In his professional life, Shawn Collins works from the left side (logic, facts) of his brain as a Rolls-Royce engineer in Indianapolis. But as a father he’s working from the right side (emotions, relationships) to respond to three miscarriages that he and his wife, Kristine, have suffered.
The result is his little book that offers a rare male voice in a grief conversation that more often engages mothers rather than fathers. The title: Letters to My Unborn Children: Meditations on the Silent Grief of Miscarriage (Quill House Publishers, 2012). The letters reflect the fears of many parents: How will a child change my life? Will I be a good father? Or mother? Am I parent if my child dies before we meet?
Collins conveys this simple truth: We can move forward when we work through emotions and grief using a written, reflective discipline.
“I have changed, perhaps for the better,” Collins writes to the first child he and his wife lost. “Your mom and I have grown closer together through this. To my earlier shrouded fear of lack of emotions, I found I have been able to grieve. I would trade those things in an instant to have your life back, and to continue that miraculous journey to fatherhood that was so cruelly cut short.”
Collins used miscarriage-focused online support groups to help shape the book. “Very few resources help fathers dealing with miscarriages,” he noted.
“Your book put words to my experience,” wrote one reader.
“I wish I had it when I lost my child,” added a mother.
Collins began journaling as a child in Kenya, where his parents were missionaries. He uses his Christian faith to face his grief more directly, but he avoids offering simple answers to suffering.
“We will not say God planned the miscarriages, or that our three living children remove the pain of losing our unborn children,” he writes. “We do want to speak into the disharmony that the miscarriages represented. But the beauty we create comes at the cost of great pain.”
He also integrates his left brain strengths to respond to the grief.
“I’ve written about a right-brain topic, but I approached the mechanics of publishing in a left-brain way,” he said.
He uses charts and graphs to discern how the book is helping people in different circumstances, usually with the common ground of grief over death.
The book might claim a spot in the fatherhood movement—men who want to be in touch with their emotions and stay close to their children. He also offers a very subtle pro-life message, without waving a banner. He just assumes that children in the womb are human beings.
Yet his letters have a simple, but profound purpose—to grieve in public so that others might not feel as lonely in their grief.