Coping with Grief
“Each NEW LIFE, no matter how brief, forever CHANGES the world.”
A relative, a friend, a neighbour, a colleague or a client has lost a child. After the first shock of such news, you may ask yourself how to approach the relevant person. Should you proactively get in touch or let them be? Do you address the tragedy with the parents or stay silent so as not to hurt them? What do you do? What do you say? When do you leave?
How to be supportive
Below is a list of recommendations on how you can show support for the grieving parents. You will need to take cultural, religious, and other potential factors (not listed) into consideration.
• Show sympathy. Write a note or sympathy card, send them a symbol.
• Express your feelings by writing or in telling. Often, it is sufficient to just say ”I’m so sorry for you”.
• Let them know if you are speechless, helpless or sad – don’t hide tears.
• Listen to what they want to tell you. Don’t expect answers to your questions.
• Don’t change topic if the parents want to tell you about their child.
• Mention the child by his/her name.
• Accept and respect the deceased child as a family member.
• Ask how the birth was, how the child looked like, whom it resembled (provided this is culturally appropriate).
• Clarify with the parents if you are unsure and/or have questions. (E.g. ”When I come to visit you, shall I bring my children along or leave them at home?”)
• Offer practical help, such as cooking, buy groceries, looking after older children in the family. (E.g. “How can I help you?”)
• Accept that the bereaved are insecured. They might want to talk about it today but may choose not to mention the tragedy the day after.
• There is no unjustified emotions during grief (e.g. anger, animosity, jealousy, anxiety, feeling of guilt, restlessness, etc.), but there are also moments of happiness. Sometimes, even humour finds its place during grief.
• The bereaved shall keep their autonomy and decide whom they want to see or not, how many visits they can absorb, and when to ask whom for support.
• Many of the relevant parents appreciate if they can still talk about it months later or if people show interest and ask them about their well-being.
Lack of sympathy hurts
Below is a list of behaviours that are probably well meant but can be perceived as lack of sympathy for those being in a grieving situation. You will need to take cultural, religious, and other potential factors (not listed) into consideration.
• Ignoring – You behave like nothing happened; you chat about your everyday life; you look away when parents show emotions; you don’t ask, don’t show interest, or change topic.
• Devaluating the loss – Saying things like “it did not even live”; “you can get pregnant again soon”; “you already have a child”; “maybe, it’s better you lost your child now then later”; “I know of many who went through the same situation”.
• Using flowery phrases – Saying things like “time heals everything”; “you are still young”; “everything will get better next time”; “don’t think about it”.
• Giving advice – Saying things like “try to get pregnant as soon as possible”; “just think positively”.
• Setting expectations – Saying things like “hopefully, you will try again soon”.
• Lying about facts – Saying things like “just go ahead, no woman has more than one miscarriage/stillbirth”.
• Comparing – Saying things like “I know of a friend of a friend who went through a similar…”.
• Attempting to explain – Saying things like “it’s God’s will/destiny/karma/a great chance… you can learn a lot from it and might be thankful one day”.
• Suggesting suppressants – Alcohol, sleeping pills.
After the loss of a baby, there is a particular opportunity for the parents to work and process their grief. So as to facilitate their grieving journey positively on a long-term basis, it helps if they can find some dedicated time and rest to part on a very personal and intimate way from their baby. Establishing a ritual can be healing, loving, and helps in creating an inner strength. Creating a ritual can be as simple as lighting a candle, writing a poem, arranging specific flowers, creating a photo album, painting a memory or having a special thought. A small event or ceremony can lend support to welcome the baby in a creative, unique, healing, and loving environment to the sacred community. The most important is for the parents to feel connected with the chosen ritual as part of their grieving process.
During counselling with our clients, we establish rituals to allow parents to move energy and experience a transformation of their relationship to the lost one.
Be aware there is nobody else closer to the parents than their own child, who is now dead. Regardless whether the child was lost in early pregnancy or shortly before or after birth, parents grief and that will take up a major part of their life for a long period of time.
Miscarriage is the spontaneous end of a pregnancy at any time in the first 28 weeks of pregnancy whereas stillbirth describes the death of a foetus in the uterus or during labour/delivery. Most miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks.
Stillbirth rate varies by country, from the lowest rates of 2 per 1000 births in Finland and Singapore and 2.2 per 1000 births in Denmark and Norway, to highs of 47 in Pakistan and 42 in Nigeria, 36 in Bangladesh, and 34 in Djibouti and Senegal. Rates also vary widely within countries. In India, for example, rates range from 20 to 66 per 1000 births in different states. (Source: WHO, New global and country estimates published in Lancet Series, April 2011)
This article is first published in the Lost And Found book by Tanja Faessler-Moro.
Tanja Faessler-Moro is a Switzerland-born Italian who has been living in Singapore since 2006. She worked as a Client Advisor in Financial Services before specialising in various Human Resource positions in Switzerland, New York, and Singapore. Tanja holds an Executive Masters Degree in Organizational Psychology and is a certified Fertility Coach, Consulting Hypnotist, Life Coach, and HypnoBirthing Practitioner.
She is also a member of the Association of Psychotherapists and Counsellors (Singapore) and speaks English, German, Italian, and French. Tanja has 15 years of experience working with individuals and couples in a variety of counselling topics.
Tanja takes an integrated approach when working with her clients, utilising techniques from Coaching, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), Clinical Hypnotherapy, and Self-help Tools. Her emphasis is to enhance the well-being of her clients in their challenging life situation, which is of paramount importance to her.