I can’t tell anyone how to cope with baby loss - everyone’s different and there’s no right or wrong way - and there’s also no right or wrong way to help someone through baby loss. You just have to be there. Even in silence, just being there is helping.
But a lot of people say that “they can’t imagine what we’re going through” and that “they don’t know what to say” so I wanted to share some of my own experiences so that maybe it would help someone else cope with their loss or understand how to help a friend.
From a mothers perspective, immediately after the loss of your baby you feel, well, lost. You were supposed to be busy being a Mummy. In the parenting world, you’ve lost a job, made completely redundant in the most brutal and unexpected way. So you have to figure out what to do with yourself and there are a lot of questions that spring to mind about what you should and shouldn’t do with your time. People told me to stay in bed, to cry if and when I wanted to and to be kind to myself. For me, being kind to myself is doing something productive, but doing almost anything in those early days was paired with a feeling of guilt - guilt that I wasn’t crying all the time, guilt that I was somehow disrespecting my baby by living my life, guilt that I was even considering having another baby when we started looking into genetics and our family planning options. Then comes the guilt associated with the first day you make it through from morning until night without crying, or when you catch yourself NOT thinking about your baby for half an hour. Something makes you feel like you “shouldn’t” be seen out and about smiling. You can’t help thinking that people judging are you, that you should be at home mourning and miserable. I now know that it’s the last thing people think.
The heartbreaking truth is, you don’t have a baby at home to look after, so why shouldn’t you go out and smile for a couple of hours? Of course everyone would understand if you stayed at home mourning and miserable but if you don’t, they will be full of respect and admiration to see you out and about. The nicest thing for me to hear when I ventured out was “I’m so sorry for your loss” followed by “it’s so lovely to see you out.” I needed that validation that I wasn’t being crazy and disrespectful to Leo. I was doing the opposite, I was making him proud by living my life and telling people about him. Deep down I knew that, but hearing people say it made my heart that little bit lighter.
But being out and about isn’t easy - the first time I went to the supermarket part of me wanted to wear a disguise. I took my big brother with me for moral support - he’s 5 years older so maybe I thought I could hide behind his leg if I saw some thing scary like I used to do when we were kids. I chose to do my groceries at “off-peak” times to avoid the chances of bumping into people, slowly building my way up to going on my own and braving the busy times. I tried to face things head on and not shy away from being in public places but I can definitely recommend having a side kick to go around with you for a while and easing yourself into the social scene gradually!
I also tried to avoid situations where people would be “surprised” to see me because I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable and I still find myself doing a scan of every room I walk into to scope out the potential for difficult interactions and triggers. Do I know anyone? Do they know? What will they think when they see me out? Will they avoid eye contact? Should I go over? Are there any kids around? Any pregnant women or young babies?
As with public places, I chose to face “bumping into people” head on by taking a deep breath and making the first move. Dealing with social situations is like going into combat, and if you’re the first to attack you’re usually in control. You just have to hold your head high and stay strong. Those initial interactions can be awkward because no one knows what to say - but you just have to say something. The easiest way to deal with something that’s difficult is to ignore it, and I realized quickly that if I didn’t talk about Leo, other’s wouldn’t. I like to talk about him and I am proud of being his Mum, so the worst thing people can do is avoid the subject, or avoid me altogether. And going back to my last post, how are people supposed to know how to talk about loss if no one discusses it?”
Baby loss and grief are still new to be but here are 5 things that I’ve learned:
Grief is tiring. Not in a “I need to sleep” kind of way, but a “I don’t have the energy to fight” kind of way. So many people have told me to ease back into the “normal” life and work slowly to avoid burning out and it’s sound advice. If I do too much I lose the strength I need to cope with my loss and that leaves me crying and getting frustrated when I know I wouldn’t if I’d taken better care of myself. I get stronger every day but it really is important not to over-do it. Grief is an injury you can’t see and it never ever heals so you have to let it rest.
I will always want to talk about Leo. I haven’t encountered or read about any mother who doesn’t want to talk about their children. Loss mothers are no different. So please ask us about them.
Any help and support is welcome. If you want to help a friend but you’re worried that you’ll be intruding, don’t. They know what has happened to them is totally shit and they don’t have the energy to ask for help but TRUST ME, every meal, every message, every word of support is appreciated. Don’t be shy about offering to pop round - I turned people down when I didn’t want to see anyone so don’t take offence if they need some space and keep offering - most of the time I was happy to see a friendly face to chat over a cup or tea or a glass of wine.
Not acknowledging the fact that I had a baby, and lost a baby, and talking about the weather, is hurtful. I get it, but it hurts.
I will never get over losing Leo. Living my life without him might get easier but I will never get over it. There’s no such thing as a grieving period so don’t expect people who have suffered a loss to be done with it in a few months time. No one can fix it, we just have to help each other live with it as much as we can and celebrate his memory every day.