People say those who talk about the children they have lost are brave...and yes, without question anyone who survives baby loss is indeed brave, but they aren't brave for talking about their child, they are simply being a parent.
As Mother’s Day approaches once again I am reminded of how privileged and blessed I am to get to raise two little girls, and as a mother who has lost five cherished babies, I am also acutely aware of those who will be spending the day weeping.
Some women will be shedding tears as they have empty arms, and they may be spending Mother’s Day like I once was...on their knees praying that a year from now they will be nursing their longed-for child.
Others will be weeping as they know they will never get to hold a little one of their own.
Then there will be people sobbing as the pain of having little ones missing around their dining table feels too much to bear. Even if some of the seats are filled with giggling children, those empty spaces...those empty chairs are agonising to see.
Of course, it's not only those who have lost children that find Mother’s Day a challenge, those who have lost their mothers are also faced with a fresh wave of pain. Walking around the shops seeing all those banners, all that promotion for this one day of celebration is like a blow to the heart. Who can they buy a card for? Who do they purchase that bouquet of flowers for when their mother is gone? And then there are those moments that only the bereaved are aware of... Those moments you forget your loved one is no longer here... you see an item you know they will love in the shops, and you reach out to grab it - then suddenly the realisation hits you...they have gone. You can't buy them anything anymore, and it's like being freshly bereaved all over again.
So what advice would I offer those who are grieving, and those wanting to support the broken-hearted?
1, Grieve at your own pace – there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Even though the stepping stones of grief are similar, how you navigate them is personal to you.
2, There is no right or wrong way to survive occasions or events. If you want to attend events and take part in special occasions I strongly encourage you to do so, but if you want to avoid them that is equally fine. So when it comes to events such as Mother’s Day, you decide what you are comfortable with, and let those around you know what you will or won't be doing to mark the occasion.
3, Keep talking – the brain comes to terms with trauma by talking about it, so the more you tell your story, the more your brain can finally accept what has happened and this will help you move forward.
4, Don’t try to get back to the person you were before your loss. Losing a baby or any loved one changes you, and the more you go looking for the person you once were, the harder it becomes. Instead, focus on the new person you are and move forward from this place.
For those wanting to offer support:
1, When people are in a state of grief, they often struggle to reach out for support, so it’s important to be direct. Don’t just say, “Call me if you need anything.” Offer to bring a cooked meal for the next week instead.
2, Be willing and available to listen to the same story over and over again. When people are bereft, their brain finds it hard to come to terms with the loss and trauma. Recovery starts with talking, so be a great friend or family member and sit and listen. And avoiding making any unhelpful comments such as, “At least they are in a better place now.” Listen – just listen!
3, Don’t be scared to ask how they are doing and to start the conversation. So many people fear raising the subject of grief and loss in case it triggers upset, but what it actually does is make people feel loved.
Zoe Clark-Coates and her husband Andy have personally faced the loss of five babies. Out of their experiences came the charity The Mariposa Trust (more often known by its leading division Saying Goodbye) offering support to thousands of grieving parents and relatives around the world each week. Her book, Saying Goodbye (A personal story of baby loss and 90 days of support to walk you through grief) is available now.
March 7th, 2018 - Posted & Written by Laura White