**TW: talks of baby loss, stillbirth, neonatal death, and miscarriage.**
In honour of Stillbirth and Neo-natal Death (SANDs) awareness week, we want to shed light on a heartbreaking topic that isn’t really talked about enough. Of course such a heavy topic doesn’t have a place everywhere we go, but the lack of awareness must be addressed in order to better support women, mother’s and their partners and families when facing such a heartbreaking loss. This blog will provide ways we can actually support those who have experienced baby loss whether it’s your sister, friend or a colleague, now or in the future.
We know this topic is difficult to approach for many, never mind those who have experienced it first-hand, so we of course want to approach it with caution and dignity. For more information and access to support, please visit Tommy’s Charity or the SANDs websites.
That being said it’s an important topic to shed light on and raise awareness of so that we can better support those who experience it, whether you know them well or it’s a distant colleague at work, and keep awareness that we never know someone’s story and shouldn’t try to guess, presume or ask questions.
The psychological impact of pregnancy and baby loss on those who experience it can be catastrophic. Women who suffer traumatic births and baby loss are more at risk of developing anxiety disorders, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which can interfere with their ability to work, socialise, and even look after themselves sufficiently.
The partners and families are also impacted by this loss and it can take huge effects on family dynamics, relationships and cause tension. And yet, in society we often expect these families to bounce back and be ready to resume their lives as they were before this great loss.
Unless we ourselves have experienced this loss it can be challenging to understand and support others through the trauma and grieving process. So we need to work on removing these expectations and allow people the space to grieve and process in ways that suit them, which might look different to how we might.
Offering our support does not mean offering suggestions or advice about their situation or what might help them - unless it’s asked for. It’s tricky to understand what parents are going through without experiencing it ourselves and we don’t need to try too to give our support.
But here are some ideas that we can do, that might bring comfort and care to those who need it during this experience:
1. Listen to them, just be with them and let them speak freely if they feel like it or simply be with them quietly. Sometimes the presence alone of someone we love can be comforting and takes the pressure off being ok or faking a smile. We don’t need to offer suggestions or advice, instead allow them space.
2. Offer your support in doing the menial tasks in life, offer to do the food shop or pick older children up from school, or even offer to give them some space by looking after them for a night. Help them find professional or community support, offer to take them to appointments if you can or make the first call to enquire.
3. Let them feel the feelings they're feeling, if we’re close with the person we’re thinking of, we might offer our company and a safe space for them to be upset, cry hysterically, feel anger and frustration at the situation or even when they find a glimmer of hope again. Try not to give advice or suggestions, and simply offer a tissue or comforting hug.
4. Acknowledge the baby, this can be really challenging, for those supporting and experiencing, but we know that sharing our feelings around grief, talking about the loss and the baby and acknowledging the journey to this point is an important part of helping someone through their grief. We might try to avoid the topic thinking it will be upsetting, and it will but this is a situation where we cannot avoid those tough feelings or deep sadness, but rather allow it space to be felt.
In the workplace, we can offer some support by helping with someone’s workload or offering to take on their tasks if we can. As managers we can help our employees back to work when the time is right, and by being patient and understanding of both the parental roles in this.
If you’re a distant colleague or know someone you’re not close with, we can still off our support by standing with them, raising awareness in your workplace of the impacts of pregnancy and baby loss, sharing factual information on social media platforms, or donating to charity, you could even hold your own charity event and raise some money for foundations. This is supportive without being invasive in such a personal matter.
When offering your support, it’s important to make sure we have space and aren’t taking on too much. Try to resist the urge to make them feel better or ‘fix’ their situation, instead focus on being around them when you can, whether that’s company or bringing dinner over.