It’s Anxiety Week - Save 20% on our Managing Postpartum Anxiety course with code anxiety20.
LEARN MORE
It’s Anxiety Week - Save 20% on our Managing Postpartum Anxiety course with code anxiety20.
LEARN MORE

February 20, 2024

July 26, 2023

The Journey of a Bereaved Parent: Stefania Thomson’s Story of Navigating Grief and Loss

E:
183
with
Stefania Thomson
Bereavement and Grief Advocate

What You'll Learn

  • Jack’s Story
  • The Complex Journey of Grief
  • How the Pandemic Impacted Maternal Mental Health
  • What to Say (and Not Say) to a Bereaved Parent
  • Making the Decision to Have Another Baby After Loss
  • Resources for Bereaved Parents

Trigger Warning: This post contains the story of a loss of a child and the journey of grief following. 

The loss of a child is something that nobody can understand unless they experience it. But bereaved parents need support, validation, and awareness. 

Today, I’m joined by bereavement and grief advocate Stefania Thomson as she shares her story of navigating loss and discusses how to support bereaved parents. 

Shining a Light on the Community

The journey of motherhood doesn’t look the same for all of us. And as part of my mission at Momwell, I think it’s important to hold space for all moms. 

One of the ways I want to do this is by highlighting stories from the community—especially those stories that can help empower and guide moms on their struggles. 

I wanted to speak with Stefania, not just to shine a light on her story and the work that she’s doing, but also to help other moms who are coping with grief and loss.

If that’s you, I want you to know that your feelings are valid and your journey matters. If that isn’t you, I want you to know how to lift up and support bereaved parents and show up the way they need. 

I am so glad to have this opportunity to talk with Stefania about her experience, her feelings, and her grief journey as a bereaved parent. 

Jack’s Story

When Stefania’s son Jack was almost six months old, he developed a persistent fever. At first, she and her husband assumed it was teething. But as it progressed, it became apparent that something else was happening—Jack’s fingernails and lips were starting to turn blue. 

They took Jack to the emergency room, and then to a pediatric clinic, where the doctors suspected some sort of virus. They sent him home and everyone assumed he would recover quickly. But before long, Stefania noticed he was lethargic and his fever wasn’t improving. 

They went back to the hospital, where they started an IV and fluids. The doctors also started to do blood work. Stefania and her husband assumed this was routine, until eventually two doctors came into the room and told her that they believed Jack had leukemia. 

Jack was transported to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. They quickly ruled out leukemia, but were unsure of what he had. Doctors began running tests for rare diseases, eventually diagnosing him with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis—a rare disorder affecting white blood cells. 

The disease was an autosomal recessive condition, meaning that though Stefania and her husband hadn’t known before, each of their children had a 25% chance of developing it. 

The only cure was a blood marrow transplant. They were able to determine that Jack’s older sister, two years old at the time, was a match. Stefania and her husband explained the situation to their daughter as best as they could, and she was a trooper about the procedure. 

But devastatingly, the procedure was ultimately unsuccessful. Stefania will never get clear answers about exactly what happened with the transplant, which at first showed some signs of success. Jack passed away in February of 2020, five months after the diagnosis.  

The Complex Journey of Grief

Stefania shared the complexities of navigating her emotions, both during Jack’s period of illness and after losing him. She went from being on autopilot during Jack’s hospital stay, juggling logistics and realities while trying not to fall apart, to being fully grief-stricken after his loss. In fact, her memories of the immediate aftermath and the funeral are very sparse. 

This is very common when experiencing grief or any form of loss. Losing someone we love is one of the toughest blows life can deal us, and as moms, we're often expected to be the pillars of strength for our families. 

But grief doesn’t follow a linear path–and we can’t will ourselves through it.

But grief doesn’t follow a linear path–and we can’t will ourselves through it. Some days, we might feel like we're slowly healing, finding our way back to a new normal. But then, out of nowhere, a wave of sadness crashes over us, and it feels like we're back to square one. 

It's frustrating, confusing, and sometimes even guilt-inducing. But it’s important to give ourselves space to feel all the feelings. When we grieve, we might feel angry or numb on some days, while other days we might find ourselves fondly reminiscing about good times. 

The key is to give yourself permission to experience the full range of emotions that come with grief, without judgment or self-criticism. Grief doesn’t have a destination and ebbing and flowing in your emotions is not a sign of weakness. Allow yourself the time and space to process your feelings. Surround yourself with a support network that understands and accepts that grief doesn't fit into neat little boxes.

Stefania experienced the entire range, a roller coaster of emotions that came and went. She recalled moments in her journey of going through the motions of what needed to be done, feeling numbness, experiencing anger, and viewing her daughter as her hero—the shining light that kept her going when she wasn’t sure how to move forward. 

How the Pandemic Impacted Maternal Mental Health

After the loss of Jack, Stefania felt alone, and that grew worse very quickly. Just a few weeks after Jack passed, the pandemic shut everything down, further isolating her and taking away many opportunities for support. 

Grieving during the pandemic was extremely difficult. Stefania was unable to spend time with much of her support system. 

This isolation is something shared by many of us during the pandemic, and it has impacted maternal mental health on a large scale. Moms found themselves at home, unable to attend meetups, playdates, or other outlets for connection and companionship. 

Meanwhile, moms were bearing the burden of more invisible labor than ever, often without hands-on support from family members or friends. 

The rate of postpartum depression tripled, and moms were more likely to report anxiety, stress, lack of quality sleep, and an increase in Mom Rage

A lack of support and a sense of isolation are risk factors for the mental health of moms in general. When combined with loss or grief, it was even more of a struggle. And with a lack of access to health care, this caused a very clear crisis for moms. 

The isolation was extremely difficult for Stefania. As she healed, she turned to social media to offer support and community to moms everywhere who were struggling with loss and grief. 

What to Say (and Not Say) to a Bereaved Parent

When someone we know is grieving the loss of a loved one, we are often uncertain about the best way to respond. 

Sometimes we fall into patterns of toxic positivity, trying to minimize the pain and make everything better. Stefania experienced this many times. 

Sometimes we well-meaning people would say things like:

Jack wouldn’t want you to be sad. 

Or

Just take everything one step at a time. 

But Stefania didn’t find any of that helpful. What she really needed was validation. She wanted to be validated in her entire spectrum of feelings—anger, resentment, fear, and depression. 

Stefania said that one of the most comforting statements she received was simply, “I’m thinking of you.” She pointed out that we might not think that would have an impact, but for her, it lightened the loneliness. 

There is no “right thing” to say that will take away the pain.

There is no “right thing” to say that will take away the pain. People want to fix grief or minimize it—but that isn’t realistic. Instead, we can support and validate our loved ones in their feelings and their grief journey. 

Making the Decision to Have Another Baby After Loss

Somehow, day by day, Stefania continued on. She will always grieve—there is no end destination. But over time, she and her husband began to reclaim some capacity. Ultimately arriving at a place where they felt ready to have another baby—not to replace Jack, but to continue to grow their family

The decision to have another baby after experiencing the loss of a child is an incredibly complex and deeply personal one. The grief and pain that come with losing a child are unimaginable, and navigating the path forward can be complex. 

For some families, the desire to continue growing a family can be positive and healing. The thought of bringing new life into the world can be a source of comfort and a way to honor the memory of the child they lost.

On the other hand, the fear of going through the same pain and loss again can be paralyzing. The trauma of a previous loss may cast a shadow of doubt and apprehension over the decision. 

There is no right or perfect time to have another baby–and the decision is likely to come with a wide range of emotions, including doubt, guilt, fear, grief, and relief. Just like making the decision to have another baby after experiencing birth trauma, it’s ideal to seek help from a therapist and make the decision from a place of healing if possible. 

Resources for Bereaved Parents

Stefania explained that what bereaved parents really need is connection, relatability, and support. That’s why she built her community to offer a safe space for moms going through a loss. 

It’s vital for bereaved parents to have access to the support they need. 

Other important resources for bereaved parents include:

  • Compassionate Friends: A support organization that offers online forums, local support groups, and a wealth of educational materials to help parents navigate their grief journey.
  • GriefShare: A grief recovery support group program that offers resources and support for individuals who have experienced the death of a loved one. 
  • MISS Foundation: A nonprofit organization that provides counseling referrals, educational materials, and retreats for bereaved parents. 
  • Bereaved Parents of the USA: A national organization dedicated to supporting parents and families after the death of a child, with online and in-person support groups, a helpline, and resources to help parents navigate their grief journey.

If you or someone you know has experienced a loss, visit Stefania’s platform or one of these valuable resources. Find your community. Share your journey on your terms. And take comfort from those around you. 

I’m so grateful to Stefania for sharing her story with us. I know for her that grief is going to be part of her life forever—she will never be done grieving her son. But she has taken her experience and turned it into an outlet to ensure that other moms in her situation don’t have to feel alone. 

If you are grieving or have experienced  trauma, our mom therapists are here for you. Book a FREE 15 minute virtual consult today.

NEWSLETTER

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Tags:

Child loss, Grief, Trauma, Toxic positivity

Stage:

Pregnancy, Postpartum, Motherhood

Share Now:

OUR GUEST

Stefania Thomson
Bereavement and Grief Advocate

Stefania Thomson is a wife, mom of three, bereaved parent and a lover of food and honest conversations. As a bereaved parent, Stefania has found a way to live through the pain of grief and navigate the world of child-loss. Through her Instagram platform Home with Stefania (@home.with.stefania), Stefania openly shares the ups and downs of life, the realities of motherhood and what life after loss has looked like for her and her family. She has become a bereavement and grief advocate and helps women and families feel less alone through their grief, motherhood journeys and everyday life. Through story-telling and honest conversations, Stefania encourages others that joy and sadness can be felt simultaneously and that hope lives within ourselves. 

Stefania has shared her story and been featured in Vanity Fair Magazine, has participated in a number of campaigns with the Ronald McDonald House Charities and SickKids Foundation and is a key-note speaker with a message of hope and resiliency.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.
RELATED ARTICLES
February 21, 2024
February 21, 2024
Understanding Postpartum Depression in Dads and Non-Birthing Partners
E:
213
with
Mark Williams
International Advocate for Perinatal Mental Health and Author
February 20, 2024
February 14, 2024
Rekindling Your Sex Life After Baby: Communication Is Key
E:
212
with
Vanessa & Xander Marin
bestselling authors & hosts of the podcast Pillow Talks
February 20, 2024
January 31, 2024
Postpartum Rage vs. Parental Anger: How Social Expectations Create Overwhelmed Moms
E:
210
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder and CEO of Psyched Mommy, licensed clinical psychologist
February 20, 2024
January 24, 2024
You’re Not an Angry Mom: Why We Experience Mom Rage (and What We Can Learn From It)
E:
209
with
Minna Dubin
Author of Mom Rage: The Everyday Crisis of Modern Motherhood
February 20, 2024
January 17, 2024
What Causes Mommy Brain? The Role of the Invisible Load on Forgetfulness and Brain Fog
E:
208
with
Dr. Jodi Pawluski
neuroscientist, psychotherapist and author
February 20, 2024
January 3, 2024
How Parents Can Avoid Information Overload: Maintaining Confidence in Our Decision-Making
E:
206
with
Cara Goodwin
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
December 6, 2023
Navigating Different Sex Drives in Parenthood: What Impacts Libido and How to Reconnect
E:
202
with
Dr. Lauren Fogel Mersy & Dr. Jennifer Vencill
Licensed Psychologists and Authors
February 20, 2024
November 29, 2023
Prioritizing the Invisible Load of Motherhood: Valuing Our Own Time and Letting Go of Mental Labor
E:
201
with
Whitney Casares
Founder and CEO of Modern Mommy Doc
February 20, 2024
November 22, 2023
Erica’s Husband Reflects on Sharing the Invisible Load
E:
200
with
Frenel Djossa
Erica’s Husband & Co-Founder of Momwell
February 20, 2024
November 15, 2023
Breaking Generational Trauma Cycles: Healing Our Past and Moving Forward in Motherhood
E:
199
with
Dr. Mariel Buqué
Psychologist and the author of the book Break the Cycle: A Guide to Healing Intergenerational Trauma
February 20, 2024
November 8, 2023
Is There Such a Thing as Healthy Perfectionism? Reframing the Concept of “Perfect” in Motherhood
E:
198
with
Katherine Morgan Schafler
Psychotherapist and author
February 20, 2024
November 1, 2023
Breaking Out of the Default Parent Role: How to Communicate with Your Partner and Change Patterns
E:
197
with
Erin & Stephen Mitchell
Founders of Couples Counseling for Parents
February 20, 2024
October 18, 2023
Rebuilding Connection and Intimacy After Baby: How Family Systems Can Help Us Navigate Relationship Challenges
E:
195
with
Aaron Steinberg
Co-Founder of Babyproofing Your Relationship
February 20, 2024
October 11, 2023
Embracing the 7 Types of Rest: Why Moms Are Exhausted and What Actually Helps
E:
194
with
Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith
Board-Certified internal medicine physician and award-winning author
February 20, 2024
October 4, 2023
Interpreting Newborn Hunger Cues and Sleepy Signs: How to Learn Your Baby’s Needs
E:
193
with
Sharon Mazel
Author of Bite-Sized Parenting: Your Baby’s First Year
February 20, 2024
September 27, 2023
Understanding Overfunctioning in Relationships: How to Change Dynamics After Baby
E:
192
with
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish
Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Expert
February 20, 2024
September 20, 2023
Managing Mom Anxiety: Why Millennial Moms Are So Anxious and How to Overcome Our Fears
E:
191
with
Dr. Lauren Cook
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
September 13, 2023
Embracing Power as Moms: Reshaping Dynamics In and Out of the Home
E:
190
with
Claire Shipman
NYT Bestselling Author
February 20, 2024
September 6, 2023
How to Raise Confident Kids: Breaking Cycles of Negative Self-Esteem
E:
189
with
Dr. Vanessa Lapointe
Founder of The North Star Developmental Clinic
February 20, 2024
August 23, 2023
Understanding Sensory Self-Care: How Overstimulated Moms Can Regulate and Regain Calm
E:
187
with
Holly Peretz
Pediatric Occupational Therapist
February 20, 2024
August 16, 2023
Navigating Matrescence: The Roller Coaster of Becoming a Mom
E:
186
with
Dr. Catherine Birndorf
Co-Founder and Medical Director of The Motherhood Center of New York
February 20, 2024
August 2, 2023
Establishing Family Values: How to Identify What Matters and Avoid Comparison
E:
184
with
Mell & Joe Hashey
Founders of Strong Family Co.
February 20, 2024
July 26, 2023
The Journey of a Bereaved Parent: Stefania Thomson’s Story of Navigating Grief and Loss
E:
183
with
Stefania Thomson
Bereavement and Grief Advocate
February 20, 2024
June 21, 2023
Myths About Toddler Behavior: How to Reclaim the "Terrible Twos"
E:
178
with
Dr. Cathryn Tobin
Pediatrician
February 20, 2024
April 26, 2023
Working Through Conflict About Growing Your Family: What to Do When Only One Partner Wants Another Baby
E:
170
with
Elizabeth Earnshaw
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
March 29, 2023
Birth Trauma Part 2: Facing Pregnancy After a Traumatic Birth
E:
166
with
Kayleigh Summers
Clinical Social Worker
February 20, 2024
March 22, 2023
Birth Trauma Part 1: How Birth Trauma Impacts Our Family Decision Making
E:
165
with
Kayleigh Summers
Clinical Social Worker
February 20, 2024
March 15, 2023
Real Self-Care for Moms: Why Mindset Matters More Than Massages
E:
164
with
Dr. Pooja Lakshmin
Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
February 8, 2023
Overcoming Mom Guilt: Rewriting the Motherhood Contract and Charting Your Own Path
E:
159
with
Libby Ward
Founder of Diary of an Honest Mom
February 20, 2024
January 18, 2023
Resolving Conflict in Your Relationship After Baby
E:
156
with
Sheina Schochet
Mental Health Counselor
February 20, 2024
January 4, 2023
Reestablishing Sex After Baby: Why Communication Matters and How to Create a New Normal
E:
154
with
Travis Goodman
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
December 28, 2022
Coping During Postpartum with No Family Support: When Reality Clashes with Expectations
E:
153
with
Emmalee Bierly and Jennifer Chaiken
Founders of ShrinkChicks
February 20, 2024
November 23, 2022
The Mental Load of Motherhood: How to Address the Imbalance of Household Labour
E:
148
with
Gemma Hartley
Journalist and Author
February 20, 2024
November 16, 2022
Surviving the Baby Witching Hour: How to Cope With Colicky and Fussy Babies
E:
147
with
Dr. Whitney Casares
Pediatrician
February 20, 2024
November 2, 2022
How To Deal With Toxic Positivity As a Mom: What To Do When Someone Invalidates Your Feelings
E:
145
with
Whitney Goodman
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 19, 2022
Returning to Work After Maternity Leave: Navigating the Emotions, Difficulties, and Challenges
E:
143
with
Dr. Cassidy Freitas
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 12, 2022
How to Know if You Have Postpartum Anxiety: Red Flags to Watch for in Pregnancy, Birth, and After Baby
E:
142
with
Dr. Sarah Oreck
Reproductive Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
October 5, 2022
Protecting Maternal Sleep: The Relationship Between Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression
E:
141
with
Dr. Nicole Leistikow
Reproductive Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
September 21, 2022
Encouraging Independent Play: Why Unstructured Play Matters and How to Foster It
E:
139
with
Susie Allison
Founder of Busy Toddler
February 20, 2024
September 14, 2022
Dividing Labour Fairly in the Home: Redistributing the Mental Load of Motherhood
E:
138
with
Dr. Darcy Lockman
Author and Psychologist
February 20, 2024
August 31, 2022
Why Does a Messy House Give Me Anxiety? How to Stress Less About Cleaning and Keep Your House Functioning
E:
136
with
KC Davis
@domesticblisters on TikTok and Founder of Struggle Care
February 20, 2024
August 3, 2022
Overcoming Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: Why Support Matters and How to Find Resources to Help
E:
132
with
Dr. Wendy Davis
Executive Director of PSI
February 20, 2024
July 27, 2022
Overcoming Working Mom Guilt: Why Moms Should Never Be Ashamed to Be Ambitious
E:
131
with
Lara Bazelon
Law Professor and Author
February 20, 2024
February 16, 2022
What is Matrescence? The Transition into Motherhood (And Why Being a New Mom is Hard)
E:
108
with
Dr. Katayune Kaeni
Perinatal Psychologist
February 20, 2024
February 2, 2022
Discover Your Personal Core Values
E:
106
with
Dr. Cassidy Freitas
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
January 26, 2022
When Mommy Rage Strikes: How to Prevent and Control the Anger
E:
105
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
January 5, 2022
Sleep Training Doesn't Have To Be Scary
E:
102
with
Dr. Aubrie DeBear
Founder of Baby Sleep Dr.
February 20, 2024
January 19, 2022
Carrying the Mental Load: How to Redistribute the Burden and Give Moms More Freedom
E:
104
with
Eve Rodsky
New York Times Bestselling Author
February 20, 2024
January 12, 2022
Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression: How to Spot the Signs So You Can Seek Support
E:
103
with
Dr. Kristina Deligiannidis
Reproductive Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
December 29, 2021
Decluttering: The Secret of an Easy to Tidy Home
E:
101
with
Katy Wells
Declutter Expert
February 20, 2024
December 22, 2021
100th Episode: Erica’s Husband Tells All
E:
100
with
Frenel Djossa
February 20, 2024
December 15, 2021
The Pressure to Get It Right
E:
99
with
Dr. Jen Douglas
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
December 8, 2021
Learning to Fight Fair
E:
98
with
Elizabeth Earnshaw
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
November 24, 2021
Overcoming Gender Disappointment
E:
96
with
Dr. Renée Miller
Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
November 17, 2021
Adding a Sibling to Your Family
E:
95
with
Bryana Kappadakunnel
Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
November 10, 2021
Regulating Your Nervous System
E:
94
with
Dr. Quincee Gideon
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
November 3, 2021
Setting Boundaries With Moms & Mothers-In-Law
E:
93
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
October 27, 2021
Co-Parenting and Blending Families
E:
92
with
Abbey Williams
Therapist