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Finding Meaning in Grief and Loss

Rubel Triplets

“It’s a boy!” the doctor stated as he held up my newborn. He held up the second baby a few minutes later and declared, “It’s another boy.” It seemed like only a minute before he held up the third baby. I was filled with anticipation as he announced, “It’s a male… triplets!”. In reference to the television series My Three Sons, I assured him that Fred MacMurray would be proud.

Rubel Triplets

Because my pregnancy was high-risk, I was in a maternity ward for high-risk mothers on complete bed rest. Later that day, a nurse came in and helped me sit up in bed, as she was going to bring the babies in for their first feeding. I was worn out and emotionally drained after giving birth to triplets by cesarean, but at the same time, I was excited to see them and have them alone with me for the first time.

I hadn’t given them names yet, so they were being called Triplet #1, Triplet #2, and Triplet #3. “Triplet #1,” the nurse said, as she wheeled in one of the newborns. In that same moment I spotted a young woman, another patient, who was in the room across the hall from mine. She was sitting on her bed facing my room, and as my first baby was brought in, she stared at me with tears streaming down her cheeks. I was excited to see the baby but I was unaware that she had given birth the day before to a baby that was disabled and died during childbirth.

My baby was placed next to my bed and the nurse went to get the second triplet. She reappeared after a brief pause with the second child. “Here’s Triplet #2,” the nurse said excitedly as she came through the door. I observed the young woman across the hall as I looked up to watch the triplet being brought in for his feeding. “Two babies?” she cried out, surprised. “How come she has two babies while my baby died?” The nurse walked out of my room without saying anything and returned with Triplet #3.

I couldn’t get up to close the door because I had just had a cesarean delivery.

I knew the nurse was just about to bring in Triplet #3. My emotions were torn between the joy of having my babies with me while at the same time witnessing the profound anguish of another woman over her infant’s death. As the nurse wheeled in my third baby, I was overcome with guilt. “Three babies?” shouted the young mother at me. That’s not fair that she has three babies. Why did God take my baby and then give her three babies?” The nurse didn’t say a thing, but silently stepped out of my room and walked into the room of the young woman across the hall, closing the door behind her.

Barbara holding tripletsBecause I, too, was grieving a recent loss, I had some sense of what this woman was feeling.

My father died by suicide only three weeks before my triplets were born. I was unable to go to Dad’s funeral or participate in any grieving rituals because I was in the hospital. We are all affected by tragic loss, whether it is the death of a baby or an elderly person.

Over 30 years have passed, and I have found meaning in my father’s suicide. I honor his memory by speaking about suicide awareness. I have continued the bond with him. I recognize the ongoing impact suicide has had on my life by speaking about suicide awareness openly in my keynotes and trainings. I have made meaning of my experience and hope that the woman who lost her baby, has also made meaning out of her loss.

After more than 30 years, I’ve found meaning in and come to terms with my father’s suicide. I pay tribute to his memory by speaking and writing to raise awareness about suicide. My bond with him continues. I speak freely about suicide awareness in my trainings and keynotes because I acknowledge the continuing impact suicide has on my life. I have found meaning in my experience, and I hope the woman who lost her baby has as well.


Barbara is a leading authority and best-selling author on managing burnout, secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma. As a nationally recognized keynote speaker, she motivates audiences to build their resilience and create work-life balance. Her programs help leaders and teams manage workplace chronic stressors and get over burnout at work.

Barbara's newest book, "But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Families After a Suicide", is available now on Amazon -

• Three weeks prior to giving birth to triplets, her father died by suicide. Her story was featured in the Emmy award winning documentary, Fatal Mistakes, Families Shattered by Suicide narrated by Mariette Hartley. Many employees are grieving personal loss. She offers programs for leaders on lost productivity and performance while managing grief at work.

• As a sought-after keynote speaker who has presented to over 500 groups since 1991, including corporations, state and national associations and non-profit organizations, Barbara offers work-life balance strategies for leaders to implement right away. With clarity and humor, her speaking engagements are designed to give audiences powerful and practical strategies of work-life balance, wellbeing, and self-care that can be implemented immediately.

• Barbara is a Board-Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress and Diplomate with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. She received a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Master of Arts degree in community health, with a concentration in thanatology, both from Brooklyn College.


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