The subject of death is one which Western society still struggles with discussing frankly. This is partly due to its depressing nature but also because for most death of a loved one is too raw an experience to share openly. This is especially true with the death of the young and even more so with stillbirth. Debbie Howard’s new documentary Still Loved is a moving piece that explores this and broaches stillbirth with great sensitivity. Its focus is on a number of couples who have faced the trauma of having a stillborn child or children.
This is Howard’s first full length documentary, following the success of a few short films including Peekaboo (2012) and Pussy (2009). Howard’s film reflects her talent as a storyteller but also as a film maker. It is an extremely poignant piece which encapsulates the difficult emotional and physical journey couples face who’ve experienced stillbirth. As someone whose sister Jennifer was stillborn, this film really struck a chord with me but it helped me understand the pain my parents would have felt. It is an extremely important film, not just because it tackles such a widely misunderstood and often disregarded subject but also the powerful messages behind each interviewee’s story. The film utilises the parcipatory style of documentary film making, with couples showing with their experiences how they have coped and how they’ve been affected by the experience. These key aspects covered such as the paternal grief felt and toxic masculinity expectations, fallout of friendships and the fact that in most cases the lost babies have siblings who are also affected. Howard intertwines these with the overarching subject. These are all vital points of consideration in the important pursuit of helping those families affected by stillbirth.
Still Loved is difficult viewing at times, naturally, because of the content but it is a documentary and these truths deserve to be heard. These are real people who have made the choice to share their difficult stories, to help their grieving process but also to inform people about still birth. Howard’s film is not without hope. These people may have lost their children but the film shows how they’ve found other ways to cope with the grief and enjoy life. These scenes of joy juxtapose their struggles and culminate in a film which balances understanding the pain of stillbirth whilst offering new optimism. It is really touching to see the outcome for some of these people and their strength and courage. Whilst the lost loved will not always preoccupy their minds they will always be still loved.
Dir: Debbie Howard
Scr: Debbie Howard
DOP: Debbie Howard
Run Time: 70 Mins
Still Loved is on limited release in cinemas as part of Baby Loss Awareness Month