June is Sands awareness month and this year’s focus is on #FindingTheWords to break the silence around baby loss by encouraging everyone to sensitively start a conversation with somebody whose baby has died, however long ago.
It takes courage to start a difficult conversation and the death of a baby is so unnatural and wrong it’s hard to know to say, often just a simple “I’m sorry” or “I’ve been thinking of you” is enough to let me know that Henry is remembered and my grief acknowledged. Other ways to start a conversation could be:
“I heard about your son/daughter and I’m sorry”
“Do you mind talking about it?”
“Tell me about him/her”
“What was the birth like?”
“How much did he/she weigh?”
“Who did he/she look like?”
“Do you have photos? Can I see them?”
“I read your blog/Instagram/Facebook post about…”
“When you were pregnant did you find/do/have…x, y, z” There was nothing traumatic about our pregnancy, labour or birth so these are topics I find quite easy to talk about, this may not be the case with every bereaved parent.
Though more difficult to talk about I also don’t mind people asking about Henry’s death.
“Do you mind me asking what happened?”
“Do you have a cause of death?”
“Have you had any more information about what happened?”
If you know a bereaved parent and have never said anything because you weren’t sure what to say and now it feels like too much time has passed to bring it up, don’t worry! It’s better to start the conversation later than never, simply saying “I didn’t know what to say” is fine, we understand.
Actions speak loudly
After Henry died friends, family and neighbours sent cards, flowers, texts and messages on social media. My sister took to messaging us “thinking of you, no need to reply”. Friends offered us places to stay, dinner, company and the opportunity to talk. Many of these offers we didn’t take up but we were, and still are, grateful for them.
In the very early days of grief when it was all we could focus on we were also given an enormous amount of practical support. My brother spoke with funeral directors and visited burial sites. My mum informed our neighbours about Henry’s death. My mother-in-law phoned my husband’s work to tell them what had happened and they told him not to worry about coming in and to take as much time off as he needed. We moved in with family for two months and they took complete care of us and while we were away from home a friend checked in on our house and offered to get us food in when we returned. We put the details of Henry’s funeral on Facebook and at very short notice most of our closest school friends rearranged work, appointments and other commitments to attend. Sometimes when it’s hard to find the words, actions can speak just as loud.
As time goes by keep talking
Eight months on and the initial shock from Henry’s death is starting to pass but grief is still a massive part of our lives. The death of a child is a grief that lasts a lifetime and we will continue to need to talk about Henry and include him in our lives forever. Anniversaries and celebrations are always a good time to reach out to a bereaved parent and let them know you remember their child. I really appreciated the messages and cards I received on Mother’s day and loved seeing Henry’s name written in Easter cards. It also means a lot being sent photos of Henry’s name written in the sand or snow, or receiving a message from someone telling me something that made them think of him that day, these gestures reassure me that Henry is remembered.
If you know a bereaved parent don’t avoid talking about what happened to their child. Start the conversation and keep it going over time. Let them know you remember by speaking and writing their child’s name and including them however you can. Let’s break the silence around baby loss.