Tuesday, 15 May 2012
In the very early days, I was desparate for someone to give me advice on how to get through it. I got lots and lots of reassuring "it gets better" comments, which was great to hear, but I needed something to help me there and then. "Time" is a never ending entity, and when you can barely see the end of the next hour, let alone the next week, month or beyond, it isn't all that helpful to hear "time heals"-which it doesn't, by the way. What is does do is help you learn to cope. Until you get there, here is my advice to newly bereaved mums and dads. I am so sorry you find yourself needing it.
Cry. Above all else, cry and cry and never try to stop yourself. Scream. Beg. Shout. Cry.
Lean on your support team, the people who will make you eat, and deal with stuff so you don't have to. Lock the rest of the world out for a while if you need to-that's OK, it's temporary. Nominate one person from each group you belong to (colleagues, friends, distant family, church, local groups etc) and tell that person. Ask them to spread the news to the rest of the group, so you don't have to keep telling the story.
Tell people what you need because trust me, they have no idea! When you are ready to see people, let them in, on your terms. Talk about your baby as much as you want. Show off their photo if you want to. Your baby is beautiful, why shouldn't you show him/her off? Expect that some people will not be comfortable with that. This will hurt. In time you will grow a thick skin.Don't let anyone tell you how to grieve. You have to do this your way, and right now you probably don't know yourself what you need to do. You probably feel very lost. Don't be pushed into going out into the world until you feel able, and certainly not back to work until you feel ready. When you feel able, set yourself small targets for the day, give yourself a reason to get out of bed. Maybe coffee with a friend, maybe a trip to the library (I did this lots to get books on grief!), whatever you can manage. Being outside may make you feel closer to your angel. Look for little signs from them, they are there.
When you do go out, avoid busy family times like Saturday/Sunday afternoon. You will notice every buggy in town as it is, don't torture yourself. Stick to evenings for the weekly shop- or shop online!
Going back to work is really scary. Try going in at lunchtime to begin with, or just meet a close colleague for a coffee beforehand. If you are worried about going in, could someone meet you the first morning to walk in with you? Consider sending an email round first, telling the story, so that everyone knows and won't ask you questions. You can use this as a chance to tell people if you want to talk about it or not. My colleagues really appreciated this, it made it eaiser on everyone, me included. Expect people to avoid the topic for fear of upsetting you. Don't be afraid to bring it up yourself if you want to- they will follow your lead.
Cry some more. You soon get used to crying in public. It's OK. You are human and you are hurting. Always carry tissues in your handbag!
Lots of people may try to relate to you by telling you about the time they had a miscarriage, or lost a parent, or even a pet (yes, seriously!) Try to remember, they are just trying to help, but be gentle on yourself too and allow yourself to get angry at them privately!
Do things for your precious one. Fundraise (we did a skydive!!), make a video/slideshow from all your photos of them, make a "life album" with photos from the pregnancy, scan pictures, and their photos from after the birth. Put the birth certificate in there. Frame their hand and footprints if you have them, or have a piece of jewellery made with them. If you don't have them, have their name engraved on a ring, or their birthstone in a bracelet.
Write. Write letters to your baby, keep a journal- you will look back and be amazed how far you've come. Write poems, or read other peoples'.
Try counselling. I know- I didn't think it would work for me either. But it did. It was the best thing I could have done, it gave me a "safe" place to talk about Robert, where they wouldn't offer advice, or change the subject, or try to comfort me. They just helped me to process the grief, and reassured me it was all "normal"
Know that nothing is "normal" anymore, but that is OK
This is just what worked for me. Feel free to comment with your own advice for others.