ‘replace’ their baby who has passed on with another!
Although primarily my focus, I don’t just assist with baby loss, but also with other losses. I assisted a mother who gave birth via c-section to healthy, beautiful little baby boy a while back. The reason she needed me though, was because her husband was brutally shot and killed in front of her and her little girl on the 1st of October 2016. This woman was shattered and tears jumped in my eyes when I looked into hers. It was almost unbearable to look at her. But she needed a calm, collected and professional person to assist her during the birth. In hindsight, I was none of the above. I may have appeared calm and collected, and yes, even professional to the untrained eye. But I was falling apart on the inside. The moment the gynecologist lifted that precious little boy from his mommy’s tummy I had a such a huge lump in my throat I couldn’t breathe.
Because there is such a huge need for bereavement birth workers in South Africa, I have written an Online Bereavement Training Program to enable as many people as possible in South Africa with a heart for bereavement, to assist parents going through loss. Students are equipped with the right information, tools and coping skills to guide families in South Africa going through the unimaginable. You are more than welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My ‘job’ is not a job, but a calling and I treasure it as such.
Yours in bereavement