Every single day in the UK, 15 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth. One couple have bravely shared how people helped them after the death of their baby, in the hope that it may offer support to others
Traumatic scenes broadcasted on EastEnders back in 2014 saw a devastated Shabnam Masood giving birth to her and Kush Kazemi’s dead son in the hospital delivery suite.
At the time of the storyline, the soap consulted with SANDS on how to cover the story sensitively and realistically, in the hope that it would break the taboo on stillbirth.
But how should we support a family when they lose their baby?
Writing on Gas And Air, a thoughtful and insightful blog run by a mother and midwife, the couple have opened their hearts and revealed how they found solace after the death of their first baby.
They explained: "Nothing could have prepared us for the death of our first son, an hour after his birth at 41 weeks. No warning, very little explanation and absolutely nothing we could do about it other than start the long and painful process of grieving for our beautiful, perfect boy."
Choosing to write about some of the ways in which people helped them come to terms with their loss, the grieving parents have explained how you can help a friend or relative who has lost a baby.
"These are likely to be the worst times your loved ones will ever go through so the most important thing is to be there, in whatever way you can. Visit, call, send a message, whatever you can manage and whatever you feel is appropriate.
"Nothing is worse than saying nothing, ignoring what´s happened and waiting until ‘things get better’."
"Everyone worries about not knowing what to say or, worse, saying the wrong thing. The truth is, there’s no right thing to say. The best thing to do is listen. People want to tell their stories and bereaved parents often want to talk about their baby.
"It helps to make it real and tangible: that baby is a person, he or she had a life – however short – and talking about what happened can help enormously."
Bring food. Don’t stay too long.
"Buttering a piece of toast can seem like an insurmountable challenge, never mind cooking a meal. If you can bring food, it will be so welcome but don’t expect to be invited in.
"Your friends will be grateful but, when grief takes over, there’s little room for pleasantries or thank yous. Those will come later."
"Where possible, take the lead and take care of any practicalities you can: washing, loading/unloading the dishwasher, running errands etc. If they have older children, perhaps offer to look after them for a few hours.
"Also, taking on unwanted admin such as cancelling baby-related plans (NCT memberships, deliveries for the nursery etc.) or offering to call other people who the parents don’t have the strength to relate their story to in the immediate days and weeks."
"SANDS (the Stillbirth And Neonatal Death charity) offers emotional support to bereaved parents but also has information for family and friends that can help to explain how the parents may be feeling. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be."
Go the distance.
"Bereaved parents will forever remember the child(ren) they’ve lost and that space can never be filled. Every birthday, anniversary, Christmas, Mothers’/Fathers’ Day will bring back very painful feelings.
"During the early weeks and months the support pours in, but as time goes on, that wave of support recedes and the parents are left feeling as if they´re alone in a world that now feels very alien, needing to ´move on and get back to normal´.
"This can be the hardest time for parents and for friends too. Again, no-one wants to say the wrong thing and avoid upsetting the parents all over again. In reality, nothing is more upsetting than the feeling that people have forgotten."
Utterly inspirational, the brave parents concluded: "We miss our son every single day. We should have a noisy, boisterous toddler tearing around our house, instead we have the photos we proudly display on our mantlepiece, the stretch marks I have on my tummy, the tile with his tiny footprints imprinted on it, the little hat he wore during his very short life, and of course the heaviness that we carry with us every day.
"But he is also with us in the box brimming with cards and messages that we received following his death, he is in the new friendships we’ve forged with people who truly went above and beyond in their support for us and mainly in the firmly held belief we now have that, although there are inexplicably awful things that happen in the world, there’s a tremendous amount of goodness too and we’re so proud that our precious boy has given us that gift.”
You can read the moving article in full over at Gas And Air now.
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