There’s a lot out there about new mums being lonely and how as a new mum you can suddenly feel lonely as your world changes overnight when your new baby is born. People talk about how important it is to make new friends and to build support networks so you don’t feel isolated. I’ve been there and get why some mums feel that way so can champion the importance of joining groups or courses to meet other new parents perhaps NCT classes or pregnancy yoga (as long as you’re not a rainbow mum read my earlier post about my experience with this here) before the birth or a baby class afterwards.
What no one really talks about though is how lonely it is when your baby or child dies. As a mum of a living baby yes it might be lonely but you only have to go into a cafe or shop or walk down the street with a pram before someone stops to talk to you, to coo and fuss over your baby. It’s more than acceptable in society to be a new parent and to have a baby. If anything society celebrates it as this great achievement, which it isn’t, and miracle, which it is. But what happens if your child or baby dies? What then?
Well I can say from experience that society ostracises you. The support networks you had as a new or expectant mum suddenly disappear and aren’t there anymore. You can’t go along to a mother and baby group minus a baby can you? Or a post-pregnancy yoga session when that baby didn’t survive even though perhaps you’re more in need of that session than others. Well why can’t you? Because society makes you feel like an outcast. You should be able to attend these groups and classes but you’re made to feel unwelcome. I phoned one yoga school after I lost my rainbow baby Arthur at 22 weeks (read about it my experience with Arthur here) and asked could I switch my paid for maternity yoga sessions to a post-pregnancy class but she advised that it wouldn’t be suitable for me and gave me a refund instead. All of a sudden your mummy membership has been revoked. You aren’t welcome anymore. Suddenly you’re pushed out to the fringes of society.
When my daughter Violet was alive I was celebrated by that same society, who exclaimed, “Oh you’re doing such a good and thankless tiring job as a Mummy”, “wow you’re a working mummy too” and even though motherhood is stressful at least it is acceptable.
Then your child dies and you’re pushed out, ignored and no one knows what to say or do with you anymore, so it is easier for him or her to simply ignore you or your situation. It is as though your mummy label has fallen off, when in fact you are still a mummy but just not of a living child. You’ve had the sleepless nights and are still having them just now they are because of your tears not a baby’s.
No one wants to invite you out anymore. Well we don’t want to risk upsetting you, they may say, if we talk about our children. Suddenly if you do see any of your old friends by accident they deliberately avoid talking about their children and mentioning yours for this reason, when actually having only discussed parenting and each other’s children for the past year or more that line of discussion might actually be a great comfort and more the “normal” you’ve been used to. It is actually lovely for someone to mention your child’s name as it shows they still remember them and that their memory lives on, as one of the fears a grieving parent has is that their child will be forgotten.
A few years before I became a mother I was a singleton for years and I was subject to a different kind of societal taboo. I actually found myself longing to be in that outcast group again as it was more familiar to me!
So what to do about it?
If you’re the parent of loss then don’t feel alone there’s a huge community of us out there who can relate to what you’re going through. There are some links on my site here and don’t be afraid to reach out to friends to invite them out for coffee/lunch even if you don’t feel like it you’ll feel better for it as often they just don’t know what you need so tell them.
If you’re a friend or family member of someone who has suffered loss please do the following-
- Ask – People used to ask me what they could do for me & sometimes I knew but often I didn’t know or couldn’t think about what I needed. So instead perhaps say I’d really like to be here for you. Would you like to come out for lunch with me or would you prefer me to drop some food round to you? Do you fancy a walk & a coffee somewhere or the cinema or I can pop round to you? By giving them choices it makes it easier for them to say what they’d prefer. Multiple-choice questions are always easier.
- Listen- when you do see them just listen and give them a hug if appropriate. Feel free to say – “I can’t imagine what you’re going through” or if you’ve suffered child loss yourself then “I’ve been there I’m so sorry I understand what you’re going through” (please note: don’t say this if the closest loss you’ve suffered is losing a pet, as hard as that to you is it really isn’t comparable to losing a child nor is saying everyone has bad times then comparing it to money worries or a sick parent). Don’t say “at least he/she didn’t suffer”, “it wasn’t meant to be” or “at least you’re young enough to have another”. Remember silence is golden.
- Timing – The period leading up to & straight after the funeral is when lots of people will be fussing over the grieving parents but that will end one or two weeks afterwards, then everyone outside the family will go back to their normal lives as if nothing happened. Contact your friend then, as this is when the loneliness begins. Good friends of mine dropped in food, insisted on cooking for us in our home & dropped in alcohol. One bought us a voucher card for a meal out that encouraged us to leave the house. Others sent flowers to show they were thinking of us if they lived far away. Remember even something small like a card or text message can make them feel less alone.
Love & hope
Sarah – Violet-Skies
Have you read these other posts about child loss?