If you are visiting this page because you have lost a baby, I am so sorry. It is mind-boggling how life can be both so extraordinarily terrible, and so full of joy.
I hope that you are taking the very best care of yourself, physically and emotionally, as you begin to adjust and find ground under your feet again.
A few gentle reminders,
- no matter what our friends, families and culture may tell us, there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there is no timetable for grief, and there are no stages of grief;
- I encourage you to gently allow your grief to unfold as it will. You have the right to experience every emotion under the sun, without apology. Whilst grief feels beyond uncomfortable to experience, there is no feeling that is inappropriate, unnatural or wrong;
- you, and your body, did everything possible to take care of your baby… might you allow those who love you to hold this truth for you awhile, if you happen to not be there yet?
- the loneliness of grief can be one of the hardest parts. Know that there are people who care, answering calls 24/7, at numbers like these. You might find that letter-writing (to anyone, who is alive or who has died, and which you may or may not post) and journalling go some way to helping you express your grief. Reading a book such as Megan Devine’s “It’s ok that you’re not ok”, can also help you to feel understood and supported, in some way.
- you may find that the grief doesn’t ever go away, but that life will grow around it in time.
Staying connected with your baby after loss
In line with the modern theories of grief, I am a big believer that the love, relationship, connection and even conversations with your baby absolutely continue.
Frederick Buechner wrote, “When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you”.
Your love for your baby, and your connection with your baby, are still there, in your very cells. If you wish to do so, these can be remembered, celebrated, acknowledged, in whatever way feels right for you.
When I suggest conversation, I don’t mean this in a supernatural or strange way; just in a sort of
Hallo, my bubs, I love you! Today the sky is the same shade of blue that your blanket was, the day you were born..
– as you hang out the washing. In this kind of way. However feels right for you.
Keepsakes and traditions
These are a bit like stepping stones on the path of grief, and can go a long way to continuing the connection with your baby. For example, they can
…provide tangible evidence that yes, your baby existed, and that you were their parent for that precious short time
The medications of childbirth, together with the way that memories are stored during trauma and grief (for both parents), can sometimes mean that memories become kind of foggy and dreamlike. They can also become more distant with time. On the other hand, little details may stay with you, or randomly tumble in to your awareness suddenly, and quite vividly, even decades later.
I think this feeling of unreality can also be made worse by people not mentioning your baby’s name (or even that the loss happened at all), in the years to come. And because our culture doesn’t “do” grief well, you may not to feel comfortable mentioning your baby’s name even to close family, either.
…offer a way to celebrate
Keepsakes and traditions are a way to celebrate your continued bond and love, vessels for sharing the memory of your baby with others. They can also help give some structure and purpose to special days and anniversaries.
…offer a way to spark renewed feelings of connection
– even decades later – making you smile, weep or burst with pride for your little one – and for yourself, the younger you that experienced this loss, and survived it, somehow.
A few examples of traditions and keepsakes
These could be absolutely anything at all that feels meaningful to you. You might not know what to do yet, but ideas may occur to you in the months and years to come. A few examples might be to
- make a quilt from your maternity dresses, or from the baby blankets that you may have
- once a year or so, donate a gift for a child who would have been your child’s age, to a charity
- set the intention every day, or every New Year or birthday etc, to honour your baby’s life by living yours to the full, and in line with what matters most to you, deep in your heart
- keep a candle lit, in honour of your baby, on special occasions
- create a space, a small table, drawer or shelf in your home, perhaps with a rocking chair nearby, where you keep a few special objects that remind you of your baby
- create a memory box, photo book or piece of artwork celebrating your baby’s life
- create a playlist of songs that were meaningful in some way to you during your pregnancy
- get a tattoo as a reminder of your baby
- once a year, to take a box of treats to the staff on the ward where you were
- plant a tree or a flowerbed in memory of your baby
- donate a bench in a place that was special for you and your baby
- raise funds for a perinatal unit in your town to get equipment that will help them look after newborns
- in memory of your baby, fund raise, complete a walk or a run, volunteer or donate to an organisation that is meaningful for you.
On holding these lightly
If you feel uncomfortable “chatting” to your baby, or if keepsakes go yellow or fade in the sun, or traditions and special days get forgotten in the business of life – please be gentle with yourself; this doesn’t “mean” anything about your love for your baby, it just means you are human and living on earth 🙂 –
Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.
– Henry Van Dyke
- SANDS has a treasure trove of counselling and resources to parents who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death. Their resources include a men’s support line, an online live chat, and an annual candle lighting ceremony. They also do remembrance walks, have support groups, and so on.
- A gift of time: continuing your pregnancy when your baby’s life is expected to be brief, by Kuebelbeck & Davis. This book is a gentle and practical read for parents who decide to continue their pregnancy, even though they know their baby’s life will be brief.
- It’s OK that you’re not OK: meeting grief and loss in a culture that doesn’t understand, by Megan Devine. As well as this book, Megan has excellent resources on her website too, Refuge in Grief.
- Cath Duncan wrote a beautiful little e-book on grief, which you can find on her website together with other resources, Remembering for Good.
- Kara Jones helps people to use creativity (what she calls “heARTmaking”) to explore and make sense of their grief.
- For information and resources on grief generally, you can visit my post here.
PS: a personal note
February is a special month for us as a family, as we celebrate both the birth of one of our sons, and the anniversary of losing twins boys, a few hours after their delivery. We have made a “Certificate of Life” for parents who wish to remember a baby that they lost. This year, and beyond, we will be giving out supplies of these certificates, to doctors, hospitals and so on. Please get in touch with me if you’d like me to post one to you. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, and there will be no cost to you. Here is what it looks like; guidelines for how to fill it in are on the back.