As A Bereaved Parent, I'm Sick Of The Way Child Loss Is Portrayed In TV And Movies

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
Apple TV+

Trigger warning: child loss

A bereaved mother pushing an empty stroller… a nanny tasked with the impossible mission of “babysitting” a doll with an uncanny resemblance to a family’s late child… a parent who kidnaps a baby in hopes of feeling the one who has passed will feel somewhere close to home again… The Boy, Apple TV’s new movie The Servant, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, and too many Lifetime movies to count can be streamed on virtually any entertainment platform. Thrillers such as these, which feature a mentally-tormented, bereaved parent have become hot-ticket sellers, but how close are they, really, to getting the storylines of a mother or father’s grief right?

Parents understandably cringe at the thought of losing one of their children. A loss as great as this is something nearly all parents likely think would send them over the edge — the one thing they’d never be able to come back from. I’m sad to say that what every parent fears the most became my worst reality on a muggy, Sunday morning — and they are right.

STX Entertainment

It’s been three years since my four-month-old daughter died, and this is the most horrible pain — that one thing you don’t ever fully recover from.

When my daughter died, I crumbled. Every piece of me felt like it had fallen onto the floor in a million teeny-tiny pieces, and I was the only one who could learn how to piece myself back together again. I’m a different person now, feeling multiple, complex emotions in my grief and feeling them all at once. I’m sad that she’s gone, happy she was here, and somewhat bitter that it was my baby who died. Like I said, there are many emotions associated with my grief, but there is one I’ve yet to feel and that is delusion.

I think I speak for bereaved parents everywhere when I say that we are brutally aware that our child is dead. We aren’t naïve to that fact. There is no coaxing us into believing that cold, hard truth, because a loss like this surrounds every part of us.

But even with a hurt so deep and a void so big, we aren’t seeking for something or someone to fill it. We didn’t bury our child one morning only to wake up the next searching for a replacement. That’s not how child loss works. This void is exactly the same size and shape as our child, and we can’t deny the fact that nothing in the world will fill it.

Just because we are sad beyond all comprehension does not mean we are “crazy” or “unstable” following our child’s death — we are grieving. And I’ve yet to find the hysteria or mystery in this pain that others seem so insistent on discovering for themselves.

Contrary to what audiences have viewed on the films, we don’t hire nannies for our lifelike baby dolls. We aren’t kidnapping other parents’ babies, and the closest we’ve ever been to pushing an empty stroller is in those brief moments when said stroller was being stored away.

A bereaved parent’s mind is unknown, and our ability to move forward (not move on, big difference) in the face of tremendous grief is incomprehensible to the rest of the world. So people draw these faulty conclusions from bereaved parents based on a hurt they cannot imagine or understand.

Those around us point fingers and whisper, “That’s them, that’s the family who lost their child.” Movies are quick to fulfill the world’s expectations of us — that we would fall in the wake of child loss — all for the sake of “entertainment.”

But at what cost to the bereaved parent?

These films, drawn from the inner curiosities and speculations of others about the mental state of grieving mothers and fathers, are inaccurate at best and insulting at worst. In case you can’t tell, we are over the stigma that comes from being misunderstood due to the nature of our strength. More so, we are tired of explaining that we didn’t have a choice but to continue living in the event of our child’s death.

There is literally nothing mythical or mysterious about it. Our child died, and the world never stopped spinning. At some point, we had to move with it. We had to come to terms with this new life, because it wasn’t changing. It was us who made a conscious decision deep within ourselves to continue living another day on a minute-by-minute basis

Yet, others don’t understand, and it’s negative accusations of our grief stealing the spotlight. We are stronger than our stigma. We have a broken heart, dammit.

For child loss resources, financial support, or to connect with others who just “get it,” check out our Scary Mommy Child Loss Resource Page.

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