It is difficult to educate someone on child loss grief. Each person’s journey is different. Not every person feels the same things to the same degree. Even my husband’s journey is very different to mine. We very rapidly learnt that we grieved very differently and at a very different pace.
The best piece of advice would be to take it at the bereaved parents speed. If they want to make plans then see them, if they want to make plans and then cancel at short notice then allow them too without getting angry or frustrated with them or if they want to shut themselves away then let them but text every once in a while to let them know you haven’t forgotten them or the child they lost.
Try to remember special dates. They have so few. It means the world when someone sends a message. It doesn’t have to be much, just a thinking of you.
Use the babies name when you can. Try to avoid referring to the missing child as the baby, the boy/girl, your angel. While you might think that will bring comfort it just adds to the hurt.
When people say the ‘wrong’ thing I used to react very strongly. For their first infraction I would correct them angrily and then give them another chance. If they continued to be insensitive then I cut them off.
My mother once said
Maybe it would have been better if Milo had died at birth.
I ripped her a new one, told her she was wrong and that if he had died at birth then we would never have seen him move or smile, heard his cry or held his warm body. I then stopped speaking to her for 3 months. She was allowed to see my other children (Not depriving them of their grandparents just because she was an unthinking idiot) but not me. I stopped answering the phone and when she came to the house she wasn’t allowed in.
Now I am further down my journey I see that people are just trying to say something rather than think about what they are saying. It’s like platitudes. They stop awkward silences but can create issues.
I don’t think there is any specific phrases people should say, just think about what they say first and never tell a loss parent that it would have been better to lose their child earlier than they did.
I try to honour my Milo and his memory every day but even more so on special days.
His special days are
- 6th February – Birthday
- 3rd July – Angelversary
- 23rd July – Funeral Day
I always try and write something either here or on social media. Writing always clears my head and makes me think clearly in the coming days. I feel getting my Milo’s name out there in public means he will not be forgotten. Even if just one person sees the posts then that is one person who knows my Milo’s name and that he lived.
As a family we visit the grave as close as possible to special days. My Milo’s brother and sister know if we go a certain way that we are visiting their sibling. They stay as long as they can with us but at 8 and 4 they get bored easily. I always take a photo of my living children standing either side of the headstone. It is the closest thing I can get to the three of them being together.
The way the kids honour their brothers birthday is by making him a birthday cake each year. They then sing happy birthday and blow out the candles together. I think it is sweet that they want to do that for my Milo but then again they do both like birthday cake so there could be ulterior motives.
This photo is from the 23rd of July this year. My living children cannot smile for toffee unfortunately.
Today’s topic is writing a letter to your missing child. It is supposed to include everything you want but never got to say to them. This post could be a long one.
To My Milo,
Oh my beautiful boy, I miss you so much. I wanted you to stay but I know you were too poorly. It wouldn’t have been fair to you to make you stay.
You fought so bravely and for so long. Those 21 weeks we got with you were some of the best 21 weeks of my life. ok. To be able to hold you and hear you and see you. You made me a better mum and person for you being in my life.
I wish you could meet your sister. She is so like your big brother in so many ways and how I picture you would have been. You heard her name when I was reading to you. Granted it wasn’t her name then but it helps to know you heard the word.
You are always in my thoughts and dreams. I will not forget you and I will not ever stop saying your name to whoever I meet. Your brother and sister say your name lots and your sister loves to include you whenever we go to the park. You get lots of time on the swings. On inside days there is always a place set for you if she has a tea party/picnic/lunch date.
Thank you for waiting until it was just us and a nurse in the room. It made you going easier on me. I hope the last words you heard are always in your head. You were loved, you are loved and you will be loved until the day we are together again.
Love mum. xxx
If I went through the loss of my child and I wasn’t transformed then I would be seriously worried. You can’t experience such a huge life altering event without being different once the fog has started to clear.
Before the loss of my Milo I was completely naive to pregnancy loss. I had my eldest and had no issues with his pregnancy or birth and totally believed that 2 lines on a pregnancy test meant baby. Now, every time I see announcements saying look what happened (before 12 weeks) or next year there will be the pitter patter of tiny feet, i just want to scream at them and smack them silly. Once I calm down the pain of the announcement hits and I have to distance myself from them.
Before the loss of my Milo I was quite happy go lucky and could find the joy in most situations. I spent most of my weekends smiling and laughing and enjoying life. Once my Milo was gone it was like all the joy in my life had ended, just like his life. I still smiled and laughed and looked like I was having all the fun in the world but it was a mask, a very well placed mask but a mask all the same. Keeping that mask in place all day, every day was so tiring but I didn’t feel I could drop it. It had to be there as people seen baby loss as taboo and not a subject to be discussed in public. I am now 6.5 years down the line from when my son died but that mask is still in place. I have been wearing it so long now that I don’t think I could drop with even if I could. I am not sure who I am without that mask and I am pretty sure I don’t want to find out.
My biggest support in this journey was an online group who is full of other loss parents, all at different stages of grief. Having someone to talk to who completely understood was a godsend in the early day and as I get further along this path having some one who was there at the beginning is great.
I never accessed a face to face support group even though my sister-in-laws mum helps run the local one. I couldn’t deal with real life interaction and the looks of pity, yes even other bereaved parents are guilty of the pity tilt. I try not to use it as I know how much it annoys me.
Projects like this is also a support, well not this year unfortunately. This year seems much much harder than normal. Maybe that is down to where my head space is or maybe it is to do with the fact that I remember Milo in everything I do and so doing this just makes me think of the sad things in my journey rather than just including my missing son in my life.
Other bereaved parents do get a lot of support from this project, especially on the 15th when newsfeeds all across social media are lit up with candles and love.
Today’s post is about what to say to/help a loss parent at whatever stage of their journey.
Say the babies name. Lots of times people just refer the the baby as an angel or the missing one. They try anything not to say the name for fear of upsetting the parent. It is more upsetting when we don’t hear our child’s name.
Ask about the baby. Bereaved parents love to speak about their missing babies. Don’t change the subject straight away if a loss parents mentions their child.
Remember special dates. It hurts so much to have your baby forgotten, especially by people who should remember. It doesn’t need to be a big gesture just a thinking of you text or a quick message/comment on social media.
Understand they may cancel plans at short notice. Some times a loss parent will make plans but when the actual time or date rolls around they can’t face it and will cancel. Please don’t be angry with them or stop inviting them out. They aren’t necessarily in charge of their emotions and feelings. You also can’t tell how a day is going to go.
Be who they need you to be. Sometimes I need people to be normal, sometimes I need them to be helping, other times I need them to back off. It can be difficult to do what the loss parent needs but ask them and they will tell you. Sometimes they just need you to listen or be a venting board.
Don’t ever tell them it was better the child died or to get over it. These are the two worst statements you could ever say to a loss parent. They cannot get over it. It is an event that will colour every single day of their lives and cause them to react differently to someone who has not lost a child.