There is nothing quite like witnessing your own child grieve the loss of their baby. Losing a parent or older family member is difficult, and not entirely unexpected, but an infant granddaughter – that shouldn’t happen to anyone.
Joan and Ron Kennedy’s granddaughter Rosalind was born on October 27th, 2018 with Trisomy 18. She lived 29 days at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. Watching their daughter Audrey go through the gut-wrenching grief of losing her first child was the most difficult thing they have ever experienced.
As parents, your first duty is to care for your child who is in pain. You tend to everyone and everything else, rather than face your own pit of grief. It’s hard to know how to process everything and it takes time for it all to sink in.
“We were referred to Canuck Place nurse practitioner Camara Van Breeman, at BC Women’s Hospital,” says Joan. “Camara was reassuring and it relieved some of my anxiety knowing that Canuck Place was going to be there to support the whole family. The word ‘hospice’ was very impactful to me, as it reinforced the fragility of Roz’s life, and was a difficult reality to accept.”
Joan and Ron felt supported by Canuck Place from the moment Roz was transferred there, two days after her birth.
“After settling in and getting a tour, we had a family meeting with the Canuck Place clinical team,” says Joan. “It was comforting to know that Roz would be so well supported medically, and that Audrey and Mike could focus on Roz without the worry and stress of handling everything on their own.”
Joan stayed at the hospice in the family suites for most of Roz’s time there, which gave her the opportunity to support Audrey and Mike, and have lots of cuddles with Roz.
“Quite often I would be the first up in the morning, and would make my way to the clinical floor to relieve the nurse who was holding Roz,” says Joan. “It was a special alone time I had with her that I will always treasure.”
Canuck Place nurses and counselling staff were always available to address any questions or worries Joan had, and always made her feel welcome and heard. Canuck Place also took care of the everyday details, like delicious home-cooked meals, giving the family the gift of precious time together with Roz.
For both of Roz’s grandparents, navigating the layers of grief since her passing has been difficult. Roz was their ninth grandchild, and they grieve all the typical milestones that you look forward to sharing with your family.
“Ron and I are immensely grateful and blessed to have had Roz for a little while, and to enfold her in our hearts forever,” says Joan. “We will always be grateful to Canuck Place, I can’t imagine our family having to do this on our own.”
Since Roz’s passing, it is comforting for Joan to know that Canuck Place is still available to care for the family in their grief. Joan and her husband Ron attend a weekly grandparent’s bereavement group at Dave Lede House in Abbotsford.
“We find it helpful to be in the presence of other grandparents who have had similar experiences,” says Joan. “Even though our situation is unique to us, there are many families who share our sorrow in their own way.”
The death of a child impacts the whole family. Grief doesn’t have a timetable and is a highly individual experience. Canuck Place counsellors support families as they navigate through their grief by addressing the emotional, spiritual, and psychosocial needs of parents, siblings, and grandparents.
“To everyone who has donated to Canuck Place, thank you. It seems an inadequate phrase, but heartfelt. Your generosity means the world to families facing the death of a child, anywhere across this province.”
Canuck Place is there with love, care, and guidance when and where families need it most. A caring community of donors makes it possible. To help Canuck Place care for the whole family, give today at canuckplace.org/donate.