Grief Dialogues

Or So They Told Her

This journal article was written to bring acknowledgement to pregnancy and infant loss. Even though I have not personally lost a child, I still feel the acute loss of my brother and have witnessed for decades the pain in my mother’s eyes. I offer this private experience as a token of modest understanding of the suffering of so many men and women. May this post offer you some modest amount of comfort to know that you are not alone.

August 3, 1956 my brother Robert Joseph, Jr. was born. He also died on that day. I was two-years-old and have no recollection of that day other than what my mother told me years later. She spared me the details until she felt I was old enough to hear them. More as a cautionary tale than as a sad story. And every year, on August 3, my mother would say “today your brother would have been 10 years old. Today your brother would have been 18 years old. Today your brother would have been 32 years old. Today your brother would have been 45 years old. That last one, my mother couldn’t speak. She’d lost her ability to communicate verbally due to Parkinson’s but her eyes said it all. They were even sadder on that day than on any of the previous days or even the days after until she died.
Google my brother. He is buried Pohlmann, Robert Joseph Jr, b. 08/03/1956, d. 08/03/1956, bur. 08/03/1956, buried in Black Hills National Cemetery, Plot: E 423, Sturgis, Meade County, South Dakota according to The National Cemetery Administration Records Verification Project.
The cautionary tale my mother told was matter-of-fact, but the fact was not lost on me at the time that men, as a whole, could not be trusted, not men of the church or the medical profession.
My mother had gone to the hospital. She was full-term. I don’t know if she suspected something was wrong. She never told me. In those days all women were anesthetized before delivery. Mom was knocked out cold. She’d never see the baby boy who was born breathing, or so they told her, baptized by a priest, or so they told her, whisked off to a proper burial by my father with said priest in tow, or so they told her.
Buried and on the third hour had his nursery dismantled by my father and the priest long before my mother even awoke from the anesthesia, as if his birth and his death never happened. But it did happen and it broke my mother’s heart every day for the rest of her life.
This past August 3, even though my own mother died over 20 years ago, I know for a fact that my brother, Robert Joseph Pohlmann, Jr. would have been 66-years-old. And so the universe continues to tell me.

Grief Dialogues is offering a free copy of Dr. Kathy White’s book Your Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss: Hope and Healing When You’re No Longer Expecting. If you or someone you know could use this book, please send an email to: with name and mailing address.

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