by Claudia Ravaldi

“We left the neonatal ward with empty arms, desperate, without a future and without support, alone, with an immense emptiness inside.”

Empty arms hurt.

There is even a syndrome, called “the empty arms syndrome” in which women, a few hours after the birth of a child that they cannot hold in their arms, experience painful and annoying symptoms (from spasms to tingling, from cramps to paresthesias. miscellaneous): what do I do with a couple of empty arms, I said, on March 14, 2006, that I would tear off those useless arms. I still didn’t even know that those pains in my arms had a name. I still didn’t even know I was a grieving parent. There was no time to address the subject. In fact, in the hospital there was talk of future children, of future pregnancies, of trying again soon. There was no time, there was no mental space, neither of the individuals, nor of the entire team, to offer us the space to understand what was happening in the here and now. It was happening that I had given birth to a dead child at full term. It was happening that my body was proceeding as expected to take care of the baby, who was not there, and was signaling impatiently the change of course. It was happening that they were talking to us about the future, but we could not even see the next day, because we were still. In the void of mourning.

Years later, it still happens, it still happens too often, that parents tell us the same exact feelings and the same exact dynamics; empty arms despair, the feeling of lack of perspective and of the future, the absence of support, loneliness, the emptiness that you eat from inside.

Yet, it takes very little.

One could begin by offering a mental space, even before a physical one, to every grieving parent. A space that is an opportunity for listening, reflection and also a container for an apparently ungovernable anguish.

When a good operator sees that you are getting lost, he shows you the way back home.

A good operator knows the roads that bereaved parents travel and at the right time, knows how to give the right directions.

Step by step.

Thanks to the good operators I know.

Thanks to those who study maps and always learn new ones.

Thanks to those who manage not to get lost, despite not receiving any information.

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