real life

"She may have died - but my love for her did not."

Heavily pregnant Larissa Genat was looking forward to the impending arrival of her daughter Ariella when the unthinkable happened: her unborn baby passed away at 39 weeks gestation, with no explanation.

Wracked by grief, Ms Genat soon took up writing in an effort to heal.

Three years on from the sudden loss of her precious daughter, Ms Genat now blogs for Sands, a non-profit organisation that helps parents cope with the death of a baby.

This Valentine’s Day, the bereaved mum, who is married to Marcus and has two other children, Levi William and Seanna, has reflected on her grief and enduring love for Ariella.

“Love. It was the first thing I felt as I caught Ariella and lifted her out of the water onto my chest. At that very moment, I didn’t care that she was stillborn – all I felt was love. A love so overwhelming that it actually felt like a physical wave hitting me. After the most tumultuous two days of my life, she was finally in my arms. A daughter. The most beautiful girl I had ever seen. And all I could think about was how much I loved her,” she began.

“Soon enough, that overwhelming love manifested itself in overwhelming grief. How could it not? Our beautiful girl would not grow up in our arms. It was quite a while before the grief began to seem less overwhelming and become bearable,” Ms Genat continued.

“I still love Ariella just as much as I did three years ago at her birth but that love has evolved. It’s different, parenting a child in Heaven. I didn’t know how I could do it or what it would look like. But I’m learning. Instead of loving her toddle, first words or new skills, I love her impact on the world. I love her for the friends she has brought into my live and for the hearts her story has touch. I love how she changes the world each time someone donates in her memory or reaches out to a bereaved friend because of what her story taught them. My little girl is impacting the world despite not being here! How amazing, and what a privilege to be her mama.”

Ms Genat said her love for her daughter was more “settled” now, three years on from her death.

“What does my love for Ariella look like three years on from the initial rush of overwhelming love and then grief? It’s evolved into a more settled love. Of course, it expresses itself differently at various times of the year (for example, grief is the dominant expression on her Heaven Day) but it usually feels settled, just like my love for my living children. In the words of one of my favourite songs: “lost you before I found you, gone before you came. But I love you just the same.” She may have died but my love for her did not. Ariella Jade – always and forever my loved baby.”

Tragically, Ms Genat’s story is not unique. One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, and six Australian babies are stillborn every day, while 737 families will lose a baby within 28 days of birth each year.

But thankfully, support is available.

If you are affected by the death of a baby, please call Sands on 1300 0 72637 and talk to a Volunteer Parent Supporter or visit www.sands.org.au.