October is pregnancy/infant loss month and Connections Councilling is hosting The Silent Grief Conference.
The Silent Grief conference is for men and women, those who have experienced loss/es and for those who want to understand and learn about grief in general, the impact of unresolved grief and how we can support people who are grieving. Out of 500,000 conceptions resulting in births, only 251,800 were registered. There were 2,000 stillbirths, 150,000 miscarriages and 95,000 abortions (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1997). Unresolved pregnancy/infant loss and /or abortion are impacting many lives, families and our society more than we could ever comprehend.
Steve Wickham who wrote Shining Gift from God, a book about the loss of his infant son, spent some time with Mike in the studio last week sharing about his journey and what this conference means to him. (Read about the book at the bottom of the page.)
What is the conference about?
The conference is for those who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss including abortion grief, those who care for those who have had losses, and for others interested, and, given that one in four women will have a miscarriage, there are nearly 90,000 abortions a year, along with infant loss, the issues discussed at the conference are remarkably significant.
So, what is silent grief?
By definition, it’s the kind of grief that isn’t readily talked about. Most grief is difficult to talk about, but if you’ve had an abortion it can seem impossible to talk about. If you’ve had a miscarriage, you might feel you can’t talk about it because so many people have them or you don’t want to upset a friend or relative who is pregnant.
Just the fact that there are others pregnant around you complicates the grief and the guilt you experience. When a parent has a child with special needs there can be a constant grieving because their child won’t reach the potential of other children—but it can’t be talked about. That’s why it’s important to have this conference. To get out in the open what is taboo in society.
Who will speak at the conference?
There is a blend of counsellors, psychologists and pastors who will share their knowledge, along with people, like us, whose testimonies endeavour to bring a voice to what is often silent subject. The specialists will offer a wealth of experience, knowledge and research that help us wrestle with the grief in a way that generates awareness and resilience. The team of four speakers is superbly qualified in their respective areas of expertise.
Why a conference on ‘silent’ grief?
Much of grief is a taboo subject in our society, and that is, even more, the case when it comes to miscarriage, stillbirth, and abortion grief. The silence is due to many reasons, but it’s not good that people feel that they must suffer in silence. But it is a complex subject. This is because most people who are unaffected don’t know how to handle those who are grieving, and those who are grieving are very sensitive to some of the things the ways friends and others will interact with them and offer what is often said, albeit well-meaning. Couples also who suffer infertility carry a silent grief around with them. That’s certainly another part of our story. As yet, we’ve not had our rainbow baby. We’ve travelled the journey for ten years through infertility, IVF, having our 5-year-old, losing Nathanael—our only natural conception, and now failing to fall pregnant. We feel it’s important to speak up because we feel so many are simply suffering in silence.
You’re launching a book at the conference. We know it is about the loss of your son. Can you give our listeners a taster about the book?
When we received the news that broke us on 1 July 2014, that our baby in utero would not survive, we were devastated. I was a pastor in a largish community, and I was also an avid blogger. We knew there would be many people interested in what was happening to us. I wrote blog articles for four months before Nathanael ultimately passed away, and then for another eight months after he was gone.
The expression of our grief not only helped Sarah and me to unpack what was an ambiguous loss, but I think it made it easier for others to approach us, and there is no doubt that Nathanael’s life made a significant impact at a time.
So, the book is birthed out of that 12 months of writing about our grief. And we publish it now as his memoir. And we are fundraising for the Pallister-Killian Syndrome Foundation of Australia (PKSFA), which is something that Nathanael had, and for Heartfelt, who generously supply professional photographers free of charge to come and visit and take family photos which become invaluable memories. We only had 179 hours with Nathanael before his funeral, but those photos and videos we took, making the most of his physical presence with us, helped us so much in our pain.
What if people are hesitating in registering because they concerned for any reason?
It can be a heavy topic, but Lyn Varty, CEO of Connections Counselling WA, is about as intuitive and empathic as anyone and she has run these conferences for ten years. She knows how to make it safe for everyone, and if anyone does have an emotional experience there are counsellors allocated to assist and comfort.
I know for one that I would love to see men there. I know from personal experience that men seem to grieve differently. I had issues with my anger that was a cover for my sadness. As I became more aware, I trusted God for ways to surrender to my sadness. I had to recognise that becoming irritable was my cue to connect with sorrow deeper within me. I think there’s a lot in that for all us blokes. Guys feel the grief in the loss as much as women do. I urge those who are hesitating to come, especially men. They won’t regret it.
How can people attend or register for the conference?
It’s pretty simple. Jump on the Connections Counselling WA website and book. If you’re on Facebook just look up Connections Counselling WA or search Silent Grief Conference 2018. But I think the details are up on the 98five website as well. Because silent grief is so broadly relevant to most people there almost isn’t anyone who wouldn’t benefit from attending.
Steve Wickham spent some time in the studio with Mike last week sharing about his journey and what The Silent Grief Conference means to him, listen below.
Shining Gift of God – A Memior of the Life of Nathanael Marcus”
by Steve and Sarah Wickham
This book is the journey of Steve and Sarah Wickham in losing their precious son, Nathanael Marcus, in 2014. Sarah is a professional photographer and is part of the worship team at Bellevue Baptist Church. Steve is a pastor, chaplain and writer. He is also a student of grief and blogged about their loss throughout the four months preceding Nathanael’s arrival and eight months afterward. Those reflections on grief and loss in that season are contained in this book. Steve and Sarah’s hope is that this book may be an encouragement to others in their grief.
“I remember when Steve and Sarah invited me to stand with them in prayer when they had the heartbreaking news that the baby Sarah was carrying would not live after the delivery. I was held in awe as I watched and listened to Steve and Sarah’s journey through their grief. Their honesty and transparency of their pain mixed with their faith and trust in Jesus was profound and an incredible and healthy witness to many. They are well qualified to write and speak on this matter of a silent grief.”
Churches of Christ Western Australia, Pastor Support to Retiring & Retired Ministers
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