It’s rather Ironic that this post is all about “finding the words” and yet I have had it on my “to do” list for most of the month now – because I just could not find the words!

June is SANDS awareness month – A time of year to raise awareness on Stillbirth and Neonatal death. Their campaign this year “Finding the words”, aims to break the silence around stillbirth and neonatal death by encouraging everyone to sensitively start a conversation with someone whose baby has died, however long ago.

But where do you start? What exactly do you say to someone whose baby has died? What do you say when the unimaginable has happened? And if it was a long time ago, is that not going to be awkward to bring it up now?

The truth for most will be no. In my experience on both a personal level of having my baby be stillborn and with others I have met that have had babies die, they just want to talk about them. To have their name spoken is a wonderful thing. To be asked how we are when we are working daily against grief, is extremely touching. When that person is genuine and really wants to know, that is one big sense of relief and makes you feel happy and accepted in your loss.

My biggest fear has always been that Poppy will be forgotten. Not just that but that she will become replaced or overshadowed. I have already seen in life how very different we view her life and loss to others and this has been hard to terms with, but we are always hopeful that some people in life will still acknowledge her and be interested in how I feel about it or are coping with each passing year.

Every day in the UK 15 babies die before, during, or shortly after they are born – this is the beginning of a lifetime of coping and navigating life with loss in your heart for all of these individuals and families.

Talking about the death of a baby can feel very difficult – baby death is an horrendous thing to even think about in our day, but finding the right words at the right time can really help to support bereaved parents or families when they need it the most. At times this is often following the loss, but at other times it can also be the anniversaries or just a random day or period that it has hit them again and they are not quite themselves.

No one grieving after the death of their baby should have to do so in isolation, especially when surrounded by so many. And I would say too as a word of caution, that no one grieving should have time limits placed upon them. I cannot stress enough how important this one is and how really it is no one else’s business to inflict or put on them YOUR opinions on how they should be feeling about or viewing the death of THEIR baby at any given time. One of the worst things I have experienced is being compared to those who have had miscarriage or compared to how they would behave if they hypothetically lost a baby too!

I wish in these moments I had the self awareness and confidence to say plainly “Well you know what – it wasn’t and isn’t you”! I wish I could tell people to count their lucky stars because unless you have specifically had a baby die shortly before, during or after birth you have absolutely no idea how that would make you feel or how it would affect your future. You don’t know how it changes you or how you would want to have them remembered.

Birthing a full term baby that had died crushed me and changed me! Burying our baby in her tiny grave broke us. Crushed and broken people do not need opinions or judgements. They need genuine friends and people that can give them them the space to open up and speak their babies names. They need genuine conversations to explore what they are experiencing. Conversations that say it’s okay to feel what you feel, It’s normal to miss them and its natural to want to talk about each of your kids! When we overcome the desire to judge a person in their grief or how they handle their loss, we overcome barriers and we begin to break the silence!

I get that talking about loss is hard – it’s emotionally hard for us sometimes too and hard to explain in words how we feel or even what we need. I carry a lot of anger sometimes and at other times I carry only pain and a broken heart. On rare days I have very little of either and speak of her with fondness and a little humour. I suppose it’s hard to know which face of grief you will get?

I know also that it’s hard for you who have never been through it and I often wonder if I would know what to say if I didn’t have this experience behind me to give me the words, understanding and empathy?

But hard things shouldn’t be avoided or ignored just because they are hard. And people shouldn’t not be supported because they are a little tender or frustrated about it all. It will never become easier unless we start doing it and silence will not be broken if we don’t speak the words to try to break it.

Some people need comfort, some need to vent. We do not need to understand to show understanding to someone whose baby has died – however long ago it was!

So what do you say to someone whose baby has died? Where do you start and what possibly can make it better? The truth is – not a whole lot! And this is important to remember – your job is not to make it better but to support them whilst they learn how to live with it better. Perhaps it’s taking them a meal or watching the kids after the funeral has been and gone because real life is awful to try and return to.

Maybe it’s taking them lunch and cleaning for them because you know they cannot face life since all of this happened.

Maybe it’s baking for them and writing them a card, sending flowers, or simply telling them how you acknowledge how crappy it all is and offer whatever you can to them to help cope with life after loss.

Perhaps it’s been a listening ear – Now or months, or years later.

Maybe you invite them for a walk, lunch or a warm drink and let them speak! I had a few good people do this in the early days and it was unbelievably helpful.

There is no reason though to not do or say anything.

I could a write a whole post on the things not to say, and the awful things people have said but this post is about finding the words to say as opposed to what not to say. The most important thing is you start a conversation – you say something general and open that allows the bereaved parent/sibling/grandparent to say as much or as little as they need. If you genuinely want to hear – tell them. Many have been hurt and burned by friends or people just haven’t wanted to know. And so we build barriers and walls as a result to protect ourselves and our babies. These can come down easily if you are genuine.

The first step could be “tell me about your baby” … or maybe “How have you been since losing “Baby’s name” – sit and listen to them and then ask follow up questions as you would with any other friend and follow their lead.

Another thing is to let them know you are thinking of them. If you think of them one day, remember the anniversaries or whatever, then let them know. Send a card, a text, a message, or take it up a notch and call them or invite them out.

One of the greatest things I have had in the last 12 months was a new friend that barely knew me, and certainly never knew me when Poppy died, came over the week of her anniversaires. She laid on my couch and said “I want to hear about it all – how you are and what it’s like now ect”. She stayed for hours and let me say it. I got out a lot of suppressed emotion and I got to tell someone again how utterly unfair it all felt. She didn’t care if I was cross, hurt or frustrated – I didn’t feel judged or an inconvenience, she just wanted to listen and I felt heard and supported.

Yesterday we called by the cemetery on our way home from Grandma’s. WIth it being Fathers day we try to see Poppy and now Nathan’s Dad too. Its hard but we appreciate those moments to reflect on the life and our relationships with those we have lost.

Megan leaned over Poppy’s grave and in a tone like she was speaking to one of her best friends, I heard her say “Hello Poppy – oh how you have been in my heart for such a long time!”. I don’t often cry by her grave because it makes me feel numb more than anything, but yesterday I choked! Oh how our newly turned 6 year old summed up how we all feel in a moment of childhood innocence and play beside her baby sisters grave.

Yes – We carry our babies daily in our hearts instead of our arms. And that feels like such a long time. To you it may seem like ages ago that we lost our baby, but each September and on other random dates throughout the year we remember as though it was yesterday. Most days (if not every day) I will think of Poppy in some light. You will not in anyway bring up the past or cause more grief for speaking the name of our daughter. You will instead offer the gift of supporting her mummy who struggles on. You will offer the gift of validating her life by speaking her name in this world. And you will let us know that she is not forgotten or overlooked, but remembered too.

Living with loss is our present and constant…I am a text away. A facebook message or a phone call. Your friend, sister, colleague, cousin – they are all in easy access. This month you can help by reaching out, starting a conversation, offering a listening ear and breaking the silence on baby loss. Lets hang out, lets talk, lets understand.

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For such a long time (I’d say from the moment I lost Poppy) this post has been with in me – bubbling away and yet suppressed by my british courtesy and respect for others, as well as the fear and inner worry that perhaps I will be misunderstood by others and perceived to be a selfish person – one who is unable to be happy for those around me. But it is more than that, and yes, perhaps it should have been something I published in the early days, but it is just as true now as it was then and when I read Laura Doves Post recently about how she felt Jealous of those whose babies die and get to do more memory making than she ever did 12 years ago, or when she hears of those who get more time with their babies, it resonated with me (a lot), and empowered me to press publish on this long ago written post!

As we met last Monday with other bereaved mothers to film a news piece on Stillbirth, it became very apparent that Jealousy is a massive part of grief and another thing we really need to talk more about. And so in all of my vulnerability I am putting it out there, and I am writing this post to speak the truth of how it feels for nearly all of the women I have ever met on this side of loss, when someone (whoever it is), announces a pregnancy that you know! I am writing it for me to get it out, and for the women in my shoes. But I am also writing it in a hope that if anyone reading it has a friend or family member that has lost a baby, that they may approach it a little more sensitively.

Being a woman of childbearing age, and a mum of 3 living kids, it is inevitable that I will share acquaintances and friendships with women who are in the same boat – that is having babies and raising kids. We are also from big families, and belong to a church that is very much all about family, and whilst I love that we have so many people to enjoy life with, It can be (and most often is) very hard to see so many people having babies when yours has died! I love that I share relationships with people who get the madness of raising kids, but it is inevitable that with that demographic of people there will always be lots of “Hi I’m pregnant” announcements, and whilst I am happy for my friends and family, this is rarely the emotion I feel first when I hear the news.

I know that feeling of sheer joy when you find out you are pregnant, and that together you have another child coming to your family. You want to shout it from the rooftops and you want to share that happiness and great blessing with all of the people you know and love. It is exciting and you want to celebrate.

It is normal now that after calling, meeting up with, or texting family and best friends to let them know the news, that we slap it all over social media and want everyone to feel this excitement with us too.

I remember it well and it is such a great time of life.

But since having a Stillbirth, pregnancy is suddenly more fragile to me, and anything around tiny new babies just feels more heart wrenching! It is hard to see babies that new and fresh, and excitement for others, however much I love them, is not the first emotion I feel now when I find out that someone is pregnant. It is rather more of anxiety and jealousy. It’s often like an inner torture as I fight my grief and pain to find, and then balance it with the joy and happiness for others as they enjoy the blessings of a new baby. I mostly just want to hide away, and for a small while (sometimes longer) it is what I do as it all just feels raw again and a little unfair, even though I know it absolutely isn’t.

The Pain  of announcement because of my loss 

I find pregnancy announcements terribly hard because I am rarely prepared for them, and because I have little control over how much it hurts – every single time! Each time it is the same anxious and sick feeling I have always felt – a reaction tainted by grief that tears me up, and whilst I wish that my initial reaction to a pregnancy announcement was still one of joy and delight, and that I could truly celebrate the moment like others (and like I used to be able to), instead I am faced battling these bitter emotions. Often the joy comes in time, and after a lot of “getting my head around it”, but until then it can be a lot of “faking it til I make it” scenario’s.

More often than not, they are feelings that have to be searched for beneath the initial shock and pain that comes from hearing someone is having a baby.

It would be unreasonable to expect a delighted friend, family member or whoever to consider our feelings before sharing their news, but at the same time this is what is needed to soften the blow and know they are respectful of our feelings and the daily battle of living without one of our kids. An element of sensitivity would ease the awkwardness within me as oppose to the sudden “Oh hi we’re having a baby – yipeee!” which catches me off guard every single time.

I guess that people assume that our loss was an event and not a continuum we live on. They fail to see that this means that rather than sharing in their joy, I struggle with feelings of anxiety and awkwardness – I feel aching that they are getting another baby and I will always have to live without mine.

I find it terribly hard when having opened a message, a text, or a social media page, that I come face to face with an announcement. And, like a slap in the face there it is –

A baby…

A scan picture…

A due date…

A gender reveal!

And nothing prepared me for it, nothing was there to catch my fall, and suddenly I feel defensive too.

Don’t they remember what we went through?

Don’t they consider how hard this is?

And I go into a panic, and I begin searching as to what it is that am I feeling about this and how will it affect me in my grief? When are they due and will it mean their milestones coincide?

Pregnancy announcements stir within me a jealousy and pain I never expected to feel and that I wish I didn’t feel. They all remind me I was pregnant and lost a baby at term. They don’t remind me of my living kids and those moments I felt at ease in pregnancy (though later I can find it), rather I feel the awful demon of Jealously rising up everytime, and I wish it wasn’t so.

I feel jealous and worried of how I am to be around the new baby, when brand new babies (however lovely they are) trigger the memory of holding my still baby! And then I worry that the more babies that come, the less Poppy will be remembered.

And so I battle and try to juggle the joy for them with the aching for me and my baby who died.

I fight to be happy that they have this blessing whilst every day we live with the continued aching for her and one less kid to raise with her siblings, and all I feel is that I wish it was me. I wish I was having the healthy baby… And the moment of an announcement makes me wonder why it was me that had to have the baby die, and why it was me that didn’t get the miracle?

An announcement makes me wonder why so many of our friends get these opportunities and we didn’t, and my heart sinks for our little girl that was gone too soon.

I get mad too … mad that I have a grave and they won’t ever know how incredibly hard that is or what that feels like – and whilst I would never ever wish that on anyone, compassion would be nice sometimes!

This feeling has never left me, no matter how much I pray and wish it wasn’t so. And it has never become easier to see people I know having babies even though I have had a healthy baby since. And so whilst its all kind of wonderful to have mum friends and family, and whilst it’s lovely to see them growing their families, often it can be like walking through a minefield, because I had a baby that died, and people keep having babies that live!

Of course I respond graciously and celebrate in the way you would hope, but it takes me a long time to digest the news because ultimately I am reminded of my loss each time I hear of newborn and expectant babies, and I am reminded of how hard it was, and still is some days and I guess I want people to continue to validate our loss. I want others to be aware that it wasn’t something awful that happened 3.5 years ago, but that it is something awful, and very painful that we have to live with for the rest of our lives.and so these joyful moments for others will trigger my grief and cause me to stress a lot about it.

If you know me personally, then I hope you would know that I love you and can eventually be genuine in my happiness for you and your family (though initially it is somewhat of a facade to try not be weird in my emotions that trip me up).

I know that It is so awkward for us all to live with this, but surely there is a place somewhere in all of this grief, where your living child and my dead child can both be celebrated and acknowledged in life. I guess in another world it would be nice if birth announcements came a little more gently to my heart and crazy mind, but they don’t. So please, if you made it this far, please have more compassion on your friend or family member that misses their sweet baby whilst you get to have and raise yours.

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