With one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage, the devastating effects of baby loss are all around us, yet they are often suffered in silence and not openly spoken about.
If society is uncomfortable about talking about death in general, when it comes to the loss of a baby many people struggle to find the right words to acknowledge and talk about what has happened. This means that losing a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth can be a particularly difficult path to navigate.
Family and friends may be afraid they will say the wrong thing and don't want to make things worse. So instead, if someone they know, love and care about experiences the loss of a baby, more often than not they will do the worst thing possible: that is, stay quiet and say nothing to avoid an awkward and possibly upsetting conversation. But for those who will never know their longed-for child, this attitude can often add to the guilt, shame and grief that they are already experiencing.
Bex Gunn, whose fourth pregnancy ended in miscarriage, explains:
“To be told your baby has died is so awful. I couldn’t believe how painful it was. Of course it's hard for other people to know the right thing to say and to watch someone experiencing such pain, but saying something is better than saying nothing at all. If people don’t say anything, it feels like your feelings don’t matter, that you should be coping better or going back to normal. That eats away at you. Just saying ‘It’s absolutely horrible but I am here for you’ acknowledges the importance of that loss.”
Lisa Williams, who had three miscarriages in 17 months before her daughter was born last year, also faced silence.
“Having a miscarriage is mourning the loss of a loved one, but you’re also mourning the loss of the unknown, the what-ifs and the unfairness of the world. So I'm not sure anyone's words would have made that easier. People would dismiss it, or not acknowledge it or not even ask how I was, because they didn’t know what to say or do.”
Your words may not be able to take away someone’s pain, but just being there and recognising that agony will be appreciated, insists Bex. While saying something is better than keeping silent, we should also be mindful of the impact of our words.
Lisa says: “The most unhelpful thing was when people asked if I would try again, or when they’d say 'Keep trying. It will happen.’”
For Bex, it was those who started their sentences with ‘At least…'. "People would say to me ‘At least you have other children’ as if that would take away my pain. I felt forgotten and unimportant, but more painfully, I felt that my baby didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how early it was, how young we are or if we already have children. We are still hurting and need love.”
The most helpful thing for Bex was to speak to others who had experience baby loss, and that led her to meeting Laura Buckingham, who experienced miscarriage in nine of her 10 pregnancies. Together, the two ploughed their energy and emotions into setting up an online community for others. A year later, The Worst Girl Gang Ever now has over 25,000 followers on Instagram.
“To lose a baby is heart-breaking and nothing can change that, but support through this utter devastation is not just helpful, it is essential.”
The Worst Gift Gang Ever - visit www.theworstgirlgangever.co.uk - an online support platform and podcast for miscarriage and baby loss.
Goodnight Angel Baby - Author Amy Pinnick has recently published a new book on baby loss from the perspective of a sibling, called Goodnight Angel Baby, with beautiful illustrations by Leah Bar Shalom. Amy kindly sent us a copy to review and we think it is charming, sensitive and age appropriate for younger children who may be feeling the halo effects of a miscarriage in the family without being able to fully understand what has happened. While it might be tempting to shield young children from loss, they are often quick to sense when something feels wrong within the family and it can be kinder to talk openly about what has happened in a gentle, reassuring and age appropriate way. Find Goodnight Angel Baby on Amazon here.