June has been The Sands Charity Awareness Month and they launched the Finding The Words Campaign. The aim of this is to break the silence around stillbirth and neonatal death by encouraging everyone to sensitively start a conversation with someone whose baby has died, however long ago. This is such an important campaign as baby loss is still such a taboo topic that people are scared to talk about.
My wife and I lost our daughter Poppy 3 days after she was born due to complications in labour that weren’t picked up on. She was born and didn’t breath for 15 minutes. After all the care that was given too her, the damage was too much for her and we took the painful decision to allow her to pass away.
In 3 days we had gone from expectant parents to bereaved parents. Life can be so cruel. The happiest moment of your life becomes the worst moment in your life. No parent should out live their child yet everyday 15 babies die from stillbirth, during labour or shortly after their birth. This is 15 babies too many. Those parents, like my wife and I, are sudden dealt the cruelest blow. You sudden have to reenter a world that is now darker in tone than it was before. It is hard, emotionally overwhelming and a struggle.
Starting a Conversation On Baby Loss
Starting a conversation with somebody that has suffered baby loss can seem scary. Before losing Poppy I would have had no idea what to say but that is why this Sands campaign is so important. By breaking down the silence surrounding baby loss and showing the world that it is ok to talk to a bereaved parent about their baby. As a bereaved Father I want to make it easier for other Dad’s to speak out and share their stories as well as helping break down the silence. So this is what I as a baby loss parent wanted to hear and didn’t want to hear.
- Please Say My Baby’s Name And Ask About Them
This is the one thing that you have to do. Don’t be scared to mention Poppy’s name to me. I find it so hurtful and upsetting if somebody doesn’t say Poppy’s name. I love it when I hear people say her name. It warms my broken heart, it reminds me that she touched another person’s life. By mentioning Poppy you acknowledge that she was here. This can lead you on to asking about Poppy. You just have to say tell me about Poppy. I love it when people ask about her and what she was like. It makes me so happy when I talk about her. She lived, she was here for 3 days and she has a story to tell. It might be far too short but she has a story and I should be able to share that. It fills my heart to be able to talk about her. She is my daughter and I should feel like I can talk about her without fear of judgement because she has died.
2. Please Don’t Say Nothing About My Baby
This is a massive no no. You might find it hard to say something or ask about Poppy bu don’t say nothing. I’ve had people just look at me and think, no I can’t speak to them. That makes you feel like you have a disease and makes you feel worthless. It makes you feel insecure and you start to think everybody is looking at you and whispering that you’re the person who’s baby died. You don’t have to say much, all you need to say is I’m sorry about Poppy. That is all you need. It acknowledges Poppy and makes me feel like you care. Being ignored makes you feel ashamed to be who you are now. It makes you feel worse. It is isolating and makes you feel alone. You need to put aside the fear you have about talking about baby loss because by not talking it can have a really negative effect on a bereaved parent.
3. Don’t Say Nothing Because I Might Cry
Now in the first few days, weeks and months talking about Poppy made me cry. How could it not, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. People might feel like they don’t want to upset you but it is already an upsetting situation. By not saying anything it makes the emotion worse because it is a different kind of emotion now. You feel upset that people are ignoring you, it makes you feel worthless. Don’t worry about tears, they are going to come no matter what. Yes me crying might make you cry but that is ok too. I know people can find it hard to see people crying and upset. Sadly baby loss is a sad and upset thing. Nothing can change that but you can make it better by finding the words to talk about it. Don’t be scared of saying something that might upset me because it I don’t like it I’ll just say and we can move on from it.
4. Offering Help
If you find asking about Poppy hard then ask if you can do anything for us. After you go through baby loss the simplest of tasks can now seem like climbing a mountain. Going back out into the world again is hard. You can offer to do a food shop, or cook for a bereaved parent. By offering help you are acknowledging what has happened even of you can’t find the words to ask about Poppy. By helping it makes me feel like you care and sort of understand the pain I’m going through.
5. Don’t Tell Me It Wasn’t Meant To Be
This is just a massive massive no no. No matter what you believe saying that to a bereaved parent is just very insensitive. In no way is it right that a parent should out live their children. It’s not normal and it shouldn’t happen. We got told his by our GP at Emily’s 6 week check up. A day hard enough as Poppy wasn’t there. If you believe something like that it doesn’t mean somebody else believes it, especially a bereaved parent.
6. If It Looks Like I’m Struggling Come And See Me
Now being asked are you ok after you loss a baby is not the best thing to ask. I’m not ok but in the weeks and months after there may come a day where I’m having a rough day. If you notice that they ask. You can just say “You look a bit down today, want to talk?”. It lets me know you can see I’m struggling but you are asking me to talk which is what you need to hear. Being asked to talk is a great thing. After suffering baby loss you don’t want to be ignored or isolated.
These are just a few things that can help to break the silence around talking about baby loss. It might sound simple but it really is. Don’t be scared of saying the wrong thing because saying nothing is far worse. By saying nothing you can isolate a bereaved parent. It makes you feel alone. There is a lack of colour in the world after you loss a baby. You can be a flicker of light by finding the words to talk about Poppy. I feel as a bereaved parent it is so important to help guide people about what they can do and say to help other baby loss parents.
Another big part of the Sands Campaign is about a bereaved parent’s employer. Now I was incredibly lucky with my employer. There were and are fantastic about Poppy. I was given whatever time I needed off and when I went back it was on my terms and that is so important. Setting out what you expect when you return to work can go along way to help people find the words to talk to you. I had an email sent out and I really believe it helped. One of the first blog posts I wrote was about returning to work. Please go have a read of it too here.
This Sands Campaign is a great way to help break the silence and get people talking about baby loss. Yes it might be a difficult conversation, it still is for me now. It is painful, heartbreaking and just plain awful. We talk about it to help others not feel so alone and to try and get people to talk about baby loss. Talking about Poppy makes her memory live on and that is so important to Emily and me. Just find the courage to find the words.