Life After Stillborn

From USC Chan Division of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Sciences Alumni Newsletter – Fall 2014

“Life After Stillborn” by Jamie Wetherbe


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June 8th Facebook Cover Art

Hi everyone! Here’s the amazing new Facebook cover art that April created for this Sunday’s re-airing of RETURN TO ZERO in the USA! Please post onto your sites and share! Thank you!


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RETURN TO ZERO Email banner!

Hi All! Please consider putting our RETURN TO ZERO e-mail banner on your email until our world premiere on May 17th! Many, many thanks for helping to break the silence!


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Win Tickets to the LA Premiere of RETURN TO ZERO on May 1st!

Have you ever wanted to attend a red carpet premiere? This is your chance!

We have held back 10 tickets to the red carpet LA Premiere of RETURN TO ZERO on Thursday, May 1st for you, the valuable members of our RTZ Community!

But in order to be eligible to win a pair of tickets* to the RETURN TO ZERO red carpet premiere you must create a video!

Every entrant will qualify for our drawing. We will select 5 people at random and give each of them 2 tickets to the LA Premiere!


In order to enter the drawing, you must do the following:
1. Create a 15-second video stating why you want to attend the RETURN TO ZERO red carpet premiere in Los Angeles.

2. Post the video to either Twitter or Instagram and be sure to use hashtag: #Return2ZeroFilm so that we can find it! If you don’t have a Twitter or Instagram account, post the video to your Facebook page and send the link to “” so that we can see it! We prefer you use Twitter or Instagram.

3. We are accepting videos until 12 midnight, PDT, Saturday, April 26, 2014. Any submissions made after that time will not be included in the drawing.

4. We will randomly choose 5 people to each win 1 pair of red carpet premiere tickets and 5 alternates. We will announce the 5 winners and 5 alternates on Sunday night, April 27th, 2014 on Facebook & Twitter!

5. The tickets are not transferable, so if you cannot go your ticket will automatically be given to an alternate.

6. We will need to know if you are attending the premiere by Monday, April 28th at noon Pacific in order to alert the alternates.

*You will be responsible for your own airfare, transportation, lodging and incidentals.

Best of luck! We hope to see you in LA on May 1st for the star-studded premiere of RETURN TO ZERO!

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RETURN TO ZERO Facebook Cover Page

Hi All! Please post our RETURN TO ZERO Facebook Cover Page to your Facebook page to help promote the Premiere of RETURN TO ZERO!

Here’s the Facebook Cover page for the US & Canadian premiere on Saturday, May 17th!


Here’s the Facebook Cover page for the UK premiere on Sunday, May 18th!


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RETURN TO ZERO Customizable Viewing Party Invitation!

Hi All! Below is the Customizable Viewing Party Invitation for Premiere of RETURN TO ZERO! Simply open the PDF and type in whatever information that you’d like–your name, address, email, phone number, start time of the party… and then send it out! It’s that simple.

Here’s the invite for the US & Canadian Premiere on Saturday, May 17th:


Here’s the invite for the UK Premiere on Saturday, May 18th:


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RETURN TO ZERO Print-At-Home Flyer

Hi All! Below is a link to the RETURN TO ZERO Print-at-home flyer for you to take with you wherever you go! Take them with you to work, school, your doctor’s office, your hospital, your church or your local coffee shop and hep spread the word!

US/CANADA FLYER for the Saturday, May 17th Premiere:


UK FLYER for the Sunday, May 18th Premiere:


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Lifetime Launches First Global Premiere with “Return to Zero”!

For the official Lifetime/A+E Press Release click here: Return to Zero Airdate Announcement 031714

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Reviews & Reflections on the world festival premiere, March 8th, 2014

Saturday, March 8th. 4:30pm
California Theater
San Jose, California
2014 Cinequest Film Festival

It's showtime!

It’s showtime!



From Sandra Murray
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Mother of Michelle, Grandma of Stella Charlotte

“I wanted you to know that I felt so honored to watch the first audience viewing of Return to Zero. My daughter Michelle was stillborn in July 1984, almost 30 years ago. My rainbow baby, Alison was born exactly 4 years later. Then tragedy struck in January 2013. Alison lost her darling Stella Charlotte the same way and at the same age as me. This movie has meant so much to both of us so to get to see it together was so special.

“I cried at the very first scene but I think it was more through joy of finally getting to see the movie. Minnie Driver is an amazing actress and I was blown away at the believability of her role as one would think you have to experience still birth to be able to portray it accurately. Not true. The chemistry between her and Paul Adelstein brought a reality to me that I believed their story the whole way through. Every pain they felt, I felt. All the inappropriate comments I have heard and every tear they cried, I have cried (twice). All the little details, like the picture taped to the door in the hospital, the meaningless comments and the fact that there is always one person who says “god has his reasons”.

“Maggie and Aaron Royal reminded me so much of what I experienced 30 years ago as my husband and I were excited to start our family. I don’t know to this day how we remained a married couple for the 4 years it took to hold Alison in our arms. I always wondered how this movie would end and now I know and without giving it away, I will just say that it gave me a jolt as I felt exactly the same as Maggie when I got my rainbow baby in my arms.

“So many of our friends and family are eagerly awaiting the release if this movie. Thank for sharing your story.”

From Ali Murray
Vancouver, BC, Canada

“The day of seeing Return To Zero, 13 months after first hearing about it, I became very anxious. This is a movie that I had been telling all my friends and family and even complete strangers to watch but was I ready to watch it myself? Did I want to relive the most difficult time of my life? The simple answer is “yes” and I realized that in the very first scene.

“The magnificent Minnie Driver had me captivated from her very first moments on the screen. Every person’s experience with still birth is different but the emotions – anger, numbness, guilt – are the same. Minnie Driver portrayed each one of these and more with a believability that I would never expect from someone who had not suffered this type of loss.

“Following Maggie and Aaron Royal’s journey was a healing experience in that you watched them come full circle through their grief. This movie showed that while you will never be the same, there is healing and happiness to be found. I found myself smiling and laughing throughout the movie as I related to so many moments. This was something that I did not expect but was very much welcomed. There were moments that were difficult to watch, triggers that brought me back to my Stella, moments that perhaps would pass unnoticed to anyone else. But most of all, despite the tears streaming down my face and the whole packet of Kleenex that I went through, there was hope. Hope that I too can go on to be a good mother. That my second child will grow up knowing that he or she has a big sister watching over her. I have a new determination to be happy and to have something as simple as a movie instil that in me? Well that is miraculous.

“What Sean Hanish has created is an honest, emotional, raw portrayal of a parents love for their child. Return To Zero inspires hope and at the end of the day, that’s all we ever really need.”

From Suzanne Pullen

“I saw my life on screen tonight…and by the laughter and sniffling, I could tell I was not alone. So deeply indebted to Kiley and Sean Hanish and everyone who made Return to Zero. It was a beautiful, honest, funny and emotional movie that got it right. (Minnie Driver was phenomenal!) I believe that this movie has the potential to change the landscape of awareness and care for stillbirth families. When it hits theaters…please, see it. If you haven’t experienced the death of a baby…this film will help you understand all of us who have a little better.

And she added more a few hours later…

“Honored…grateful…proud… Still smiling from ear to ear 6 hours after watching a movie that sang to my heart “Look at our beautiful grief. We are not alone. The silence is breaking like a thousand morning birds calling out our babies names.” How I can be so happy after crying at a movie? Maybe because I was also in a room full of other parents who came together from around the country to do the same thing.”

From Ashley Ho
Vancouver, BC, Canada

“Return to Zero is a life changing film. I watched my friend Ali experience a stillbirth last year. When this happened I sympathized, told her I loved her, and hugged her. I didn’t know what to say and could not even begin to understand her pain.

“I was truly shocked that this happened. It blindsided me! I didn’t think this could happen – at least not to someone so close to me. Even when she told me the statistics, I did not believe her. This cannot be that common.

“When she told me about this movie and how much it meant to her I immediately vowed to see it. And when she told me that she was going to the World Premiere, I told her that I wanted to attend.

“I knew that tissues were in order to see this film and that I would see an excellent piece of work – since it stars Minnie Driver and Paul Adelstein. There I sat in the theatre ready to cry. What I was not prepared for was the wonderfully enlightening story and experience.

“Minnie Driver and Paul Adelstein are amazing actors! This film truly opened my eyes to the pain that my friend has endured and continues to endure. She is the strongest woman I know! And I am completely awed by her and by anyone else who has experienced this horrible circumstance. There are so many people affected by this and not enough of us understand how brave they all are. I would encourage everyone to see this film! It will change your life!”

From Sarah Alexander
Director of External Relations, Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth
Seattle Children’s Hospital
Seattle, Washington

“Return to Zero is not a movie about stillbirth. It’s a movie about human relationships, in all their complexities. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, bosses and employees; all of these relationships are addressed. Stress changes people and stress changes relationships. Some relationships are broken by stress, while other relationships are strengthened by stress.

“Perhaps that is the straightest line through the movie is to watch the relationship between Maggie (Minnie Driver) and Aaron (Paul Adelstein) when their son is born still. But equally interesting are the bonds between Maggie and her mother (Kathy Baker), Aaron and his father (Alfred Molina) or Aaron and his employee, Dana (Sarah Jones). Stress can be a catalyst that leads to greater understanding and compassion or it can reveal the absence of connection. Return to Zero exposes all the impacts that stress can bring to a relationship.”

From Kristina Redstone

“I’m so impressed with the amount of details you were able to show in the movie. From the state of shock when I was told my daughter didn’t have a heartbeat to the rage I had when people said everything happens for a reason. And although I did not have the same experience as you did, you were still able to explain the emotions, pain, fear, joy and love that I experienced with my daughter.

“As I mentioned to you on Saturday, I just found out that I’m pregnant. And I’m anxiously waiting for your announcement about the distribution. I plan to give this information to every doctor, nurse, therapist and other medical professional that I come into contact with over the course of my pregnancy. I want them all to understand that the pain didn’t stop when I left the hospital. It just looks different now and I deal with it better than I did last year.”

From Sherokee Ilse
Tucson, Arizona &

“I was blessed to be joined by my husband David at this World Premier. The first time EVER for a movie that highlights a family experiencing stillbirth.

“How incredibly brave and courageous Sean and Kiley Hanish are for sharing the depths of their hearts in a most personal manner as we joined them in watching (on the Big Screen) some of their journey before and after dear Norbert was born. While we all know the story is not exactly their story, at the core it is all of our stories.

“To see such a personal ‘unveiling’ of the emotions and reality when a baby dies is profound and empowering. And the laughter throughout the movie added a nice balance to our emotions. Thank you on behalf of all of us who now feel less alone and more understood. We love the Return to Zero team and wish them well as they roll out this movie in Rome and then to the world!”

From Chad Kempel

“And for those who have gone through a loss and find yourselves with a family member or friend that just doesn’t get it, as someone suggested last night, just tell them, ‘Don’t talk to me until after you’ve watched RETURN TO ZERO.’”

Read Chad’s entire review and reflection here on IMDB.

From Sari Edber
Los Angeles
LA Miss Foundation

“Return to Zero surpassed all of my hopes for what this film was going to be able to portray about stillbirth, grief, society, and relationships.  I am a stillbirth mother.  My husband and I were blissfully innocent during our perfectly healthy first pregnancy. However, at 37 weeks, our son, Jacob, was stillborn in July, 2006.  We were left with empty arms, shattered hearts, and broken dreams.

“Sean Hanish wrote this screenplay based on his own experience after the stillbirth of his own son.  He knew the importance of making this film and the impact that it could have on society.  And, I was hopeful that Return to Zero would be different from the other movies that I had disappointingly seen, that attempted to discuss child death.

“Every bereaved parent is going to travel a different road of grief and healing.  Some are more open and communicative; others are more private.  Some seek out support groups or therapy; others seek out new hobbies.  Some couples grow together through this path; others are driven apart.   Maggie and Aaron’s journey after the death of their son, Arthur, in the film is vastly different from mine and my husbands.  However, it’s their path.  It’s authentic.  And, it’s real.

“The parts of the film that resonated with me the most were those that are a bit more universal to most stillbirth parents – the rawness of receiving the news that our baby didn’t have a heartbeat, the shock of realizing that we still needed to go through labor, the intensity of experiencing contractions already knowing the tragic outcome, the emotions of finding the physical strength to push when all I wanted to do was keep him inside of me forever, the immediate silence in the delivery room after his birth followed by our gut-wrenching shrieks of pain, the immense love we felt holding our son for the first time, the pride that we took in still being his mother and father, the realization that the pictures we took in those special moments would be the last ones we would ever take, and the unimaginable difficulty in saying goodbye to the child that we just met – the last kisses on his cheeks, the last “I love you” whispered, the last view of his face…. and, then, we were left to face reality in a world that hasn’t stopped just because our baby died.

“Minnie Driver and Paul Adelstein gave me the most special gift of being able to see myself going through each of those parts of the worst 24 hours of my life.  I remember everything about those 24 hours.  I remember the feelings, I remember who was there, I remember what people said, I remember the time frames of when everything happened and in what order.  I remember watching my husband.  He has always tried to explain what it was like from his point of view, as we experienced this nightmare. The fact that Minnie and Paul tackled these scenes is beyond me; and the fact that they fully pulled off the raw, loving, painful, beautiful, and tragic emotions surrounding each step is true talent.  I hope that somehow they will find out just how much this film has meant to me on a personal level.

“On a broader scale, Return to Zero has the potential to change society’s outlook on stillbirth.  It increases awareness of the process and depth of the loss.  It discusses the fact that this is a life-long loss – it’s not something you get over.  It’s not something that will go away after having a healthy child.  It’s not something that is “meant to be”.  The death of a child is a life changing event.  It’s something that no parent should ever have to experience.  It’s a group that no one ever wants to belong to.  However, we are gaining a voice.  Through Return to Zero, the STILL Project, the MISS Foundation, and so many other organizations, companies, and resources… I feel blessed, proud, grateful, and inspired to be in the company of such dedicated, loving, and vocal individuals.  Thank you, Sean, the cast, and crew, for changing the world with this film.”

From Holly Cooper

“I have to admit that I was scared. I had been so excited to see this movie since hearing of its creation. Our son Jackson passed sometime around November 25, 2012. He was born the next day at 39 weeks. The grief was so overwhelming. We had a wonderful social worker that told us that quite a few couples did not make it after this type of tragedy, so we made that our focus. To our surprise we were pregnant with our rainbow baby 8 weeks later. I guess that he saved us from any unhealthy choices, and gave us a new focus and fear. Miles Jackson was born at 38 weeks September 24, 2013 a healthy and strong baby. This was the first time I have left his side since he was born!

“The movie made me laugh out loud, cry uncontrollably, and sit on the edge of my seat the entire time. The timing and tone was natural and very accurate. I would and will recommend this movie to everyone. The genuine raw emotion was well played. Thank you to all involved. This will no doubt help people process all types of loss in life. I can’t wait to watch it again.”

Posted in Guest Blog

Sara Connell, author of “Bringing In Finn”

At some point during the seven-year journey I took to have a child, I started to think that people who had experienced reproductive trauma were like war veterans. One person may have landed in Normandy on D-Day, another shot at while flying Catalina patrol planes in the South Pacific, but they had all fought in WWII.

One day, on one of the rare occasions that I lifted my gaze from the magazines I always tried (unsuccessfully) to read in the waiting room of the “high-risk” OB, I made eye contact with a patient across the waiting room and we traded stats. Me: “six rounds IVF, miscarriage, incompetent cervix, stillbirth.” She (an attractive woman about my age who looked like the picture of health with a loving smile and creamy caramel skin): “spontaneous aborter more than three miscarriages in succession, incompetent cervix, preeclampsia.” Our experiences were different, but we knew—like one soldier who was sent in to liberate Auschwitz meeting one who’d gone to Dachau—that the pain, the shock, the trauma we’d seen in the war- was the same.

For almost seven years, I carried shame and despair inside my body, the the leaden dense weight of a bowling ball. I didn’t understand that speaking about the trauma, the grief, the pain could be healing and that connecting with other people who had walked the trip wire-laden path of infertility was a way to set me free.

Since writing a book about my fertility experience and the miraculous way my son came into the world (my sixty-year-old mother carried him as our surrogate), I’ve been asked in talks and interviews to give advice to people going through a reproductive trauma. The first time I fielded this question, I felt reticence. So many things people said to me during my own experience were unhelpful— (“everything happens for a reason”, “this must have been God’s will”), when what I wanted to hear was: “I am sorry you are going through any of this—you definitely do not deserve it.”

In reply to the question, I shared what helped me: yoga, trauma therapy, grieving the loss of our twins, meditation, abstaining from Facebook, long walks in nature- emphazing these are just techniques and tools I liked- that I know how different we all are. I shared my “favorite things list” and then I talked about shame.

In her much-viewed TED talk, psychologist and researcher Brene Brown said that shame is one of the most corrosive energies on the planet. After ten years of studying shame, she also discovered that there is an antidote, one that she sums up in four words: “You are not alone.”

I’d read that the fertility field was a growing industry. Researching my book, I read that one in six US births involved some sort of fertility procedure. I heard later about the film and Return to Zero community–which grew quickly to thousands of members.

The numbers were undeniable, but knowing the stats alone didn’t heal me. It was hearing the women and men who were experiencing similar pain that held the alchemy I needed. I could not sit in a room of people who had experienced what I had and feel the same hatred towards them that I had felt about myself (that I was impotent, not a woman, broken, a failure). These were not people who had done some unknown awful thing and were being punished by a fertility crisis. When I heard them speak, I felt overpowering love—and, as I loved, I softened to myself.

A support group may not be everyone’s healing agent, but I believe something out there exists for each person. In the midst of uncertainty and doubt, we can look and experiment until we find that thing that tells us in a way we can feel that we are not alone, that the war will end.

After WWII, Winston Churchill said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Some days, the only thing I could do was breath, and continue. A colleague friend of mine who teaches fertility and pre-natal yoga told me she believed there is a way for each person who wants to to have a child. I couldn’t believe her statement in full but I felt better and more open to possibility each time she said the words. Words of faith in redemption and possibility, hearing others stories, knowing I am not alone- I see these as lifelines that can heal us and guide us forward as well. And when we find our lifeline, we can grab on hard, tie it around our stomachs—and hold on tight until it leads us home- to the fulfillment of our dream.

Sara Connell is an author and life coach with a private practice in Chicago. Sara has appeared on Oprah, NPR, WGN, Good Morning America, Katie Couric, Rickie Lake & The View and her writing has been published in: The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Parenting Magazine, Elle, Psychobabbble, Mindful Metropolis and Evolving your Spirit magazines. Her first book, Bringing In Finn (Seal Press) was nominated for 2012 book of the year by Elle magazine.

Visit Sara @

Posted in Guest Blog, Your Story



Discussion Guide

You can download the RETURN TO ZERO "Discussion Guide for Bereaved Parents" here.