Today, I would like to introduce you to Neri.
I hope you will join me in giving her a warm welcome to Sunny Side Up and acknowledge her story by leaving a comment below.
During the process of working with Neri to bring this story to the blog today, I learned from her the importance of understanding, respecting and moving forward from the older generations’ teaching that to talk about such things as the loss of one’s baby was incorrect and actually ‘rude’. As Neri states, it was a given that they simply not mention the name of the sibling who was not with them in life. While this practice is not quite so strict any more, the effects of the forced silence are still felt in many families and, therefore, society today, generations later.
I also came away wondering how it might be, to live with the knowledge of a sibling having been born but never given an identity within the family. I am grateful I will never know, but I hope that some readers can draw strength from Neri’s sharing of her experience.
In Neri’s words, here is the story of how she was the loving catalyst that led to her parents opening up to each other for the first time about losing their firstborn… 47 years later:
I was in my mid forties and living in Melbourne when I began going to psychotherapy to understand and unravel my stress levels and ill health, looking for further meaning. At the time, I was working in Hospitality senior management. Sometimes I would struggle with my perceptions of how things should be, could be and, how they actually ‘were’ within my workplace. Through psychotherapy I began to become aware of my position in the family and the role it played in the way I went and felt about life. I was led to see that I was actually the second born child and not the first.
As a child, my family treated me as the first born. As I grew up I was, therefore, expected to be the more responsible one, in particular towards my three younger siblings. I became interested to find out more about my first born brother, Vincent, to see if it might shed some light on my situation, how I felt about my family experience and how that played out in life.
Then, one weekend, I found an article on “Mrs. Rose” while reading The Age newspaper. I noticed she had had a stillborn child some 30-40 years ago for whom she was never able to grieve. There was a photo with the article of “Mrs. Rose” finally standing beside a little grave weeping for the child she had never seen or held. The article was written about the work done by Sands, who were helping women/parents to grieve their lost stillborn children from long ago.
I immediately felt “Mrs. Rose’s” story had meaning for me. It helped me understand that my parents had probably never properly grieved their first son. Vincent had only lasted “a few short days”, in my mother’s words. These were the only words she had ever told me about my older brother. It was also accepted that one should never pursue any questions.
“Mrs. Rose’s” story caused me to be overcome with tears and unbelievable sadness. I don’t remember ever experiencing this much grief at someone else’s story before. Essentially, I knew this story highlighted deeper meaning for me. The grief I experienced felt bottomless in some ways. I wondered, ‘How sad can something be?’ and I gathered my thoughts about how I could share this story with my Mum and Dad. After all, I now had a newspaper cutting I could mail them to support my asking for more information surrounding Vincent’s death.
Eventually, I found the courage to write to my parents and included The Age’s newspaper article on Sands and “Mrs. Rose”. Having written and posted the letter to my mother asking for her story and reflections about her first born (and my older brother), there were then moments of hoping I wasn’t expecting too much from her. After all, she was now nearing 70 years of age. Adding to this, having had ‘nervous breakdowns’ at various times in her life, she was not always able cope very well mentally or emotionally with sensitive or emotional issues.
Knowing that my Mum always wrote every week (and did so whenever I lived away from the area, which was much of my adult life), I wasn’t expecting that two weeks would go by without hearing from her. When her letter did arrive, I wasn’t ready for what she wrote.
Through flowing tears, I slowly began to see the story behind the sadness. The grief both my parents must have felt at the time of their first born not surviving, then not even being able to acknowledge this with each other. It would have impacted upon them more than I was aware of. Not having given time to grieve would have affected their subsequent lives on many levels, as well as my own experience growing up, not to mention my younger siblings.
I was hugely relieved that I had had a response from Mum and Dad. It left me feeling that in some way I had found some of the answers to the questions I had about Vincent. I had also been given an understanding from behind all the “closed doors” that had previously shut the mentioning of my brother away.
|There remain questions unanswered for me, as it was never easy to open the closed doors in my family. But it was enough for me to gain a sense of the truth that belonged to Vincent, allowing him to become ‘alive’ for me to know. He is and will ever be with me in my heart and I know now that we were a family of five children and not four.|
I am forever grateful to that article in the Age about “Mrs. Rose” and Sands. It helped to open a doorway ever so slightly, releasing some of the grief surrounding my elder brother’s life, which in turn has brought healing for me and an adjustment to many of my patterns in life.
On reflection, this may have been the real catalyst that took me out of the Hospitality trade and into the world of Healing Arts of Reflexology and Energetic Healing. A world less stressful for me.
|Letter from My Mother dated Saturday 18th Jan., 1994Dear Nerida,Many thanks for your letter and enclosed sensitive article. We were both affected by it and for the first time in 47 years, through tears, were able to talk of the event.Could it be the passage of time or shock which has caused Dad to be unable to recall the details? He could not remember Gran and Aunty being with us. Vividly he does remember the doctor telling him to go home and have a good night’s sleep – that all was well, only to find out the next day, that was not so. Dad never did see his first son.
When it became apparent that Vincent would not be long with us, I asked to see him and was given a fleeting glance of a well wrapped bundle held by a nurse who paused briefly in the doorway of my room. No touch, just left with empty arms.
The only comfort was the knowledge that Vincent was baptized and respectively buried thanks to Grand dad and Grand mum (your father’s parents). They made available the burial plot which they had purchased previously; an Irish custom which to me, the uninitiated, found abhorrent, but was later to appreciate.
Later Dad and I visited the grave of Vincent together and I planted snowdrops – whether they grew, I do not know as we only visited the day Grand Dad was buried, one July, and too early to see Spring growth.
It was not the “done” thing to talk of such matters in those days, but each was aware that the other was grieving. Life had to go on and can you imagine the panic which swept over me, eleven months later, when I was told you would be born, feet first! By the grace of God you were given to us, alive and well.
Is it any wonder, then, that you have always, and will always be, very special to us.
I can understand the feelings of “Mrs. Rose” and all others like her, for so many times over the years my thoughts have gone to that little grave, so far away.
Take care. Keep warm. Love & God bless.
Neri, I want to thank you for sharing your story so honestly and your courage in exploring this so deeply for us to learn from. It is a privilege to introduce your brother and your parents’ heart rending journey here today.
Much love to you. x