Everyday Inspirations: Ginny Williams

October 25, 2010
I recently met with Ginny Williams at a locally-owned coffee shop in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland. She courageously shared her story about living life after losing her son Ben in 2003.  She is in the process of writing a book about her son’s death and plans to provide resources for women who have lost their infants and children.
It was a beautiful autumn morning when I met Ginny for coffee. The shop was filled with students, entrepreneurs and stay-at-home moms and we luckily found a comfortable table in the midst of things. It was there, underneath their voluminous voices, that we spoke aloud of things only whispered by most people.
Please share your recent experience with loss in your life.
It was the end of 2003 and I was thirty-nine weeks and fours days pregnant. I was scheduled for a routine medical examination and decided to go by myself. My husband stayed home with our daughter, who was three at that time. To summarize, I arrived to my appointment and they couldn’t find my baby’s heart beat. I was told that I had to be induced, as the baby had passed away. I called my husband and asked him to come to the hospital because I wanted to do it that day. My son Benjamin Thomas was born on December 31, 2003. At his birth, we discovered that the umbilical cord had a knot in it.
What did you experience after a death so tragic?
We had a funeral and had his body cremated. No one really knew what to say. We’d go places and see people we knew and they wouldn’t say anything to us. I just remember silence during the months after Ben’s death. Another friend said, “Oh! You’ll have another baby. You will have another.” I was in such shock at that time, and wanted to just scream and yell at her, but didn’t respond. The logical part of me knew that she didn’t know what to say and just blurted that out. So many people said the wrong things. I just wanted them to say “I’m so sorry and I don’t know what to say.”  After Ben’s death, people were afraid to tell us they were pregnant or had a baby. We were the reminder that not everything goes well. We were the reminder that they didn’t want to see. It was like we were social pariahs. 


How were the first six months after Ben’s death?
My oldest child Charlotte was three and she was the reason my husband and I woke up every morning. She was the only reason. It was very hard to parent when we were so overwhelmed. She’d see us crying and come over and say, “Are you crying about your baby, Mama?”  Charlotte would tell us that we had to dance to make Ben happy up in Heaven. We’d talk about him, pretend dance with him, or make something for him. It was very challenging to talk so much about him, especially when I didn’t feel like talking at all. Ben’s death also put a huge strain on my marriage and my relationship with God. It just ripped my “normal” apart and I had to slowly learn how to live in a new normal.  


What have you learned from your experience with loss?
We don’t talk about death enough in the United States. There are so many misconceptions about the loss of my baby. I couldn’t understand how Ben could die. I thought the chance of experiencing a stillbirth was one in a million. Only after Ben’s death did I learn that one in 115 pregnant women will have stillborn babies – that one every twenty minutes worldwide.  Did you know that 26,000 still births happen every year in the United States? This needs to be acknowledged!  We need research to change outcomes. 
Now I approach people differently who have lost a loved one. I don’t have all the answers about death and loss, but their loss needs to be acknowledged. And just because someone dies doesn’t mean they’re not in your life anymore. Ben’s in my life everyday.


What advice would you share with someone who just has lost an infant or child?
Don’t let anyone tell you to get over it or to move on! People are going to say stupid things, but they are really just afraid. You need to grieve and mourn the firsts: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, holidays, the first anniversary – and you need to grieve losing all those things. It’s o.k. to leave your baby's room just as it is for as long as you want. I didn’t go in it for about six months. Make sure you have someone to talk to! If you feel like you need it, check in with support groups and professional help. Know that it will be extremely hard on your marriage and your partner may grieve differently than you.


What advice would you share with someone who is supporting a friend or family member who is grieving the death of their infant or child?
Keep it simple -just say that you’re sorry and nothing else. Remember those big days like Mother’s Day or the anniversary and give your friend a call or send a gift or flowers. Don’t be afraid to say their baby’s name. Let them know that their baby isn’t forgotten.


Everyday Inspirations interview conducted with Ginny Williams by Michele McBride on September 29, 2010.  All rights reserved.