Grief and Coping Skills
Grief and Coping Skills
The loss of a precious baby affects everyone in many different ways and can bring about different grief reactions in people. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no set pattern of how you may grieve the loss of your baby.
Grief is often said to be like a roller coaster ride, of ups and downs and nice flat stretches as well.
Here we have shared some grief reactions to let you know it is ok and normal to feel this way and experience these reactions.
Thoughts, Feelings & Emotions
Disbelief & Denial
When you are told there is something wrong with your baby or your baby has died it is hard to believe those words. Some families have said they simply didn't believe it and waited and hoped that it was not true. Sometimes families need to see for themselves that their baby has passed away.
Disbelief and denial is said to be a natural protective coping mechanism.
Why? Why me? Why my baby? How?
These are very normal questions but ones that there may not be any answers to.
If only's, what if's and could have been's..
You might find yourself questioning things, going over everything leading up to the birth of your baby, and thinking forward wondering about all the could have been's, if only my baby was here, what if I went to the doctors earlier? what could it have been like to have my baby here with me now? You might find yourself asking and wondering all the if only's, whats if's and could have been's in the time ahead without your baby.
You may feel like you are unable to cope and not know how to get through another day. Coping with day to day life after the loss of your baby can be very hard work. Reach out and talk to someone, call TLC on the free call bereavement support line 1800 824 240. Know that this is a very normal real reaction to the loss of your baby. You can cope and you can get through another day you just might need some help support to do that.
Many parents have expressed feeling numb. Feeling on the outside looking in with the world just going around.
You may feel very alone, that you are the only one this has happened to, you may not know who to turn to or feel that you are alone in your grief. We are here for you please contact us.
Many families tell of such a deep yearning to have their baby's with them, to hold their babies close and to simply have them safe and alive in their arms. Yearning for the family they had hoped and planned for.
You might feel angry. Angry at the people around you, loved ones, life. This is a normal reaction but please tell someone if this anger feels like it is getting on top of you.
It is a normal response to want to find somewhere to lay blame or someone to blame for the loss of your baby.
You may find yourself experiencing fear. Fearing normal situations that you had coped with in the past. Fearing that something may happen to someone else you love and care about. Fearing going to the shops or facing people. It is normal to experience these fears but if you find them overwhelming and stopping you form doing the things you want and need to then please speak with your doctor.
Feeling anxious nervous and worried can be a common reaction to grief. If the your anxiety is interrupting your day to day life please tell someone about how you are feeling and speak with your doctor.
Depression is a very real serious medical condition. It is important to be able to recognise the symptoms of depression and tell someone how you are feeling. Please seek medical advice.
You may find yourself experiencing some feelings that you would not normally find yourself experiencing.
It is also ok to be happy, often we feel a sense of guilt if we are having a laugh or enjoying yourself. Don't feel guilty, remember you are human and just because you are feeling happy doesn't mean you have forgotten about your baby.
You might find that certain things or situations trigger emotions in you that bring hurt pain and tears. these triggers may affect you in the early days to any time in the days months years ahead. It might be the weather, a scent, a song, a pregnant woman, a new baby, a twin pram, the baby isle in a shop, a comment or conversation, a celebration, a holiday or it could be a special place you have visited.
World going around It may look and feel to you that your family and friends will be just getting on and moving on with life- many bereaved parents say that once they experience the loss of a baby their life seems like it stops. This is a very true statement, however we must acknowledge that life for others will go on. This can be hard as it may seem like they don't care but often this is not case. Remember every day is a new day, to get through just one day is an accomplishment.
You do NOT have to make allowances for others feelings and thoughts about the loss of your baby/babies.
Families and Friends
Grandparents may grieve for their children's sorrow and pain whilst grieving for the loss of their grandchild Family and friends may not know what to say or do, and so avoid talking about the loss of your baby all together Family & friends have said they wished they could take your pain and hurt away and so feel quite helpless because they cant Children may be fearful and clingy or act differently Children may ask many questions Children may be confused by the meaning of death Children may ask questions about where their baby brother or sister has gone. TLC has a library of books which deal specifically with Grief and children
It is important to try to take care of your physical emotional well being - here are some suggested ways to help yourself
It is ok to cry. No matter when or where. The release of your tears can often bring a good feeling. One of letting go and getting it out.
Talk and share
Talking about your baby, how you feel, the thoughts you have can be very healing and helpful. Find someone you trust and feel comfortable with to talk with. It might be your partner, a family member, your friend or you might like to seek support from someone who has also experienced the loss of a baby. Talking about how you feel what you are going thought is helpful also as it gives those around you a deeper understanding of what you are going through and possibly ways of how they can be therefor you. We are here for you please contact us if you want or need someone to talk with who understand pregnancy & infant loss. The program also provides professional counselling.
You might feel the desire to connect with others who have experienced and understands the loss of baby's. The program offers many support services such as hospital visits, professional counselling, free call bereavement support line, support groups & online support groups. You might be looking for specific support to meed your needs. Please seek that support you are looking for. Australia wide support service directory is also available.
Journalling and writing is a really good way to express yourself. It may help you to make sense of your feelings.It can also be a really healing to write letters to your baby. You can then put them in a box. It is the process of being bale to say all the things you wish you could have said or done with your baby.
Honouring your baby with special keepsakes and making treasured memories can bring you much comfort from acknowledging your son or daughter.
Try to get some exercise, go for nice walks and get some fresh air. It can be a time of peaceful reflection or a way to vent any anger or frustrations.
Give yourself Time
Time to grieve. Know there is no time limit as to when you may start to feel a little better.
Go at your own pace
Not feeling pressured. Remember to always do what is right for you and your family. You are living this.
Do things to make yourself feel nice- have a relaxing massage, get your hair done, go for long walks, retail therapy! For Dad as well- Play golf or sports you enjoy, treat yourself to a massage, know its ok to do the things you used to do to enjoy yourself.
Spend time together- Go out to dinner, book a weekend away, enjoy each others company at home.
Personal Quote "It is more than the loss of your baby, Loss of chance at motherhood, Loss of being blissfully unaware" Nikki in memory of ~Bella~
Coping With Special Dates
Coping with special dates can often be difficult, however sometimes these dates can be a special day where you may do things in honour of your baby. Some special dates may include:
- Due date- The day your baby was meant to be born had your pregnancy been different
- Anniversary/birthday of the birth of your baby
- Anniversary of the death of your baby
- Mothers Day
- Fathers Day
- Significant dates of when your baby/babies would have gone off to school
- Significant birthday's of when your baby/babies would have turned 5, 16, 18, 21 etc
- Other significant dates ie: your birthday/partners/children's birthday.
Dates can create a sad feeling of what could have been or how your life would differ so much to the way you are feeling now. How you chose to get through these dates is entirely up to you.
Some suggestions for what you could do on these special dates:
Balloon & Butterfly Releases
You could release a balloon. You might like to write a message on the balloon or choose a special type or colour of balloon. We have TLC balloons available in our TLC store.
You could arrange to Release butterflies
Cemetery and Significant Places
Visit the cemetery or special place. you might like to take some flowers or
Spend some time at the ocean/beach
Visit the Memorial bench (Brougham Gardens, across from the WCH Hospital entrance).
Visit the hospital in which your baby was born
Spend some time alone or together quietly.. somewhere tranquil
Do something nice for yourself where you can be alone with your memories
Have a special lunch or dinner with your partner or those close to you
Celebrate with a party, you might also like to have a special cake.
Have a picnic
Light a special candle on your own or with family & friends. TLC has personalised and memorial candles in our online store.
Buy a birthday card for your baby and place it in your memory box or at the cemetery
Include your baby/babies in significant celebrations or family portraits/photographs (wear a photo badge of your baby)
Keepsakes and Memories
Purchase something special or personalised in memory of your baby. The program has an online store with many personalised gifts and items.
Buy a special piece of jewellery that represents your baby/babies - please visit our Keepsake links for more information.
Write a letter to your baby
Plant a tree or make a memorial garden
Name a star in memory of your baby
Make a difference for another bereaved family
Donate a bear in memory of your baby
Hold a bear drive
Make a donation in your baby's memory
Coping with Christmas
For many, the idea of Christmas sparks joy and excitement as they prepare for family gatherings, catching up with old friends, and celebrating the meaning of Christmas. However, not everyone feels this same excitement. Some may instead have a mix of emotions as yet another reminder looms of the loved ones that are not with them. No matter how long ago your baby or babies have died, times like Christmas can be an emotionally exhausting time, and so it can be useful to know that there is support available over the Christmas period through the program.
The program is an Australia wide program that will continue to provide support to families throughout the Christmas and New Year period as it is widely recognised that this time of the year can be another difficult milestone for bereaved families after the loss of a baby.
Our Bereavement Counsellor, Robyn McKinnon says “our culture isn't particularly comfortable when faced with grief, or grieving people; many find it hard to know whether they should mention the baby to the family, or write the baby’s name in a Christmas card, or even just ask how they are going in case it is more upsetting. So often we find families feel even more alone and feeling they need to put a brave face on despite the pain they are feeling at this time of the year, and when someone does acknowledge them and their baby it can make a huge difference.”
The program will continue to offer a Free Call 1800 Bereavement Support Line through the holiday season for families to access, where they can find someone to talk to and gain support this Christmas. The support line will be managed by a team of volunteers who are trained parent support workers who have also experienced the loss of a baby. For families wishing to have ongoing professional Counselling, they will be connected to our Bereavement Counsellor and Support Groups as soon as possible after the main public holidays. In addition families can contact a support email, or join an online support group and connect with other families across Australia.
The team of volunteers across Australia hope that families will find comfort from those around them this Christmas as they honour and remember the babies who were only a part of this world for such a short time, but continue to live on in our hearts and memories. As you approach the Christmas period we would like to share a few suggestions to help you through this time.
Allow yourself to be sad. It is normal for you to be feeling sad at not having your baby with you and wondering what would life be like it he/she hadn't have died. You might find it helpful to take some time out to remember your baby or loved one. Some people find going to a special place on Christmas morning, writing a letter, or buying a gift in honour of their baby for the wishing tree's to just help make the day a little easier.
It is ok to enjoy yourself. It can be hard to celebrate when you are missing someone you love. It is not uncommon to have a whole lot of different feelings such as sadness, guilt, or excitement. Getting together with family and close friends may be a chance to remember the good times and it's ok to relax and have a laugh. Having fun is not necessarily a sign that you miss that person any less.
Look after yourself. Remembering that this may be a tough time for you is important. This may mean that you have to treat yourself with a bit of care. Avoid making major decisions until after Christmas is over. If possible, treat yourself to something you enjoy doing, or going out with your partner for some special time during this period.
Avoid bottling stuff up. It can be tempting to put on the brave face and go to gatherings and pretend to be what you think people expect you to be. Keeping things to yourself may mean that the tension builds up inside you and you find yourself feeling more stressed and upset as a result. Finding a way to get out what you are feeling may help you to feel better. You may like to talk to someone, write your thoughts down, draw, have a cry or punch some pillows. Whatever works for you, find a strategy that you can call on so you can release some of the tension and grief.
Talk to someone. You might think that you'll burden others by mentioning your loss over the Christmas season. One of our biggest problems in grieving, as a culture, is that we're too frightened to raise the subject of bereavement. And this goes as much for our own loss as it does someone else's. Many people would be touched that you would confide how you are feeling to them, or ask after them if they've been bereaved themselves. If you don’t feel you can share this with your family or friends, you might like to contact TLC for a little extra support this Christmas.
For support, please contact our 1800 Free Call Bereavement Line on 1800 824 240 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Please leave your details on our answering service and a Parent Support Worker or Bereavement Counsellor will contact you as soon as possible.
For more information about the support services available through TLC please contact TLC’s Bereavement Counsellor Robyn McKinnon on 0419 544 110 or email@example.com
Christmas Memorial Ideas
We would like to share with you all some ideas & suggestions of things you can do at Christmas time in memory, in honour or to acknowledge your precious baby or babies.
- Buying or making a personalised bauble to hang on the tree
- Setting up a special Christmas display with your baby / babies ornaments
- Buying a gift for another (possibly the same age as your baby/babies would be) and giving to the Christmas tree gift funds such as KMART gift tree, anglicare or smith family etc
- Lighting a candle or your babies candle on Christmas eve ( if you have living children when putting their presents under the tree) or on Christmas day when everyone are swapping presents
- Burn your candle during your Christmas lunch or dinner
- Decorate your babies’ special place whether it be at the cemetery or at home or another special place.
- Include your babies name/s or a stamp, cut out or initial symbolising them on Christmas cards
- Write a Christmas card to your baby and keep it in their memory box.
- Donate a bear in memory of your baby
- Give family members and friends a special item in memory of your baby
"EVERY YEAR FOR CHRISTMAS IN MEMORY OF MY NIECE KIRRIKEE I BUY AN ANGEL XMAS DECORATION TO HANG ON MY BROTHERS TREE.I SECRETLY PLACE IT ON THEIR TREE A FEW DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS.ITS A NICE SURPRISE FOR THEM TO FIND IT ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY AREN'T LOOKING FOR IT.ITS MY SMALL WAY OF INCLUDING HER EVERY YEAR .I ALSO BUY A PRESENT TO PUT UNDER THE WISHING TREE ,SOMETHING THAT I WOULD HAVE BROUGHT FOR HER SO THIS YEAR I WILL BUY SOMETHING FOR A 4YR OLD.THAT WAY I CAN HELP OUT ANOTHER FAMILY AND ANOTHER LITTLE GIRL CAN HAVE SOMETHING SPECIAL ."
"Trinity Beer in memory of Kirrikee"
A Message from a Dad
Getting through Christmas without our Baby Boy.
The loss of a child is the worst pain felt by countless families throughout the world. Such pain is not describable to any person who has not been through it but to the many that have, and the number would astonish, it is a pain that is felt forever.
We lost our little boy Luke 6 ½ years ago at 2 days of age, but to me it still feels like yesterday as the pain never ever fades, you just try your best to deal with it.
With the Christmas period approaching you find yourself asking the questions that are regularly thought of, but more so at this time of the year and that is why?, and what if? You find it a real effort to celebrate anything as it seems like you are betraying the child you have lost.
The thing we as a family try and do now is to celebrate the time we had with them and the memories that we will have with us forever regardless of how few they are. I personally have countless memories of the 2 days I spent with my son, they are powerful loving memories and ones that I cling to for dear life every single day. My boy was the most beautiful little fellow I had ever seen and the instant bond we shared was simply amazing. He looked at me with his big blue eyes and we connected instantly but through those eyes I saw a dear little baby boy battling big time and he was looking at me to help. It is a parents’ nightmare watching their child suffer and not being able to help, you feel worthless and a failure and would do anything to take their place.
My wife and I decorate the tree around his little grave every Christmas just so that he feels apart of the Christmas season. It is tough and there are many tears shed by doing it but unfortunately it is all we can do. We wish Luke a merry Christmas and pray that he is happy and healthy up in heaven with his Nanny & Poppy. The fact that he has his grand parents with him now gives us some comfort knowing that he would be spoilt rotten by them but it still doesn’t hide the pain of the fact that it should be us looking after him and showering him with our love.
All children are important regardless of age and must be acknowledged. That is the tough part of being a parent who has lost a child as sometimes this does not happen.
At Christmas time let’s celebrate them all, let’s talk about them all, maybe like us write their name on a ball and hang it from your tree but most importantly love each and every special memory we shared with them. Christmas is a time of giving but it is also a time of reflection so I kindly ask that everyone just spare a brief moment to celebrate every single baby that has been born into this world regardless of how long they stayed with us because they are loved just as much as the lucky ones still here.
Merry Christmas to all the little babies that have passed away. We love you, and we miss you but you live on inside our hearts & minds every single day. Xxxxx
By Drew Berwick
Special Christmas Recipe - Angel Biscuits
Preparation time: 25 Minutes Ingredients: Cooking time: 12 125g Unsalted butter (room temperature) Makes 20 biscuits approx 1/3 cup pure icing sugar 1 Tbsp creamed Honey 2 Tbsp Milk 1 ¾ cups plain flour (Extra flour for kneading) 1 ½ cups of desiccated coconut ½ cup of royal icing
1. Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees. Line two large oven trays with baking powder. Beat the butter, icing sugar and honey in the bowl of an electric mixer until the mixture is light and creamy. Add milk and flour and, using a wooden spoon, stir to combine. 2. Gently kneed the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll our dough between two sheets of baking paper until 5mm thick. Use medium sized angel cutter to cut out shapes. Bake for 10- 12 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked underneath. Cool Biscuits on tray or rack. 3. Sprinkle coconut on a sheet of baking paper. Spread royal icing on 1 side of each biscuit into the coconut. Stand biscuits on rack for 20 minutes or until the icing is set.
Royal Icing This recipe makes 1 cup of icing Put 1 egg white in a medium mixing bowl with a wooden spoon until the egg white thins and starts to froth on top. Sift 1 ¼ cups of pure icing sugar to the egg white and beat the mixture until it is well combined. Continue adding icing sugar in this way, one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is thick and stiff peaks from when the spoon is removed from the mixture.
Tips: Using a piping bag, write your baby’s name and date on the biscuit Royal icing dries out quickly so always keep covered Store in a cool dry place, do not refrigerate Best used on the day it is made * biscuits can be made up to two weeks in advance
Attending childrens school
Attending your living children's school after the loss of your baby
I would like to share some ideas & suggestions that I have come to learn from my own experience and from other families who found attending their living child's or children's pre school or school after the loss of their baby difficult.
Parents who have pre school or school age children have said that going back to their child's school can be quite difficult. Some have expressed that they have been surprised by how difficult it was for them. Facing the other children and their parents, especially those who had been following their pregnancy's. Some have found it hard facing the questions, not knowing what to say, not wanting to talk about everything right then as they are just wanting to get their other child off to school. Some found they were avoided and that the other parents did not saying anything about the loss of their baby as if it didn't even happen. Some have also said that they were surprised by the support that they received from the other parents and how much their care and concern helped them, so that is a wonderful thing.
You might like to talk with your child's teacher before you or your child returns or goes to school. To just tell them how your child has been going along since the loss of their baby brother or sister. This is a good way for you to talk to the teacher about whether you do or don't want anything explained to the class and keep your teacher informed about your child and how he or she is coping with the loss of their brother or sister.
Questions may extend to your school age child and you might like to talk with them about this so that they are not confronted with a barrage of questions also and not sure how to answer.
I have often heard from parents how walking their child into the school was really difficult at first, if you are struggling and worried about this. Is there someone who could walk your child in for a period of time that works for you and your child? Is your child ok to walk in themselves? Please know that it is ok if you are having a hard time with this. If you reach out for support to help get you though this time you might find the anticipation of what it is going to be like might not necessarily be as hard as you had imagined.
You might like to also prepare yourself for the questions and think about what you do or don't want to tell people. How much do you want to talk about and share? I will also mention that there is the possibility that you might come across insensitive comments from others. Being prepared for these types of comments might lessen the shock. You might like to respond or you can walk away knowing that person really has no idea what it is like to lose a bay and does not deserve the privilege to know any more about your precious baby.
I hope your time back at your child's pre school or school is full of comfort and support by those around you. If it is not and you are having a hard time please know TLC is always here.
Trudi Penrose-Starr Dip. Prof. Couns. (Grief and Loss).
Relaxation and Breathing
I have had many bereaved families share with me their thoughts and feelings after the loss of their precious baby or babies.
One of the many things that we have a talked a lot about is how it is hard to sleep and the many thoughts running through your mind. How not getting enough rest and sleep can impact on the days ahead you are trying to face. We have also talked a lot about feeling anxious and having trouble finding the patience to do the things that used to come so easily.
I wanted to share with you all very useful and helpful relaxation technique. Something that you can call upon if you are having trouble sleeping or if you are struggling with feeling anxious about going or being places that never used to bother you. Also finding you haven't got the patience you did have and are looking for ways to cope and face the time ahead.
Find a quiet comfortable place If you like music play something that is soft and soothing Try to clear your mind. Don't think of anything that is going on..
breathe slow and deep
let your self sink into the bed/lounge where ever you are
breath in & squeeze your toes breathe out & release do this again
breathe in & squeeze the muscles in your leg breathe out & release
breathe in & squeeze the muscles in your bottom breathe out & release
keep doing this all the way up your body, your back, your belly, your shoulders right down to your finger tips
then keep breathing
You will be surprised how clear your mind has become. If you are having trouble sleeping and are doing this as you have gone off to bed, you will find you can slowly relax in to a nice deep sleep.. The thoughts and feelings are still there you've just given yourself time to rest.
If you are doing this because you are feeling anxious or had a very difficult day and or something has happened that you aren't finding you have the patience to deal with, then try giving yourself some time just for you to take a moment to try to relax. You will find it may help to have cleared your mind enough to give you a different perspective, to feel ready to try it again or to feel a bit better with dealing with how hard it was..
Quick Breathing exercise If you don't have the time to do the above technique here is another quick breathing technique
Breathe in & count to 3 in your mind Breathe out & count to 3 in your mind
Repeat this for as long as you need.
Both of these techniques may not work for everyone and may not bring the same results for everyone but I wanted to share them with you and do hope they will be helpful for you in one way or another.. Warm wishes
Trudi Penrose-Starr Dip. Prof. Couns. (Grief and Loss).
Returning to work
Returning to work is often a hard situation and one that does not need to be rushed. Your decision to return to work is very individual depending on how you are feeling about your return. The thought of facing people and their reactions can be quite daunting especially if your work colleagues weren't aware that you were pregnant or possibly they were aware and you are not up to facing any questions or comments.
There are ways that you can prepare yourself for facing the questions & comments you may face. Once you have returned to work for that first time you might find the next wont be as bad.
Talk to your doctor about your return to work, they may recommend you return with less hours. Is returning with less hours an option for you?
Ask your employer what they can do to make your transition easier- eg less hours, role which has less demand or stress.
You could go into work to have a coffee with a friend before you start, that way you have gotten that first initial visit out of the way. If you are finding it too overwhelming you can leave in your own time.
Talk to your HR department/Supervisor/Manager about how you are feeling about your return. Many employers also offer counselling services free of charge, during work hours.
Think about what you do or don't want to tell people or talk about. You might find that the support form some people is really quite comforting and you then feel quite comfortable in opening up with them. Go with what feels right for you.
Be aware that you may come across insensitive comments, opinions and expectation from others. Remind yourself that they most likely have no idea what it feels like to lose a baby.
Take one day at a time- acknowledge that things may be hard in the beginning
Know it is ok to not return to work for sometime, government assistance however may be required, please contact centrelink for further information on what your family may be entitled to.
The most important thing is to always put your feelings first.
Trudi Penrose-Starr Dip. Prof. Couns. (Grief and Loss).