Of course every situation differs but I write this from my perspective having lost our boy at 21+3.
This piece comes from the depths of a shattered heart. I think loss is a very taboo thing and very rarely airs itself in the public consciousness. I must admit the thought of burying our child never once entered my head through pregnancy. And why should it? Pregnancy should be as stress free time as possible. Dare I venture that the majority of people in one sense take a smooth pregnancy for granted?! It is almost as if the joyous outcome is predicted and expected.
Its one of those things that you seem to not think about until your world crashes down around you and those months of planning for this little persons life to come becomes obsolete. And you know that your child existed but it is difficult for those parents who held their children in life to comprehend the “what could have been- now ceases to exist” and in your opinion value your “parentage” in the same way as there’s. Life is so fragile and can cruelty be snatched away for no reason.
The worst thing in my personal experience was the blame you attach to yourself. As the person carrying this life inside you feel like you should have done better. You have failed them. Your body destroyed what it had made. I hated my body and questioned whether it would work properly again.
I questioned whether it was my diagnosis of PCOS which contributed to my inability to carry my child to full term. The GPs words echoed in my head and through my entire body like shock waves of an earthquake. “The chances of you having a baby are unlikely”. Yet there I was defying medical odds. Sadly three quarters of women who suffer with PCOS are unable to realise their dream of bringing a child into the world and despite there being fertility treatments available the success rate of pregnancy across 5 menstrual cycles is only 30%!!!
I had changed my lifestyle to kick PCOS’s butt and was living with health and wellness in mind. I was doing everything for this child within me and I couldn’t help but feel that my body had betrayed me as my child lay lifeless beside me.
It was just a horrible chance occurrence. I could never have changed the outcome. I found that when talking about my loss many people did not acknowledge that this was an actual baby I had given birth too. He wasn’t just a blood clot. This was a fully formed person, with limbs, otherwise perfect organs and most importantly a name!!!
I soon realised that talking of Mylo made many people feel awkward. I could see that look of horror etched on faces. When I made it back to work I had very little support (mainly I think because I worked in a very male dominated environment! How is a dude expected to understand that tie you have to child from carrying them for any amount of days. No uterus- no opinion on pregnancy!!!!) They often left me alone to cry. They would skilfully dodge the subject when I offered to show pictures of Mylo. I just wanted people to acknowledge him.
That is my first and probably most fundamental piece of advice in your first interactions with a parent following loss. Ask them their child’s name. Validate them as you would any other child. You don’t have to look at the pictures as that I realise is a very “triggered” topic. I am not sure myself that before my own loss I would have opted to view a friends dead child, but as I say going through the event personally it certainly changes your perspective on a lot of things.
I have always been fascinated by the Mexican respect for death. It is not feared which I think is something very engrained into the Western psyche! We fear the unknown. I guess it comes from our cultural privelidge of not having to witness death on a more frequent basis. We don’t confront it. We hide away from it. We painfully acknowledge it, maybe send a bunch of flowers then refuse to bring it up in conversation again.
I am more inclined to celebrate that I grew a person and he existed. There was life (don’t try and tell me there wasn’t when I felt him pummeling my stomach just hours before he fell asleep forever!) and there certainly was love.
In conversation with regular parents who haven’t experienced loss they don’t seem to ‘get’ why Angel Parents collect so many “things” for their lost children. I was extremely lucky that our hospital has a deep routed understanding of dealing with child loss and they did everything possible over our three day stay to make me aware that on a personal level they recognised my boy as a person. Sadly, babies under the 24 weeks gestation (or viability marker) are not medically/legally recognised as a baby. They are still technically a late miscarriage or worse still “spontaneous abortion” – medical terminology still haunts me. Because of this parents of loss do not get to legally register their child so in the wider world there is no evidence of them even existing.
I think for parents of loss there is the overhanging feeling that their child was never recognised and that hurts the soul. Parents of Loss tend to collate pieces in their child’s memory as many children never had the opportunity to be clothed for their dignity. There are wonderful people who create memorial packs for the loss of children at any gestation. Please see “Neverland Packs” (even better why not sponsor a pack for £5 to keep an angels name spoken loud and proud.)
Because there are no regular memories to be made, parents of loss will dedicate areas of their home to their sleeping child. It certainly helped me to have physical objects that were tangiable to remember our Son. Candles hold deep symbolic meaning. I, for example, brought Mylo’s funeral candle home with us of which I light on special occasions such as his birthday, due date, days for remembering our lost children, Christmas and New Year. Luckily my family and close friends were all really supportive and understood my affinity with candles so joined in their glowing lights to remember their family member too.
Be kind to parents of loss. I know it is hard to find the words but here are a few phrases not to say:
“Time will heal the wounds…”
– no it is a suffering for your whole life. Time may “ease” the pain and you learn to live in a different sort of way to put yourself back together as best as possible… Those around you will move on but a parent of loss is stuck in a perpetual cycle of grief. It is not linear and on any day the sadness hits you in waves that ebs and pulls you down into the depths of despair. Also don’t ever imply that the parent of grief should move on. We can only move forward but it will takes years to do so. But stick with us and maybe say something along the lines of “How can I help you carry your burden? What do you need today? Remember I am always a text/phonecall away.”
Dont even go there with the prefix “at least”… nothing that follows this will be useful because there is no at least in childloss.
One of my biggest bugbears personally was when faith/Religion/God was brought into the equation. Grief is not indicative of lack of faith and it almost makes it sound as if this bereaved parent in some way deserved this loss for a past indiscretion. No one deserves to lose a child. It is honestly the most aweful feeling in the entire world. Faith should not be mixed with something so emotive… great your faith comforts you but it is not part of my life. I happily accept people’s prayers because ultimately this is just people sending well wishes and good vibes out of a secular setting so I welcome them as such BUT playing the faith card in your discourse of religion that is not relevant to me really alienates me because faith does not negate the ultimate human suffering.
Some days are bad… some days are worse… please understand that we will never be the people we once were ever again. Only the happiest versions of a shadow of our former self. This is not to sound ungrateful because my life is beautiful and I find things to be grateful for everyday and my beautiful daughter has coloured my life happy. We learn to live again in other ways but do not expect this over night. I found that I made plans with people but crippling guilt and anxiety would kick in and it would feel like the world had caved in around me or I had finally fallen into the abyss. I often had to project happiness #FakeItUntilYouMakeIt! I would force myself out. It was a time however that I made some very true friends who tried to understand what I was going through even if they had not experienced loss personally, but in this period I found that so many stories were similar to ours. People came out of the woodwork to say “me too”!!! And it broke my heart more that life can be so bullshit!
A great tip would be to put together a Care Package for your family member/friend because in the days following my return from the hospital I could not move for the bouquets around our home. It was beautiful but flowers soon wilt. It is important to tackle straight away a persons mental health so find little things that would make that person you know smile like motivational quotes, their favourite choccie bar & things to make them feel human again like a lovely pair of cosy socks or a nice piece of jewellery.
I remember coming out of the hospital and I felt that I had gained this new body that should have yielded a little life, but I had nothing to show for the transformation.
I had a #MomBod but no Mom Purpose. I sobbed when I had lost my Bump. There was nothing left of my legacy of pregnancy- just stretched skin, extra weight to shift and a broken heart. I clutched at my stomach in the shower the day after I lost Mylo and let the water wash my tears away and watched pools of blood trickle into the plug hole.
The worst thing is that your body still acts post partum so you experience the yucky biological bits. My boobs were swollen and producing colostrum. My husband and I tried to make light of the changes as I leaked from all sorts of body parts but I was in so much physical pain it was difficult to find as amusing as milky titty-patches may have looked from the outside!
Parents of loss could do with being picked up because they have reached the lowest point of their lives. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their child: “Tell me about your Son/Daughter” / “What’s your favourite memory of your child?” “What makes you feel close to your child when you miss them?” – more often than not your family member/friend will delight in sharing their story because to us our little lost ones are just as much a part of our family as any previous children or children to come.
I know this is a very emotive topic. If reading this blog has effected you personally there are great charities you can talk to who will help you through your bereavment journey: