Rewriting my story of loss at AU
The above poem was written in honour of my healing journey after losing my first son, Michael, to stillbirth in June 2019, just a day before his due date. This poem is one of many personal pieces of writing in my nonfiction book called, Remembering Michael: Rewriting my Story of Stillbirth, recently published on Amazon. I completed this book as the final project for a graduate course through Athabasca University called MAIS 621: Narrative Possibilities. Remembering Michael reads as my own emotional tapestry of healing from the trauma of stillbirth through different forms of writing, including research writing, personal essay work, poetry, and journaling.
My main hope is that other individuals experiencing pregnancy and/or neonatal loss will read the book and find some hope that healing is possible. Furthermore, through book sales, I plan to help other moms and newborns in my province, British Columbia, by donating 15 per cent of my own earnings from the book to BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre.
The subject matter in MAIS 621, which blends writing for healing practices with academic learning, provided me the time and inspiration to write my story. After our loss of baby Michael, I knew that I needed to take time from work to heal and grieve, but I also felt inclined to engage in some form of coursework to keep my mind busy and move forward as I progressed into another pregnancy with its own unique challenges. Accordingly, I was drawn to AU’s Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) courses—specifically, those in the Writing & New Media focus area—which allowed me to view writing through a healing lens and to write my first book. As such, I took MAIS 621 in the Fall 2019 semester, and I am currently taking two transfer courses through another institute, which will contribute to my program plan in the MAIS. With two other transfer courses previously completed, I am excited to say that this semester will take me halfway through the program.
At the same time, one of the lessons that our loss of Michael has taught me is that we must enjoy our loved ones while they are here; as such, with another baby boy due in May, I plan to take some time after the end of this semester to enjoy motherhood before returning to school. Through tragic loss, I now recognize that I won’t always know what is ahead, but I do know that my learning in MAIS 621 will inform the way I approach life, challenges, and growth in the future as a more emotionally literate individual and mother. Furthermore, the great thing about AU’s flexible program structure is that I know I can return to study when I see fit in the future.
Lastly, I must include a section of sincere gratitude to the course developer and instructor of MAIS 621, Dr. Reinekke Lengelle. A common adage used in creative writing is “show, don’t tell.” This means to show the reader stories through rich imagery and conversations, as opposed to simply telling them what happened (the latter is not as interesting or effective). Relatedly, I see Reinekke as an instructor who shows but doesn’t tell. She doesn’t tell the student what to do or how to write a story. Reinekke shows the students the plethora of research and information on the subject matter, she models the ways healing through writing practices have been used in her own and others’ writing, and she reveals the student’s potential by focusing on writer strengths. Reinekke, thank you for showing me how to relocate my voice; MAIS 621 would not have been nearly as interesting or effective without your presence.
Danielle LaRocque is a writer from British Columbia, Canada. She possesses a BA in English and has spent her career life thus far tutoring and facilitating in the English and literacy fields. In June 2019, Danielle and her partner, Nigel, were excitedly expecting their first child; devastatingly, their baby boy, Michael, was unexpectedly stillborn just a day before his due date. Since then, Danielle has been exploring the use of writing for therapeutic purposes in her academic and personal life. Nigel and Danielle feel blessed to be expecting their second son in May 2020, with their little angel, Michael, looking over them from heaven. For more information on Danielle, Nigel, and their healing through writing journey, you can visit the Remembering Michael website.