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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 26-Nov-15 10:45:09

It's never too late to grieve

We hear from author Alice Jolly on stillbirth and the processing of grief - no matter what age you are.

Alice Jolly

It's never too late to grieve

Posted on: Thu 26-Nov-15 10:45:09


Lead photo

Alice Jolly on a parent's right to grieve the loss of a child - at whatever age.

Seven years ago I was raising money for Sands (The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity) and persuaded our local supermarket to put a collection box near their door. A week later, I walked past that box. An elderly lady was standing near to it, absolutely motionless, tears running down her face.

As a bereaved mum myself, I understood. It doesn't matter how many years pass, you can still be ambushed by overwhelming grief.

Initially that crying woman didn't want to talk to me. But once she knew that I'd lost a baby as well, she agreed to a coffee.

Her name was Clare and she told me about her son, who died at birth forty years ago. He didn't have a name, she never saw him, she doesn't know what happened to his body. Since he had disabilities, she was meant to feel grateful. She went on to have three living children, two daughters and a son.

But still, occasionally, something apparently quite harmless sets it off. As a result of that coffee, Clare came along to our local Sands Support Group. That was hard for her, as she felt she had no right. Her husband and surviving children would think her morbid. She was sure everyone else at the group would be 30 years younger than her.

She was wrong. In fact, there were men and women of all ages. And it wasn't long before someone suggested to Clare that it was time for her baby to have a name and a funeral. After that, Clare disappeared for a bit. But then, with the support of that group, she talked to her local vicar.

As a bereaved mum myself, I understood. It doesn't matter how many years pass, you can still be ambushed by overwhelming grief.

He understood immediately and Clare decided to call her little boy Benjamin.

Within Clare's family, things were stormy. Her husband wasn't happy - but her children were. They had always wanted to talk about their brother but his death had seemed like forbidden territory. Initially Clare's husband refused to come to the funeral, but eventually he changed his mind. Clare said later that the whole family had lived with a wound they didn't even know was there – until it started to heal.

So the point is – it doesn't matter how long ago it was. It doesn't matter if it was a stillbirth, a cot death, a miscarriage, a baby given up for adoption, whatever. You have a right to grieve and you don't have to
suffer alone. The support is out there. And why is that? Because if, like me, you are a more recently bereaved mum, no matter how grim you feel, you know that actually you are lucky.

At least now there are support groups. You may find the wider world shutting you out (sadly that still does happen) but you'll find others who have lived through a similar situation will open their arms. We know how tough it was for our mothers and grandmothers. We want to help.

I hate the saying – laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone. It just isn't true. Often extremely close friendships are built on grief expressed. Right now I happen to be talking about the loss of a baby but there are many others kinds of loss, of course. And many different support groups, counsellors, books, courses.

You might decide to light a candle on an anniversary, create a memorial, make a memory box, put a letter in a bottle and drop it into the sea, tie a message on a helium balloon and let go, make a quilt, hold a service – it doesn't need to be formal or religious. You can make it up yourself.

If you've suffered a loss (who hasn't?) and you want to process the difficult feelings that brings, then you are not being morbid or self indulgent. If people don't understand what you need, ditch them, and find others that do. You may have a few false starts but, if there's one thing I've discovered, it's that the kindness of strangers can be endlessly surprising.

Alice's book Dead Babies and Seaside Towns, about a very personal battle through miscarriage, IVF and failed adoption attempts, is published by Unbound and available from Amazon.

By Alice Jolly

Twitter: @JollyAllice

Imperfect27 Mon 18-Jan-16 14:03:19

And hugs for you Blinko flowers flowers flowers

I have been thinking about how to mark my daughter's tenth anniversary. I am thinking of planting something in her memory.

I know the circumstances are very different, but I was often told 'At least you have other children'. I know there is a grain of truth in this - how very much worse it must be to lose an only child - but still ... we need to be allowed to grieve for the one we have lost, for their individual beauty and meaning to us.

Blinko Mon 18-Jan-16 19:26:12

Thank you, Imperfect.

Just a thought that I wanted to say but became a little upset this morning, so I didn't quite say it. When my baby died, I was moved probably for admin reasons, I was transferred from the obstetric unit back to the normal maternity ward where I'd been booked in for the birth. So I was among mothers with new babies. They were marvellous. In particular, one lady, an Asian lady, gave me her baby to hold. I'll never forget that kind act of one mother to another in such tragic circumstances. I thought that was remarkable, showed the human spirit at its very best.

Imperfect27 Mon 18-Jan-16 19:53:35

Thank you for sharing - so very sad, but what a beautiful moment. No words, just hugs flowers

Thebeeb Mon 18-Jan-16 20:58:05

Domsmum. Hugs.

Nonnie1 Thu 21-Jan-16 13:08:09

I do not think you understand what life is really about until you lose someone close.

I lost my sister to cancer (will not give that word a capital letter) in 2006, and on some days I don't even think about her, yet on other days I think about her all of the time. She left two little children behind.

I take my little grandson down to the grave every now and then. We go to visit 'Auntie Louise', and we tidy the plot and leave little things from him to her, such as Lego bits and Super Heroes, because he says she will like them. 'Spider man is particularly helpful smile
He is five and he knows she has died. He has seen photos of her and knows she is my sister.

It helps me to deal with a situation I have absolutely no control over except to say that sometimes she is the only person I can talk to these days.

Am a happy soul until I think about her x Please don't feel sorry for me, I speak to other people at the cemetery when I go down there and we all deal with grief in our own way.

Anya Thu 21-Jan-16 14:43:43

You don't know our circumstances imperfect so please don't assume we don't 'understand' hmm

Anya Thu 21-Jan-16 14:46:56

Blinko flowers - never too late to say I'm sorry for your loss (((hugs)))

Anya Thu 21-Jan-16 14:48:04

And Nonnie (((hugs))) too flowers

Nonnie Thu 21-Jan-16 15:35:43

It always felt to me as if people were heartless. My mother seemed to think it was all my fault, after one miscarriage I was told that it didn't physically hurt very much and "it is only the emotional pain" and when I lost one of twins I was told not to worry as I still had the survivor.

I only ever had one person who really tried to understand. Once when I was in hospital miscarrying and there was a tiny baby crying in the next room a nursing assistant sat with me most of the night, she hugged me and showed genuine concern for all I had been through and said she felt humble because she had twins. I will never forget her.

I do have some positives to add. My 3 children are wide apart in age which means there was never any sibling rivalry and they are still very close. I believe that when we have to work so hard to achieve something we appreciate it far more then when it comes easily. If I had succeeded with the first three I wouldn't now have my two youngest so I am thankful for them. 9 pregnancies, 10 babies but only 3 children was hard but every day I am thankful for what I have.

Big hugs to all of you.

Nonnie Thu 21-Jan-16 15:38:31

PS there seems to be 2 of us now, going to be confusing, I think there is also a Nonny!

Anya Thu 21-Jan-16 15:53:25

It's a sad thought that were it not for your losses you would not have your two youngest. It's a mixed emotion I understand only too well Nonnie sad
How kind and caring that nursing assistant was when you needed that comfort smile

Anya Thu 21-Jan-16 15:53:57

PS I won't get you muddled!

Nonnie Thu 21-Jan-16 15:58:14

Thanks Anya x 2

Nonnie1 Thu 21-Jan-16 23:30:39

Didn't realise there were other 'Nonnies'. That's what my grandson calls me.

Apologies. I don't post often.

Auntieflo Thu 04-Feb-16 14:46:05

Have only just found this thread, and reading it with a very teary feeling. I lost twins at an early stage, but later went on to have a lovely boy, with 10/12 years between him and his siblings. He and his wife lost a baby last year. My DM was one of twins and my DH was told by his sister that he had been a twin. It is never too late to begin to grieve and by doing so may well start the healing process that we all need. God bless one and all.

grannyjack Fri 05-Feb-16 09:49:12

I too have just seen this. My daughter gave birth to still born twins at 17 weeks. As a family we still light candles & talk about them. She had C&D 9 months later and they are now 6. They have been told that the candles are for babies who died - but not yet do they know where they fit in the family.

Imperfect27 Fri 05-Feb-16 10:15:31

No words, just hugs and flowers flowers flowers