An Interview with Ann Douglas

 

Best Life Transition:

Becoming a mother. I love being a mother. Of course, it has its challenges. What meaningful life experience doesn’t? But becoming a mother has enriched my life in ways I never could have even imagined in my pre-kid days. It has also made me a kinder, more patient, less selfish person.

Most Challenging Life Transition:

Losing a baby through stillbirth. My daughter Laura, who would have been my fourth child, was stillborn on October 9, 2006, as the result of an umbilical cord knot. Coping with our grief about her death was a major challenge for our entire family. (Our other children were 5, 7, and 8 when Laura was stillborn.) 11 1/2 months after we buried Laura, we welcomed Ian into our lives.

I also found it very difficult–and very painful–to work through the grief associated with my mother’s sudden and unexpected death (from lung cancer, at age 63). My mother had suffered from a particularly severe case of bipolar disorder for a number of years. She had finally found some relief from her mental health concerns during the last year or two of her life. And then she died. I was left to grieve the loss of the hopes and dreams I had harboured for a happier future with my mother and to sort through a lot of difficult feelings about the mother she had been in the past. It was a classic case of complicated grief.

Best Advice You Received During a Life Transition:

Image: Ann Douglas

Image: Ann Douglas

That grief is patient: it will wait for you. You can either deal with your grief now or you can deal with your grief later. What you can’t do is run away and try to hide from it. The only way to lessen the pain of grief is to deal with those painful emotions head-on: to walk through the fire, as the midwife who helped me to deal with the shock of my baby’s stillbirth put it.

Most Important Lesson Learned from a Life Transition:

I am a strong and resilient person. Surviving grief has taught me that I am a much stronger person than I might otherwise have imagined. And having lived through these types of experiences has taught me to be more compassionate to others. If someone is angry or unkind, critical or judgmental, I wonder what has wounded that person. I don’t just think of them as a “bad” person. I am no longer satisfied with pat answers or simple solutions. I know how complicated life can be because I have seen how complicated grief can be.

Best Way to Think about Life Transitions:

“This too shall pass.” Nothing is forever. This mantra reminds you to savour the joy of a perfect day and it gives you the strength to weather the storms on a day that might otherwise be too much to handle.

What Makes Life Transitions Easier for You:

Reaching out to people who have been through a similar experience and who truly understand what I am going through. Hearing about their experiences gives me a rough idea of the lay of the land as I prepare to make my own journey.

Being as informed as I can be about my options before I make key decisions. That way, I won’t have to second-guess those decisions after the fact. I can feel comfortable knowing that I made the best possible decisions, given the information I had at the time. That’s all I can reasonably ask of myself.


This interview originally appeared on The Life Change Network and is reprinted with the permission of interviewer Deana Ryan.