How to cope af­ter tragic loss of a baby

Dur­ing Baby Loss Aware­ness Week, Ni­cola Gaskin, who lost a baby son and had two mis­car­riages, tells lisa salmon about life af­ter such a be­reave­ment

Bath Chronicle - - FAMILY MATTERS -

ev­ery year, thou­sands of peo­ple in the UK are af­fected by the death of a baby or ex­pe­ri­ence preg­nancy loss – one in four women lose their baby dur­ing preg­nancy, birth or soon af­ter.

To ac­knowl­edge this, a col­lab­o­ra­tion of more than 60 char­i­ties runs Baby Loss aware­ness Week (Oc­to­ber 9-15) to help raise aware­ness of what th­ese par­ents and fam­i­lies are go­ing through.

Ni­cola Gaskin knows only too well the pain of los­ing a baby, both be­fore and af­ter birth. She lost her son, Win­ter, the day af­ter he was born, and went on to have two mis­car­riages be­fore fi­nally giv­ing birth to a healthy baby daugh­ter, raven, now aged one.

Ni­cola, 33, be­gan record­ing her jour­ney since her preg­nancy with Win­ter on her blog One Day of Win­ter (one­day­ofwin­ter.com), and she’s now writ­ten the book Life Af­ter Baby Loss (ver­mil­ion, £9.99) to help other be­reaved par­ents and fam­i­lies nav­i­gate the huge range of in­tense emo­tions that come with the death of a baby.

Here she dis­cusses ways to help par­ents cope bet­ter af­ter the loss of a baby.

know you’re NOT Alone

“IT’S per­haps the big­gest cliché ever, but it’s so true,” says Ni­cola.

“Hav­ing shared my preg­nancy on In­sta­gram, I was also left to share news of my son’s death. It was only fur­ther down the line as mes­sages and sto­ries from other mums be­gan to ar­rive in my feed and in­box, that I re­alised just how many other fam­i­lies go through a sim­i­lar loss. When I spoke about my mis­car­riages I was met with count­less ‘me toos’.

“although the sta­tis­tics are un­de­ni­ably dev­as­tat­ing, the dis­cov­ery of such vast and wide sup­port lifted one of the many burdens I now car­ried. I felt en­cour­aged to share Win­ter’s story and his pho­tographs; my mother- hood felt val­i­dated and ac­cepted.

“There are many in­spi­ra­tional mothers on In­sta­gram, just tap on the #baby­loss hash­tag. There’s also a Baby Loss Hour that runs on Twit­ter ev­ery Tues­day night, and so many or­gan­i­sa­tions and char­i­ties with a wealth of knowl­edge and com­pas­sion­ate un­der­stand­ing, such as Tommy’s, Sands and Say­ing Good­bye.”

re­alise your grief is valid And On­go­ing

“Mis­car­riage, still­birth, and neona­tal death – baby loss is painful in all vari­a­tions,” stresses Ni­cola.

“Once we see the pos­i­tive test we im­me­di­ately imag­ine our fu­ture blos­som­ing be­fore us. When our baby dies, at what­ever ges­ta­tion or age, that fu­ture is snatched from us so very cru­elly and we in­stead face a deep empti­ness. We grieve the loss of not only our child, but the life to­gether we’ve been de­nied.

“We lose first smiles, first steps and first day at school. It’s a huge grief to carry, and yes, you’re al­lowed to carry that grief for­ever. It will not al­ways be in­tense and suf­fo­cat­ing, but our ba­bies are never for­got­ten.

“Don’t put time­lines and ex­pec­ta­tions on your­self, in­stead un­der­stand that grief is part of your life. There will be end­less love and pride and there will also be jeal­ousy and anger – that is grief. Griev­ing isn’t neg­a­tive, it’s nec­es­sary.”

hon­our your baby how­ever it feels right

“There are no rules when it comes to re­mem­ber­ing your baby and it took me a while to re­alise that I could do what­ever I wanted, in­clud­ing throw­ing a huge first birth­day party for a baby that was not phys­i­cally present,” says Ni­cola.

“It can be hard to con­fi­dently de­cide how you want to in­clude your baby in your life, and I know I of­ten won­dered if other peo­ple were view­ing some of my de­ci­sions as weird. But there’s a lot to be said for let­ting go of that fear of judge­ment and just do­ing what­ever com­forts you and keeps you con­nected.

“If you want to keep your baby pri­vate, then do that. If you want to put their pho­to­graph on your wall, then do that. If you want to buy them a Christ­mas present, then do that. Your baby, your mem­o­ries, your choices.”

share how you want to re­mem­ber your baby

“We’re not great at deal­ing with grief in the western world. We tend to avoid any­thing death re­lated and as a re­sult we’re of­ten ill-equipped to help oth­ers in their time of grief,” ob­serves Ni­cola.

“When my son died, I re­alised my loved ones were look­ing for me to take the lead. Per­haps it shouldn’t be that way, but peo­ple are so afraid of say­ing the wrong thing or up­set­ting us un­nec­es­sar­ily that si­lence ends up the eas­ier op­tion.

“It’s Ok to say, ‘I want to re­mem­ber my baby. I want to talk about them.’ If there’s a colour, sym­bol or an­i­mal that’s linked to your baby, then shar­ing that with friends and fam­ily al­lows them to be in­cluded in your re­mem­brance.”

Know love lives be­yond death

“I THINK most ‘loss par­ents’ will agree that, although their baby’s death of course brought great pain, their life brought great joy. even when our baby isn’t phys­i­cally here, our love for them not only re­mains present, but it con­tin­ues to grow,” says Ni­cola.

“In that sense, we’re no dif­fer­ent to a mother with a liv­ing baby. hold onto that love – it’s a di­rect gift from your baby, it’s unique and spe­cial.

“You can find ways to hon­our your baby by trans­form­ing that love into mean­ing­ful ac­tion. Fundrais­ing and ran­dom acts of kind­ness are just two ways we can cre­ate lit­tle lega­cies for our ba­bies. A brief life still has a long-last­ing im­pact.”

Ni­cola Gaskin and her baby son Win­ter, who died the day af­ter he was born and, below, the book she hopes will help other griev­ing par­ents

We’re of­ten ill-equipped to help oth­ers in their time of grief

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