By Nathalie Himmelrich
I became a member of the club of bereaved parents in September, 2011, when I gave birth to my identical twin girls. On the third day of their lives my younger daughter, Amya, passed away.
I have worked with clients as a counselor and coach for the past ten years and specialized in grief therapy, so you would expect I would handle the loss all right. Nothing, not even my intensive training, has been able to prepare me for my personal journey with grief. I was swept away into the land of numbness, unable to navigate the deep waters of turmoil and the split between new parenthood and bereaved parenting.
Even while writing this, I stop and reflect. It is difficult to remember the bleakness and how I was able to get on with life while preparing to say goodbye to the now lifeless body that I had been carrying for almost 9 months, alongside her twin sister. The grief had started while I was still carrying both when the doctors gave us a shattering prognosis, although it wasn’t until they were born that it would become clear. The grieving period was intensified with my mother’s death through suicide just 4 months later.
I felt overwhelmed and torn by the ravages of grief for months on end. Was it because I was a new mother or because I was grieving? Was I a bad mother for being so sad, while I should be joyful to have a new baby? It was like being the main actress in a film waiting for this show to be finished, only to find that it was continuing and would not be a series with a happy ending.
Already during pregnancy, I wrote notes, blog posts and emails to keep friends and family informed. It was a way for me to process what was happening, without having to engage in a conversation or respond to questions on the spot.
It was then that I had many comments, deeply thankful for my honesty and openness, encouraging and pleading me to write a book. And without ever having the wish to write a book, I went on to write Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple. The research for the book, the connection to other bereaved parents, the interviews, they all worked wonders in my worthwhile but painful grief work process. A year later, I went on to translating the book (originally in English) into German. This was another deep look and huge revelation into the difference a year had made on how I saw life, death and life after death. I am convinced that the work I had previously done and continued has shaped the way I now live my life, full of life.
Now, four years later, I am immensely grateful for my therapist for her guidance and support. I am grateful I followed the calling to dig deep into what was there to look at in my grief through the writing of the books.
There are fewer and fewer of those days that I feel depressed and down, unable to reach out, and wondering what life is all about. Having said this, building a friendship with my New Normal self is an ongoing process and I’m well aware that challenges are not neatly spread out across life.
I do, however, know that no future challenges are necessarily because of my loss nor is my life about the loss of our daughter.
What I create now and in the future is due to my whole life’s journey, the insights I gathered through all its ups and downs.
The loss of my daughter has shaped my life, me as a person, my way of living. It does not define me or my life.
Nathalie Himmelrich is the mother of twin girls, one she holds hands with in life and one she holds in her heart. She is passionate about supporting the bereaved (well before her losses), and she is the author of the book ‘Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple’. Find her on her website, her Grieving Parents website, or on Instagram.