I have read many books in the 23 months since Bertie died, all coming at the problem in a different way, but I was drawn to each in my search for answers: for help, for "how do I get through this", for "am I crazy?" moments and "can I put myself through this process (trying to conceive) again?" feelings. I feel that maybe it's time to compile a list, for others in my position, of titles I have found helpful and why. Over the months, I have come very many times back to a feeling that I want to write my own book. I want to create a sort of "survival guide" I suppose, a practical I wish I'd known this then.... sort of thing. I don't know what has stopped me so far. Maybe it's the fear of rejection, of people hating it or not even noticing it. Or perhaps it's the dread of knowing that to do such a book justice I would have to willingly throw myself back into The Pit. I would need to re-visit those dark feelings and remember how it was in the beginning. I am not sure I am ready to do that just yet. So, for now, I offer you my recommendations. I hope you find something that helps you as they did me.
I will come back and add to the list as my journey progresses.
Empty Cradle, Broken heart: Surviving The death of your baby Deborah L Davis
This is the first book I read, in the very early weeks after Bertie died. It was a comforting read, because it made me realise that I was normal. the feelings I was having, that I couldn't make sense of, that scared me because I felt out of control, they were Ok because I wasn't the only one feeling them. In amongst well meaning family members trying to make me go back to work, to try to get back to "normal", this book was a welcome reprieve that said "nothing's normal any more".
Thomas: A Lifetime Denied Shelly Wilkinson
This book is the story of a mother and her stillborn son. She bravely tells her story of loss, in her case due to medical negligence, and how she coped with the months and years that followed. To be honest, I didn't find this so helpful, as the story was very different to my own, and focused more on how she coped with the fact her son's death was down to medical negligence. But, I want to include it here, as it will be helpful to others, and also because it of what it represents: Reading anybody's story. In the early weeks, I wanted to read and read and read about all these other families, all these other babies who had died. It helped me feel less alone.
When Bad Things Happen to Good People Rabbi Harold Kushner
This is a very comforting book, and I read it at a time that I needed to read it. Rabbi Kushner lost his son to a terrible illness, that the family knew would take his life at a young age. The book is his way of trying to make sense of how a loving God could allow this to happen. A little further along in my journey of grief, and faith, I no longer agree with his conclusions, but at the time, they were what I needed to hear to enable me to continue on in a relationship with God.
God on Mute: Pete Greig
This is a helpful book for Christians going through a tough patch of unanswered prayer. It explores many reasons why we face these times; some of which struck a chord, whilst others didn't. I particularly liked his section on "Easter Saturday" the time of despair between death and resurrection, the time I feel myself living in at the moment.
The Shack William P Young
Another one for Christains, this book tells the story of a little girl who is abducted and murdered, then follows her father through "the great sadness" to a weekend with God. It doesn't offer any real answers, but it is faith enhancing and comforting to read.
The Dance of Fear Harriet Lerner
This one is a self help book on overcoming fear, anxiety and shame. It doesn't speak directly to baby-lost parents, but it does help with practical advice on coping with the emotions that follow.
Job The Bible
An essential book to read for any christian who is suffering. It's a frustrating book actually, in the responses of Job's friends to his situation "well God is good so you must have deserved this..." and in the non-answer Job eventually gets from God himself. But, there is comfort at the end, when Job is blessed even more richly than he was in the beginning. He still paid one enormous price, as have I, and all baby lost parents, but Job teaches us that whilst we won't be exempt from suffering, if we persevere, we will eventually be rewarded.
Disappointment with God Phillip Yancy
Another good book for suffering Christians. I found myself nodding along to a lot of this book, "yep I feel that too" moments. Again, its good to know you are not alone in feeling the way you do. However, he tries to remind us that "Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” And that sometimes there are no answers, but, like Job we must try to endure patiently.