Raising awareness for Baby Loss Awareness Week
This week is Baby Loss Awareness Week, which takes place from 9 – 15 October every year. While there are no words to express the impact of a loss like this, it’s important that conversations around mental health include such highly sensitive topics as this – so that we’re all made more aware of how to help anyone who is affected. And that we know there are people to turn to, if such a thing were ever to directly touch our lives.
In this article, we’re going to gain an understanding of baby loss from a psychological perspective. Through this article, we aim to offer a brief glimpse into the world of bereaved parents and offer some light-touch guidance for friends and family who are not directly affected. If you have personally experienced baby loss and wish to speak directly with one of our experienced psychologists, please email the team to set up a call or skype session – we are ready to help you.
Finding the right words to say
To help bring awareness to such a sensitive topic, Sands has created a campaign and hashtag called #FindingtheWords to help everyone find the right way to support those who have been affected by the trauma of baby loss. As noted in a recent BBC article titled Bereaved parents let down at work by lack of support, people who experience the loss of a baby discover that when they return to work, for example, no-one knows what to do or say. Many people believe that silence and space will be best – however, this isn’t always ideal, as it potentially isolates a recently bereaved person, who is going through a shocking and unexpected burden of pain.
Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands, explains that a wall of silence can add to the trauma – and that even the simplest of phrases, such as “I heard what happened, and I’m so sorry for your loss” can offer a real bridge of connection to parents who are in this situation.
As with any loss, the feelings of grief will manifest in different ways for different people. Some will want to detach completely, shedding the depth of their tears many months after the event, some will want to be left alone, and some will want to talk. There is no right or wrong way to process psychological events and as a friend to a person who is going through this, one of the best things you can do, is simply offer a non-judgemental space in which they can speak freely about how they really feel. In terms of #FindingtheWords to communicate this, you can simply say “Please know I’m here for you, whenever you feel ready to talk” – which offers yet another bridge of connection, compassion and caring.
Processing emotion through reading, or therapeutic writing
If it’s appropriate to do so, another thing you could suggest to a friend, or colleague, is to join some of the easily accessible online forums that have been set up by people who are processing their own experiences of baby loss. There are many excellent blogs, articles, books and private social media groups for parents who need emotional support during this time.
If your friend or relative is experiencing baby loss, you can also suggest that they write their feelings out in a journal, or on their digital device. Writing out feelings has therapeutic benefits in itself, in that it’s a way of expressing oneself and getting emotions out into the open in a safe and easy way. This writing needn’t be published or put online or read by another person at all. From a psychological perspective, studies have shown writing therapy to gradually ease feelings relating to trauma.
Maintaining relationships through baby loss
It’s important to realise exactly how major this kind of shift is in a person’s life. After potentially months of anticipating the joy of a healthy baby, the unthinkable happens, and life is suddenly turned upside-down by a harrowing event that can render even the hardiest of souls thoroughly grief-stricken. All the excitement generated in the lead up to the birth by friends, family and coworkers vanishes, as the parents are plunged into a darkness they’ve never encountered before. Whether or not a couple can navigate the situation and handle the trauma together is also unknown – some find that their relationship is strengthened, while others find it to be the reason that tears them apart.
As a friend or colleague on the outside of this situation, looking in, it’s important to maintain a bridge of some kind with those grieving the loss. Again, just a simple text or message saying you’re there for them when needed is all it takes.
Thankfully, many people are ready to lend a helping hand
While baby loss may not get quite the same level of coverage that other aspects of mental health receive due to its highly sensitive nature, it’s good to know that there are many organisations working away quietly in the background, who are doing incredible work to help aid anyone who is affected by this unique form of trauma.
Tommys.org.uk is one such organisation that conducts world-class research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. They have discovered that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, and that complications surrounding the birth process are far more common than everyone has been led to believe. Another thing you can do, especially as a co-worker of anyone affected by baby loss, is create a fund raiser to aid research in this area. Tommys accepts donations on their website and through funding, they’ve been able to help so many families begin to cope and rebuild their lives.
We’ve helped many parents and families navigate the unique trauma that is associated with baby loss. If you would like to discuss how we can help, then please do contact us for a confidential chat.