Creative Acts of Healing:
After a Baby Dies
About the making of Creative Acts of Healing: After a Baby Dies by Judith van Praag.
Ever since I discovered Anais Nin's diaries and novels in the mid 70's, I've kept my own journals. The idea that a writer could base her oeuvre on her own, and her friends' adventures and experiences, was appealing to me. Initially I wrote my journal entries in Dutch, but in 1992, when I met Gary (who would become my husband), I had already changed to English. Thanks to my journaling, we've got records of our life together. My journals cover our courting time, and Gary's move to the Netherlands; my pregnancies, and our losses; our move back to the United States, and finally our settling down in Seattle. Without a doubt the most dramatic entries date back to January of 1993, when Ariane Eira, our beautiful little girl died during the last five minutes of her breech delivery at OLVG Hospital in Amsterdam.
Unable to find others who could relate to our loss (in those days there were no support groups for parents who had suffered infant loss in the Netherlands), I looked for reading material but even that was hard to find. How I cherished the magazine clippings we received on the subject of infant loss, one from a friend in the United States, one from a pal in Australia. Not long after Gary and I moved back to the States in January of 1994, I discovered infant loss support groups, and I decided to share my personal account of loss, healing and recovery with other bereaved parents. PAILS of Hope, the newsletter of a group called Pregnancy After Infant Loss, provided the first platform for my writing.
Five years, six re-writes, and numerous revisions later, my manuscript —a combination of journal entries and retrospective writing— was ready. Since the market for a publication focused on infant loss seemed to be too small for a mainstream publisher, a New York book packager and friend suggested I'd publish my book myself. I followed his advice and founded Paseo Press. With the assistance of Terence Clark, Creative Acts of Healing: after a baby dies came off the press in August of 1999.
These days the offering and availability of books about infant loss is much greater than around the time of Gary and my loss. While the reason for wanting to read (or write) a book about the death of a baby remains heart wrenching, it pleases me that reading material for the bereft is so much more readily available. There is after all, great solace to be found in reading another person's account of loss, grief, healing and recovery.
"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection," Anais Nin.
For additional titles see "Find Solace in a Book".
|Samples of comments made by care professionals and other readers:
The Rev. Dr. Richard B. Gilbert BCC, Chaplain at Sherman Hospital (Illinois US): "'What do we do now?' is a question I have heard all too often in working with the bereaved. Bereaved parents can easily become stuck in the horror and terror of what has happened, bouncing aimlessly as they seek meaning, purpose and a hint of a reason to keep on living. Van Praag has brought us a book of action and a book of love. Bringing together simple tasks, art, poetry, words, objects, sensory provocation, images that guide and guidance that produces images and visions of hope, we have a book that brings healing and hope to grieving parents trying to understand what cannot be understood, to heal when healing seems, at best, impossible. 'How creativity brings relief during the grief process is illustrated by my quest to find solace through keeping a journal, writing poetry and letters, making paper, painting, drawing, crafts, sewing and needle work.' (p.1). This is the heart of this fine book, and it will serve well for individual use, for couples, for friends, for groups and in a therapeutic environment. "
Michael Berman M.D., Clinical Professor, Department of OB-GYN, Yale University School of Medicine: "Creative Acts of Healing: after a baby dies will be an important resource for families."
Carlarh, a bereaved mother: "Great to explore your feelings and work through them."
Marlou van Dijck (Netherlands): "After the loss of our full term healthy baby daughter I grabbed all books I could find about infant loss. But this book really touched me. I recognize so much of her feelings, emotions, thoughts... She made me realize that what I felt was normal after the loss of a baby. When I started it I just could not stop reading. Although it was in English (I'm Dutch), it was very readable for me, except for some of her poems, which are very difficult for a foreigner to understand. My husband, who is not such a book reader at all read it too, after I recommended it to him and he loved it. I can recommend it to everyone who has lost a baby, including the people who have to deal with friends or relatives who have lost a baby."
Molly Haarhoff, Librarian (Idaho, USA): "This book is much more than a heartbreakingly honest and moving description of the agonizing months for the author after the death at birth of her daughter Ariane. It also describes her development as an artist; her struggles to maintain a strong relationship with her husband. Judith van Praag is so generous in sharing her feelings with us that she has created a book that will move anyone who has suffered loss--that is to say most readers. By sharing her journal, she also gives unique insight into the spirit of an artist; the joys and challenge of living a creative life. This is a unique book which allows us to share Van Praag's grief, her determination to live the life of the artist, in short, her life. Anyone who reads this book will be enriched by it."
Leilani Montagne (WA, USA): "The author grabbed into the deepest part of my soul through her honesty, straightforwardness, and colorful use of the English language. Not only was I moved emotionally, but given some key information on how to deal with others who face loss of a baby during childbirth. My Pastor husband and I have decided to use the information gleaned from this book in counseling and working with women who hurt after the loss of a child. This is a necessary book for doctors, social workers, ministers/ pastors, counselors, mothers, and anyone desiring to be a parent. Although loss of a child through childbirth is a subject we tend to avoid, it is important for us to aid in the healing process by responding correctly to those who have faced such horror."
Denise Place for The New Times: "... this memoir [which] chronicles the five years after her tragic loss. As a writer and visual artist, she is inherently inquisitive, which permits her to probe deeply into her experience without being self-absorbed. The result is an insightful and articulate record of her emotional awakening, from which others will greatly benefit."
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