Creating memories of the baby in the early days is a very significant, and often savoured, process for someone who has lost a baby. Having friends and family acknowledge the baby as an individual is important in the journey of coming to terms with the loss.
In this 'Speaking From Experience' video clip, participants discuss some of the things that were important to them in the time following the baby's death.
Video 2018 © Copyright Healthily Pty Ltd
Liz - It was very important for us that people did come in and see Harrison. At the same time, we respected there were people that it was too hard, that they just couldn’t come to the hospital or couldn’t go in the room and look at him. And we respected that and understood it, because we very much felt that we didn’t know how we would feel if it was someone else that we knew, and what decision would we make? We know what we would do now, but we didn’t know what we would do prior to our own loss.
Anne-Maree - At the time after her death, the things that were important were… people acknowledging her, and acknowledging what had happened, and letting us talk about her and how we felt about her life and death.
Natalina - I just remember always worrying, “How do you tell people?” And my husband was ringing people and telling them, “We had a boy, but he died.” And I remember once, I actually said to him, “Why don’t you…” You know… I said… When I rang one particular friend, I said, you know, “He was stillborn.” You know, “Tell them that he was stillborn.” And he rang and he said, “Oh, we had a son, but he was stillborn.” And they said, “What’s that?” So I realised that that wasn’t going to work. I guess, I don’t know, maybe I was, you know, just finding a way of handling it differently, but at the end of the day, the simplest thing was to say, “We had a son, but he died.”
Annette - In the days and months that followed Jessica’s death, I think I just tried to get through every day as I could, one day at a time. I think I just had to get through the initial shock and acceptance that her death
had actually occurred. Not having any other children, I had a lot to deal with in that regard as well, I felt. Because I did wonder if I’d ever have another baby successfully, if I’d ever get pregnant again, if I’d have a safe pregnancy, if I would be safe because I did have that to deal with as well and physically, I had a lot to physically get over. So I just... I just dealt with it as best I could.
Liz - My father said initially,
“Don’t have a funeral. It’s too hard. “It’ll be too hard for you.” But we found that we had such a strong response from our friends that… They needed a funeral as much as we did. They needed to have that ceremony.
Michelle - There’s just this wall in front of you, and… and you can’t… You can’t communicate with people, because you just don’t know what to say. And sometimes they didn’t know what to say to you either.
Alan - I guess, when you’re going through something that sad, you really want to just crawl in a hole and, in some ways, not talk to anyone, and just keeping the communication open was really important. We tried to do a few special things together, go away together, go out for dinner together, just spend time so that we could have time for each other and listen to how we were feeling. Also too, because we had such different experiences, it was important that we did talk about it.
Anne-Maree - Initially, it was just… yeah, just sadness and shock. And then I did go into an angry phase for a while where I just felt angry… “Why? Why did this happen to her? Why my child?” And then I think that anger sort of came out on other people who did and said inappropriate things, and… Yeah, they probably deserved it, some of the time.
Natalina - It is about being patient with yourself and really allowing yourself to grieve, to feel that pain, feel that pain and believe that, you know, it is a journey, it is a way of encapsulating that baby’s essence in you, and that with time, the pain can be as raw, but you can also find joy
in the sense that… I’m pleased John’s come into my life, albeit that he died at birth. I would rather that than he didn’t come at all.
Michelle - For so long, we were sort of socially mute, or that’s what I call it, where...if you’d go out somewhere… People would encourage you, you know, “Go out. Come out.” You know, “Let’s go out for dinner. Let’s go wherever.” Didn’t feel like it, but you thought, “Mmm. We’d better do it.” So...you did, but there was nothing to talk about, because you had nothing… Because of what had happened, you had nothing to talk about, literally nothing to talk about. And it was sort of like this… You just felt like you were just sitting there like deaf-mutes, almost, until we sort of got to the point where we realised that we had to start making plans and things and having things to look forward to and… and moving through that grief.
Liz - I don’t think I coped very well in the days, weeks and months that followed. I put on the brave face, but in hindsight, I think part of it was shock. I really could not believe that it had happened. I still find it difficult now to believe that it’s happened, and it’s only that I have physical reminders around me that prove that it did happen. A lot of the time is a blur. It was very much...sometimes not even day by day but just hour by hour, getting through. The grief would strike me when I least expected it. Walking through the supermarket and hearing a song playing that we had at his funeral was very difficult. And day-to-day interactions with people were very hard. And it was only with time that I realised that I had to keep talking and I had to heap… Excuse me. I had to help others learn how to help me to grieve, and that by walking away from it and being on my own wasn’t solving anything, and that I had to confront what had happened and keep talking about it, to encourage others to talk to me so that they could support me.
Anne-Maree - I did learn one strategy that a friend said to me was just… ‘Cause I… A few family members were quite difficult, and even though they were trying to help, they really made it difficult for me, by, you know, just asking lots of questions and just sort of being on my back. So I just learnt to not answer those questions. And… Yeah, that was quite hard, ‘cause I’m the sort of person that always, you know, would answer or, you know, just be respectful to somebody else, but I just knew to… for myself, and to get through, I did have to just ignore some people and just not say anything, or actually say to them, “What do you mean by that?”
Natalina - I can’t really say how my husband came to terms with it, if he has at all as yet, other than… I know for my husband, I think it’s just too painful and he doesn’t go there. I know for me, I can, obviously, revisit that moment at any time and still feel that pain, but, generally, I feel that, for me, to come to terms with it, I just needed to talk and really go over lots of different things and sort of, in a sense, understand that I… you know, come to this appreciation that I did the best I could at the time, of, you know, caring for him in pregnancy and after pregnancy, when he was born, and just appreciating that I’m grieving for him and that I was grieving, and so I just had to learn to be patient with my thoughts.
Michelle - Every Sunday, we’d put Blake in the car, make a picnic lunch… I’m sure people thought we were absolutely mental, but… We used to get in the car and we’d drive to the cemetery and visit Evan, and then we’d drive across and visit my mum, and we’d have lunch at the cemetery, and that was our day… our weekend… our Sundays, I should say, for months.
Annette - I’d always wanted to write about what happened to Jessica, even if I never showed it to anyone. I like to write, and I always wanted to, and when I actually did do it, I found it very, very therapeutic. It was very difficult to do, but I found that I wanted to put every detail in there. It was like living it again, which probably wasn’t good, but it was very therapeutic to actually get it all out on paper. And I think it was probably my way of saying, “This really did happen, and she really did exist.”
Alan - I’d like to be able to say that it’s made me stronger or… somehow made me a better person, but, look, I don’t really think it has. I think it’s just… It’s made me sadder. In some ways, it’s… it’s made me more understanding of other parents who go through this and other people in general who have bereavements. I think too, it’s made me realise that… that remembering is really important and that we do a lot of things to try and remember Elise.