Baby Loss Awareness Week 2022
This year we will be supporting Baby Loss Awareness Week and taking part in the Wave of Light on Saturday 15th October.
One in 4 of us will experience pregnancy or baby loss, but it is still a difficult for people to acknowledge and support people in their grief.
It is a devastating loss, whether a baby has died due to miscarriage or an end to the pregnancy, is stillborn or is here for only a short time. It is not only the life that has been lost, but the hopes and dreams that parents had for their child. Losing a child at any age is incredibly painful and all parents need the support of those around them.
It is so important that parents get what they need, and feel free to express their loss in a way that feels right for them. Family and friends can feel paralysed or helpless, not knowing what to do for the best.
Let them grieve
Our instinct is to make things better. However, words which try to help can make things much worse if those words minimise that loss. ‘Everything happens for a reason’, ‘you can have other children’, ‘you didn’t get to know them’ can be meant well but be devastating to hear.
Everyone grieves in their own way and needs the space to do that. Both parents will feel intense loss, but that might look very different from the outside. There are no right answers.
However, the worst thing you can do is avoid, or ignore their pain. A simple card or message saying ‘I’m so sorry that this has happened’ can mean an awful lot to someone who is grieving. Say their name and listen if the parent wants to talk about them.
Children can also be particularly affected as they struggle to understand what has happened to their brother or sister and feel confused by the grief of their parents. They may need things explaining to them many times or have difficult questions which need an honest answer. The more they are encouraged to express how they feel, the more likely they are to understand.
Grief is all-encompassing, and it can be difficult to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. If someone you love has suffered the loss of a child, try to offer practical help as well as condolences. Nutritious meals to go in the freezer can help them feed themselves, offering to help with household tasks, school runs or errands can make a huge difference. They may wish to hold onto certain items or leave things unchanged (such as the nursery or clothes) so make sure you have their approval before doing anything that can’t be undone.
Depending on the circumstances, the mother may also need to recover physically and need extra care.
They may wish to grieve alone, and need space, but also encourage them to take some fresh air or exercise by suggesting a walk or something similar. Let them know that there is no time limit on their grief, and that you will always be ready to listen to them.
Laying a baby to rest
These are decisions that no parent should ever have to make, and we have taken care of many families through this impossibly painful time. We are always affected by the tragedy of these situations and will do everything we can to offer practical and emotional support.
There are a number of places to find support, whether from your hospital, funeral director or a number of charities.
Many parents wish they could spend more time with their baby. The Luca Foundation is a Kenilworth based charity which provides specially designed cuddle cots in hospitals, to allow families to spend time together in hospital. Photographs, casts and fingerprints can be taken. Even if you they are not wanted at the time, these can be kept until some time, often years later. Mementos such as jewellery or casts can a way to honour a child and carry them into the future. Flower gardens, trees and plants can also create poignant tributes.
Whatever the size or format of the funeral, we take the same amount of care and attention. At Heart of England, we do not charge fees for children’s funerals, so only the direct costs of burial or cremation, and the practical elements are payable. There is also a grant that covers much of the cost that we can help you to apply for.
Know that it is forever.
Anyone who has lost a baby will tell you that grief does not disappear. It may change over time but will always be with them in some form. Grief is incredibly isolating, especially if everyone else seems to quickly move on. Understand that their baby will always be part of their family and they will always grieve their loss.
The death of a baby may also bring up powerful feelings in others who have experienced a similar loss, however many years beforehand. You may be surprised to learn that friends or colleagues have lost a baby at some point in their lives. Again, be ready to listen if they want to talk, ask the baby’s name if it feels appropriate and don’t try and move the conversation along.
Baby Loss Awareness Week seeks to raise awareness around pregnancy and baby loss and reduce the stigma and silence around it. The more we can talk about it, and understand the experiences of others, the better we are able to support each other.
The Wave of Light is an opportunity for everyone to remember and pay tribute to precious babies that have died too soon. At 7pm on Saturday 15th October, light a candle and keep it lit for an hour in remembrance.