A lot is written about the grief a parent is left with after the death of their baby, but let’s throw the net a little further and start to look into how society then deals with the conversations and expressions in and around that grief.
In my experience, unfortunately the prevailing clichés hold some truth – people do avoid talking about grief, specifically when that grief relates to child loss, stillbirth and infant death. The invisible deaths.
In relation to these types of losses, there seems to be some unwritten rules you must adhere too. The prevailing feeling is that the bereaved parent must wrap up their grief in what western society has deemed an appropriate amount of time (you can pull any arbitrary number here you like), and once the grief window has expired, you’re best to try not to talk about it in public. Doing so will only make others uncomfortable and it projects that you’re not really ‘over it’ adequately if you still bring it up in polite conversation.
For anyone going through grief, this is the book for you. Post continues…
So, let’s talk why it makes others uncomfortable. The death of a baby is such an emotionally charged type of grief, it’s a grief that if you haven’t had personal experience with it, it is very hard to fathom the very real and lasting toll it takes on you, both as a parent but as a person as well.
Are you the type of person that would hesitate bring it up in conversation because of the unsure footing it brings? Don’t be, don’t sit on the fence. Be the friend who asks how they are in relation to their grief, but do it with tact. Trust me, most bereaved parents will appreciate the sentiment and forgive any fumbles. They may want to talk about, they may not. They may cry, they may not. You may be surprised at how much insight a bereaved parent is able to express when reflecting back about their experience.
Give them the space to decide if it becomes a conversation. Will it make them upset? Possibly – but they may also be touched that someone remembered and cared enough to ask about their baby.
Take a minute and self-assess if you are avoiding the conversation because it may be uncomfortable for you. Because it’s not uncomfortable for a bereaved parent; it’s reality.
Another barrier is the supposed time limits imposed on expressions of grief. This can be looked at from a couple of angles. Firstly, bereaved parents seem to be quietly told by society that their grief should be insular and limited. To still be talking about a child’s death after years have passed can be seen as clinging to a faded or expired memory.