The Pain of Losing a Life


When you find out you’re having a baby, your whole world seems to change instantly.

At least, it did for me.

You start looking ahead at the world with your child in it. When you think of the days and months in front of you — you think of your child with you, summer holidays, Christmas, family get-togethers, life with your child becomes very real long before your child enters this world.

I was covering a mayoral election at the time of my first pregnancy, Nancy Smith versus Jacquelin Holzman in the early 90s. I was working long hours at the Sun and loving it. The day immediately following the election, after being up half the night, I went to what I thought was going to be a routine appointment with my obstetrician. I was about four months along and was so nonchalant about the appointment, it never even occurred to me to even ask my then-husband to attend. But I was beyond excited (though feeling a little guilty I hadn’t thought to ask my husband to attend) when the doctor said we were going to listen to the heartbeat.

And then there was silence.
Horrible, horrible silence.

At 58 years of age, there’s lots of things I’ve forgotten. That morning isn’t one of them. I can still remember the doctor telling me that there were parts of his job that were very difficult. And this was one of them. Then he told me the harsh reality that I could barely comprehend, that I heard through the confusing fog around me.

My baby had died.
My baby had died inside of me without me even having any idea there was something wrong.

The guilt was tremendous, fearing my long hours of work had hurt the child I was carrying. The doctor called it a missed abortion, a term I hated then and still do now. It’s described as the fetus dying, but a miscarriage hasn’t occurred.

I’m in no way suggesting my pain is the same as the Karlssons. Everyone’s experiences are different and you can’t compare pain. But I do know that losing a child can be devastating. And when I lost the baby inside me, there was nothing anyone could say that was the least bit comforting to me, some of it in many ways was hurtful – though I knew the love and caring was true.

It’s God’s way, it was meant to be, you’ll have another child.

Just words. I’d lost a child who was very real to me. And though just a few months old inside my body, my child had taken on a life. And my life had started revolving around this unborn child.

Like the rest of this city and surely much farther geographically than that, my heart is breaking for Erik and Melinda Karlsson.
And this special couple is having to deal with their grief so very publicly, in a way I can’t even begin to imagine. That they understand the love of this city, so much so that they shared the picture of their stillborn son Axel’s tiny feet — amazing.

Ottawa can be such a caring society, we embrace the Karlssons, a couple most of us don’t even know. And we embrace them in their good times and in this very incredibly sad time.

Their pain is very personal, very private and there’s nothing anyone can say that will help at this point. It’s a grieving period that not all the sage words in the world can help.



  1. Mine was at 16 weeks, at an ultrasound, where the u/s tech said “you’re at 6 weeks, right?” Then immediately clammed up when I said it was 16 weeks. My baby had died at 6 weeks but had stayed there. My body still had pregnancy hormones since it hadn’t figured out yet that the baby was dead. They thankfully put me to sleep to deliver that dead baby.

    I felt so inadequate and so guilty because before knowing I was pregnant I had seen the doctor to get back on the pill because I had realized that I really shouldn’t get pregnant since I was thinking of ending my marriage.

    In hindsight, it’s good that I didn’t have a child since I did end up ending the marriage. But although at first I had been disappointed to be pregnant, then I was thrilled with it and that baby was real so I still think of it.

    My situation is nowhere as terrible as the Karlsson’s but my heart breaks for them.

  2. Thank you for writing such a courageous and painful article. Hopefully it will provide solace for families suffering the same type of loss.

  3. My daughter had a miscarriage at three months with her first pregnancy. I had been so excited for this child, already had a name, bought blankets and clothing, dreamed of the days to come that the shock was very real for me. Much worse for my daughter, of course, but difficult for all of us. She now has a beautiful 11-year-old daughter who is the light of her life and mine. But secretly I wonder about who that child would have been and “she” is never out of my mind. I cannot imagine the pain of the Karlssons and would do anything to make it go away.

  4. Thank you for sharing what must have been the most difficult news that you have ever heard. You are a very strong individual and by sharing this, I am sure that it is helping other people who have gone through similar devastating situations.

  5. “I will never Forget the Moment your heart Stopped and Mine kept Beating ”
    – Angela Miller

    Strength and character is tempered in fire like steel, and you Sue, are the Steel.
    My Sincerest Condolences. And Best Wishes.

  6. What you and others have had to go through is life-shattering. I feel sad for anyone having to live through this loss.

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