On April 15, 2014, I said good night to my darling baby Eddie for the last time. In the early hours of April 16, we tragically lost our baby boy suddenly, without warning. In a matter of seconds, our whole life was irrevocably shattered. Our perfect family of three was destroyed.
Coping with baby loss
Eddie was only three months old when he became a victim of SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, and by all medical accounts was a perfectly healthy and thriving baby boy.
The loss of a baby or infant is devastating, and the consequences are far reaching for parents, families and friends. Learning to live life in the shadow of grief is emotionally exhausting and confusing and often it seems impossible that you can ever imagine being hopeful again.
Culturally, we often find it hard to speak about death and baby loss even more so. Losing a child goes against the natural order of life. We grow up expecting to outlive our parents, not the other way around. No-one can ever be prepared for the impact of losing a baby, that goes for the parents, but also very often the friends and family close by can feel helpless and at a loss as to know what to do or say or how to act. That’s why Teddy’s Wish launched the ‘Be There’ guide, in the hope it will provide some insight into how to talk to bereaved parents in a way that is supportive, compassionate and understanding.
It’s definitely a great help having support with the mundane, offering to cook, help with washing and housework can be hugely helpful. But above all, the best support you can give a bereaved parent is time and a listening ear. Often friends and family try to offer advice and solutions but in truth, the only solution parents want is the one that nobody can offer – which is to bring their baby back. Similarly, bold statements and suggestions such as ‘at least you can get pregnant’ or ‘you can have another one’ may be well meant but are largely unhelpful and can create more upset for bereaved parents.
For those that are unsure of what the right thing is to say, a simple text that reads ‘I’m thinking of you’ can be of great comfort. It is better to say something than to say nothing. From our experience, it felt like the friends who didn’t make contact didn’t care about us when in fact, they just didn’t know what to say.
If parents do go on to have subsequent children, it is so important to remember that their next pregnancy is not a replacement for the baby that died and often the pregnancy itself will bring lots of confused emotions and anxiety. Support is so important in helping those parents navigate through their pregnancy and birth, especially to those that suffered a stillbirth.
It’s a universal truth that most parents love to talk about their children and it should be recognised that this is no different for bereaved parents. We suggest that you continue to say their baby’s name. It validates their baby’s existence and means so much to know that their baby is acknowledged. If you can remember birthdays and anniversaries too this will be a lovely gesture to show that their baby is still thought of and remembered.
As time moves on, the grief will never go away it will simply change with time. That’s the harsh reality with grief, it is an everlasting scar.
We have found that the support we receive in many different guises means so much, as it makes us realise that despite our pain and tragic loss, we are not alone on this journey and that’s such an integral part to coping and finding hope.
Guide to supporting friends and family with baby loss
BABY – don’t be afraid to mention their baby’s name, or birthdays & anniversaries. All bereaved parents love hearing their baby mentioned as it acknowledges their existence.
EAR – lend an ear and listen. Too often, friends and family try to offer advice but the best support you can give is to simply be there and listen.
TALK – get in contact & stay in touch, even just a ‘thinking of you’ text will mean so much. Bereaved parents just want to know people are thinking of them and are there for them if needed.
HELP – turn up with food, help with the cleaning. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Doing something unprompted is even better.
EXPRESSIONS – avoid fatalistic expressions, such as ‘things happen for a reason’ or ‘you can have another one’ as they make bereaved parents feel worse.
REPLACEMENT – another baby is not one. Some parents will go on to have subsequent children, and being pregnant again can be a terrifying and an anxious time for bereaved parents.
EXPECTATION – don’t expect parents to ‘get over it’. Grief is an ongoing process and is always there. It is not something you ever get over or forget. It’s something you learn to live with.
Article written by Jennifer Reid, the co-founder of Teddy’s Wish.
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