Masks sometimes in dark colors, sometimes in rainbow colors. Mosaics representing a life shattered. Messages of love written on pieces of fabric. “With our small works of art, which mean a lot to us, we want to make visible this pain which is invisible,” confides Marion Fréchette.
The young woman is one of the fifteen parents who participated in the (un)expected Project, a series of artistic creation meetings whose results are exhibited throughout the month of October in Montreal, at the CHU Sainte-Justine library. as well as at the Saint-Henri library.
What binds this group of parents together? They all experienced perinatal loss.
A little over three years ago, Marion Fréchette said goodbye to her son Éloi, when he was only 2 months old. “When I was pregnant, I knew he had a heart defect,” she says with emotion. A few days after his birth, the infant underwent surgery, but it was not enough to save him. “Her little heart was just at the end of life. […] He died in my arms. »
While she was struggling to get through her grief – which she is still going through, she clarified during the interview – certain reactions from her wider entourage hurt her. “Phrases like: “You’ll have another one” or “You already have one” or “He was sick, it’s better that way.” When we love a child, we don’t love our child’s illness. We love the child he is, the person we hope he will become. The effect of these comments on me was as if I was not allowed to experience my full sentence. »
The grief of a bereaved parent makes people terribly uncomfortable, Marion Fréchette found.
Psychotherapist Rosa Caporicci, who piloted the (un)expected Project with the help of Dr. Rosemary Reill of Concordia University, agrees.
“Our culture is very bad at helping people with grief. We think the thing to do is to move straight on to happier things and forget about it. »
However, according to her, “the worst thing to do is not to talk about it.” “We have to break the silence,” she says.
By inviting the population to discover the different works created by these families in recent months, Rosa Caporicci hopes that the public will listen to the bereaved parents.
In Canada, each year, nearly 100,000 couples face perinatal loss, whether early (during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy) or late (between 21 weeks of pregnancy and the first 6 weeks of life). . However, parents who experience this ordeal feel terribly alone, says Marion Fréchette.
“Bereaved parents are like other parents. We have the impression that they don’t want to talk about it, that it will hurt them more, that it will hurt them. But this is not the case. Like any parent, we want to share our memories. The difficulty with perinatal loss is that there are very few of them, but they are precious,” emphasizes Rosa Caporicci.
“Mourning doesn’t swallow up people who listen,” adds Marion Fréchette.
As World Perinatal Bereavement Awareness Day takes place this Sunday, the psychotherapist would like Quebec legislators to provide more support to bereaved parents.
In his eyes, it is not normal for a father to have to return to work quickly after the loss of his baby, because benefits from the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan stop at the end of the second week following the death of the baby. Last May, Quebec Solidaire MP Sol Zanetti sponsored a petition to have bereavement leave recognized for the parent who did not carry the child.
Rosa Caporicci would also like Quebec to follow the example of Ontario which, since 2015, has funded research related to perinatal bereavement.
Until then, Marion Fréchette and she hope that initiatives like the (un)expected Project or the lighting this Sunday of the Olympic Stadium mast on this World Perinatal Bereavement Awareness Day will help to highlight this issue that society tries, according to their experience, to keep in the shadows.