It is a fact that everybody deals with grief differently and that the grieving process can affect different people in different ways. Some people will try to carry on as close to normal as possible, while others will spend hours crying and the slightest thing will set them off. Remember… there is no right way to grieve; Paul and I were very different when it came to processing what had happened and trying to build a life without Sophie. Paul was very philosophical about it ‘all things happen for a reason’ and ‘we have to carry on for the other children’, whereas I was (and still am) a lot more emotional. Grief also hits people at different times; Paul found that he was most upset before the funeral, and Sophie’s funeral gave him a sense of closure; whereas I have found that I only really started grieving after the funeral… before Sophie’s funeral I was busy organising ‘the perfect day’ for our baby girl, and I also saw her daily too so I hadn’t really allowed myself a chance to think that it was ‘final’.
The Difference Between Men and Women
The maternal bond develops from the day of the positive pregnancy test, and the desire to protect that baby is very strong from day one. For this reason, women often feel guilt from not being able to save their baby, self-blame because their body had let their baby down, anger that any problems weren’t detected, worry that they may have done something to harm their baby, a feeling of failure – how could they have let a tiny baby die?, sorrow for the baby that they have lost, and intense jealousy of other pregnant ladies or ladies with young babies…. All of these feelings are natural and most grieving mothers will go through a cycle of guilt, self-blame, anger, worry and sorrow.
Women tend to show emotion easier than men and the slightest things can set off emotions like upset or anger. Some women find that they are unable to concentrate on anything, and powerful maternal urges are very common. I remember a week after Sophie had passed that I suddenly felt movement in my uterus… obviously this wasn’t movement from Sophie but for a few seconds I forgot that she had passed… and then I burst into tears (in the middle of the supermarket!). I have heard that for some women the maternal urge is so strong that they want to dig up their baby’s body from the grave to cuddle them; I didn’t experience this, but I did have to fight the urge to sneak Sophie home from the funeral directors the last time I saw her.
Feeling like you can’t face going out is normal too, explaining to people what has happened is often the hardest part about going out. We went to a toddler group a week after losing Sophie, Paul came with me for support, and it was hard but I was so pleased I did it; then we went to Paul’s work to break the ice with his colleagues, and I went with him. It really is easier if you have someone to go with.
Many men adopt the ‘protector’ role, and are focussed on supporting their wives/partners and their children; this doesn’t allow them time to grieve. Fathers can also be forgotten as they appear to be so strong; people often ask the mother how she is doing but not the father. People need to remember that the dad is also going through the grieving process and although, maybe it may be harder for him, he should also be allowed to show emotion. Fathers also tend to take on the practicalities and keep themselves busy. I know Paul finds it much easier when he’s at work as he has other things to think about.
How Children Are Affected
The way that you explain to your children will depend on their age, understanding and religious belief. We found that our children differed greatly (due to their ages) in how they dealt with Sophie’s death. Brett (16) was visibly upset and very quiet (he still is), Brendon (10) was upset and started to ask questions…. We always answer him honestly and he will ask questions at the most bizarre times! And Aiden (3) didn’t understand at all. Explaining the death in terms of ‘it was nobody’s fault’ is also very important. Try to be as open and honest about the situation as you can be. Children can become upset when they sense something is wrong but don’t know what it is. Children sometimes hide their sadness to protect their parents. A recent study identified the three most important aids in dealing with children who have lost a sibling:
- Recognise and acknowledge the child’s grief.
- Include the child in family rituals.
- Keep the memory of the baby alive in the family.
The death of a grandchild must be very difficult for you; not only are you grieving for the baby, but you also have to see your son or daughter suffering. I unfortunately know from experience that the support you give your son or daughter will be invaluable and something that they will never forget. If you would like to see the baby then ask, you may like to cuddle him/her, take photos and develop memories of your grandchild.