We are coming to the end of another Baby Loss Awareness week, an important annual event which aims to improve understanding of prenatal and baby death. The theme this year is isolation and today we want to consider ways in which you can ‘remember together’, be that with your partner, family members, or the wider community.
So often when a baby dies there is silence. People don’t know what to say, so they may say nothing. They fear upsetting you, perhaps, as though talking about him or her is a reminder that they died, as though you could forget. Maybe they fear getting upset themselves when they speak about it, and that they’ve less right than you to do so, so they keep their feelings quiet.
As a parent it is very natural to want to talk about your child, so if you want to, do. Say their name and make sure others know it. Although it can be frustrating when loved ones are awkward or silent, remember in most cases they are coming from a good place, and a sign from you that it’s OK to talk about your baby may be all they need to open up that conversation.
Some people find it useful to share their baby’s story publicly, maybe on baby loss forums with other bereaved families, or on social media. This is obviously personal choice but again, ‘speaking’ about your baby in this way may help to keep them present for you and give you the opportunity all parents deserve, to tell the world how much you love your child.
For some bereaved families, Baby Loss Awareness Week gives another formal opportunity, alongside significant anniversaries, to commemorate. This may mean taking part in the ‘Wave of Light’ which marks the end of the week on 15 October, by lighting a candle. It may mean going to a particular place that has meaning for you. Perhaps for you, ‘remembering together’ means within a small unit, which may be just you and your partner, or some other close family members. If there is a garden, a beach, a tree or somewhere that is special to you, might you take somebody with you?
You may still have items belonging to your baby which help you feel close to him or her, and you may wish to create a memory box if you haven’t already. This could contain photos, if you have them, and so much more: a blanket, a soft toy, any item that reminds you of them. You might keep a journal or write a letter or poems to your baby and keep those, too, in this safe place. Again what you choose to share of this and with whom is entirely up to you.
There are various online tribute sites where you can create a lasting, public memorial to your baby, such as the Sands Garden and MuchLoved. It can help ease those feelings of isolation both by allowing you to commit your baby’s story to record, and also by connecting with other people’s stories of love and loss.
Connecting with others is one of the ways most of us find meaning generally, and often moreso in grief. When you first lose a baby, you may want to hide away, retreat, keep this devastating and personal loss curled inside you for some time. They were your baby and perhaps sharing them feels like letting go of them.
However in time, recognising your baby’s place in the family can bring a sense of comfort and further validate the existence of your child as a person with a wider role, as someone’s sibling, niece or nephew, longed-for grandchild, excitedly anticipated godchild.
Some people find meaning in fundraising, awareness raising, and supporting others. Doing good can act as a tribute to your beloved child, a fitting legacy, again cementing their importance not just to you but in the world.
For others, finding meaning is simply discovering, slowly, that the grief you feel is part of the enormous love you have for your baby. The journey is learning to accept that as part of you now and becoming able to live alongside it.
Grief, like love, comes in all forms and there’s no single way to express it. However you remember your child, whatever is helpful for you, is right for you.
Finally, even though it is Baby Loss Awareness Week, it might sound obvious but you don’t have to ‘take part’ at all. Maybe it’s too soon; maybe your loss feels just too personal to share out in the world, and that’s fine. But there are ways to share and reach out if you want to; you don’t have to carry your grief alone.