Overcoming the trauma of stillbirth

Talk, talk, talk and talk some more  >   This month is dedicated to National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. Originating in the United States, the commemoration has been promoted by the stillbirth alliance so that it is now recognised across much of Europe.love

The key objective is to raise awareness that stillbirth, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and other forms of neonatal death are sadly common and yet in our culture it is not ‘done’ to talk about them. Death is a difficult subject to discuss and death of a child is even more agonising. But society’s reluctance to discuss perinatal loss deprives the grieving of much needed love and counselling.

Tonic’s therapists break through this taboo by simply encouraging clients to talk *. Having someone there just to listen to your story is so important to the process of recovering from perinatal loss. The starting point is to recognise not only is there the loss of your child, but there is the loss of your dreams, hopes and a future for this new life. Women are particularly vulnerable to perinatal depression or anxiety due to the hormonal upheaval experienced following childbirth/miscarriage. Though men also experience depression following the loss of a baby, they are less likely to seek help, instead immersing themselves in work.

Although you can experience grief without depression, the grief cycle often begins with shock and numbness, and as that wears off, the raw emotions of profound sadness and anger follow on. The most important thing to do is to talk and talk and talk. Start if possible with your partner, plus talk to your doctor who may well prescribe anti-depressants. Also have the courage to speak to trusted friends and seek out a trained psychotherapist specialising in reproductive mental health *.

But whatever you do, do not bottle up your grief. Know that you will heal and your pain will lessen. You will never forget your baby, but you will walk through the grief and move into the next chapter of your life with acceptance. There is no deadline for grief and there is no shortage of people who can help you live through it.

Footnotes:   * This type of therapy is better suited to face-to-face consultations rather than Tonic’s less personal style of therapy-by-phone. Search out an approved hypnotherapist in your area plus seek advice from the NCT (helpline 0300 330 0700). The NHS website also offers valuable guidance.

8 thoughts on “Overcoming the trauma of stillbirth

  1. georgie says:

    take time off from work to heal and boost your recovery process if needed
    pn the other hand if staying busy with structure helps then keep that predictability in place

  2. Iris (I've been there!) says:

    A word of warning. Being too upbeat with a grieving friend, saying things such as “it wasn’t meant to be” or “you can have more children” is condescending and unhelpful. Instead, give your loved one a hug, tell them you love them, and – as Tonic says – be a listening ear. Let them share their story and be comforted by your presence. Let your friend/family member “narrate” their story to you, releasing their sadness.

  3. Holly (Liverpool) says:

    Stillbirth is indeed still very much a taboo subject. Doctors clutch at quick fix antidepressants instead of referring their patients to support groups and recommending talk therapies. You refer Bloggers to the NHS website, but it neither has the framework nor resources to provide a care service for bereaved parents.
    The onus is still on the parents to go and seek assistance, as opposed to a proper care programme being built around them to cope post-stillbirth. In the cases where medical negligence has been a pivotal factor in the stillbirth itself, the support is even more non-existent with a complete absence of help.

  4. Lilly says:

    Sadly you failed to mention the charity dedicated to help those who have experienced a stillbirth. Please PLEASE provide the following web site
    SANDS can be contacted on 0207 346 5881.
    Thank you.

  5. Dr Annie Jones says:

    The truth is that many parents will never know why their baby died. For more than half of all stillbirths the cause remains unexplained, despite the desperate search for answers by the bereaved.
    To make it worse,friends and family may stop talking to you as they do not have the words. It is easier to avoid than face up to the embarrassment of dealing with such a taboo subject.
    So you should have a Posting about how other people should handle stillbirth. The first step for friends and family and is to be brave; make the call, send a card. If you don’t know what to say, saying: ‘I don’t know what to say,’ is enough. Parents can handle that.

  6. Hannah says:

    Don’t be afraid to speak about the death. Ignoring it won’t make grief disappear – some parents will repress it, which is more destructive. But don’t push them if they aren’t ready. Be guided by them.

  7. Friends and family must be willing to sit and listen. Try not to jump in to fill silences or you risk saying something insensitive – if you need to speak, reflect what the parents are feeling.
    Practical support is equally vital to grieving parents. They may stop caring for themselves; if you can do housework or look after other children it can make a real difference.

  8. Muriel (midwife) says:

    4,000 babies are stillborn in the UK each year. The time immediately after finding out is shocking and you may not even believe the news. This is a common reaction. Unfortunately you cannot switch off completely, as in the early hours after the news you will have to make decisions. It can seem hard and you may keep changing your mind or feel numb and not know what you want. It can be tough, but some of these decisions will help you in the days and even years to come. Ask your midwife and the person supporting you to help you. And don’t be afraid to say if you’ve changed your mind.

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