Delayed Grief

In most cases, it is natural for shock and grief to set in almost immediately when someone we love dies. In my case, the Raw painful grief began decades later.  My journey is different because everyone’s story and experience is different.

As my life path unfolded, I became a Grief Counselor.  I often repeated:  “There is No Right way or Wrong way to Grieve, Only YOUR way”

My Story:

I was a teenage mother.  My son, Bob, was born on New Year’s Day and he grew up hearing  “The whole world is celebrating your birthday.”  

When he was about 1 year old, I visited another young mom. When I was leaving her home, I heard myself say ” I think I’m going to die during childbirth someday having a C-section”  I startled myself and my friend with that statement.  I thought to myself “Why did I say that?”  and then it went out of my mind for years.

When Bob was 2 yrs old, I welcomed my little girl, Cathi Lynn. I was thrilled.  My family was growing. 2 years later, my 3rd pregnancy lasted 24 weeks. I felt really sick one day and the doctor confirmed he heard no heartbeat. He induced my Stillborn baby girl.

I named this sweet soul Maryann.  No one at the hospital made a big deal of it like they would today.  It was odd and I was sad but I moved on having 2 children to take care of.

A year later, my 4th pregnancy ended suddenly as I was hemorrhaging and after 24 hours the doctor determined he could not save the baby so he induced labor.  I, again was about 24 to 26 weeks pregnant.

My son, Joseph, lived for 3 minutes.  Had today’s procedures been available, my son would have lived.  Again, there was disappointment and sadness but I don’t recall real tough grief.

Two years later… my 5th pregnancy..  This time I had a real premonition that I would die during childbirth.  I remembered the words I uttered years earlier, however, I never thought of them until now.

This terrifying fear stayed with me constantly.  I told no one, neither, my husband or my mother.  Saying it out loud would make it too real. I prayed to Mother Mary and St. Anthony to intervene and ask God for a miracle so I could live and raise my children. Bob was 7 and Cathi Lynn was 5.  I was overwhelmed with anxiety. It was a difficult time.

About 3 weeks before my scheduled C-section, I went into labor and the doctor rushed me into surgery.  

I remember waking up and thinking “I’m alive” My husband Sam and my mother explained what had happened.  My baby son lived 5 1/2 hours before dying.  Because I was bleeding so heavily, the doctor had to perform a hysteroscopy to save my life.  I was 25 years old.

I tried to absorb it all. I lost my baby and I was alive.  I glanced to the left of me and saw a plant on the side table.  It had a St. Anthony statue in it.

I was groggy but realized St. Anthony had answered my prayer through his intercession with Mother Mary. God granted me this miracle.  I could raise my children.  I barely knew the woman who sent the plant.  The statue has sat on my kitchen counter all these years in many different homes.  I often glance and say “Thank You”

Once again, I moved on… sad but don’t recall extreme grief…so grateful I didn’t die.  Grief surfaced slowly for me.  I could never compare my loss to mothers who lost children they had raised and loved.  I seemed to diminish my loss in comparison. However, by doing so, I stuffed my grief.

As time passed, seeing births on TV shows or watching mothers play with their babies in parks evoked emotion and tears. Remembering the circumstances and details of the births and the dates were in my thoughts often. At the time I lost my babies, hospitals were not aware of the importance of helping a woman navigate the feelings of losing a child.  Now, they take pictures of the mother holding her baby.  But, this was the 1950’s.

 I’ve said many times.   “Grief never ends, you learn to live with it” 

 Later Years: Grief Continues

Because I had been a speaker at a meeting of Compassionate Friends, an Organization for Parents who have lost Children,  I was invited to their annual Candlelight dinner.   At the end of the lighting ceremony., the Facilitator said:  “Please stand if you never had an opportunity to hold your baby and HOLD THEM NOW”  Without hesitating, I stood and put my arms in a cradling position as if I was holding my babies and the Sobs gushed out.  It was real..  I’m crying as I type this because I remember that feeling. It was a gut-wrenching reality that I had three children in Heaven that I never held or kissed.  

In 2013, I gave a workshop on “Messages of Hope from Our Children” at the National Gathering of the Bereaved Parents of the USA in Sacramento.  Knowing that I had lost three babies, the Organizer told me that at the end of the 2-day event, they put pictures of the children on a large screen and the parents light a candle for their child.  She asked if I had pictures and I said I didn’t.  She invited me to give the names and dates of my children and she would have them up on the screen so I could be part of the candle ceremony.  It was very gracious of her to include me and a most heartwarming and heart-wrenching experience..  More tears as I lit the candle in memory of my babies.   Large on the big screen:

Name Date of Birth
Maryann Billeci Jan. 22, 1957
Joseph Billeci May 17, 1958
Anthony Billeci April 21, 1960



Scientific facts: 

  • A  Unique set of DNA is present at Fertilization  
  • Week 3  Fetal Heartbeat begins – can move head side to side
  • Week 6  Brain activity begins
  • Week 7 Every essential organ begins to form
  • Week 8  Has Eyelids
  • Week 10 Has Fingernails
  • Week 11  Can kick and stretch
  • Week 12  Reflux and Nerve cells develop and can Hiccup
  • Week 13  Fingernails visible/arms and legs have bendable joints
  • Week 20 Baby can feel Pain
  • At 28 Weeks,  Baby can blink and has eyelashes, eyesight and smell begins

  NOTE;   Female babies have more than 2 Million eggs in their ovaries


  •         I am the Mother of FIVE (2 living, 3 in Heaven)
  •         I am the Grandmother of FOUR
  •         and the GREAT Grandmother of SEVEN 
  •         “Grief and Gratitude walk hand in hand” 


Kathryn Davi-Cardinale is a certified grief counselor and clinical hypnotherapist. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is the author of Joseph–My Son, My Guide: Communications From the Baby I Lost at Birth.


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