In the autumn of 2012, I received a very sad letter, from a woman telling me about her mother, who had had a still birth 40 years previously. In fact it was this letter that prompted a bigger piece on stillbirth and Sands.
A few days after the column appeared the reader got back in touch.
(All correspondence reproduced with express permission.)
“Thank you for you advice! I’ve just spent the afternoon with mum, sitting at the computer and showing her the sites you recommended. The ‘saying goodbye’ organisation is fantastic and mum was so surprised that such a thing exists – ‘it can’t just be me then’ was her comment. To have found a way for her to mark her loss after such a long time is really wonderful. She has already chosen a date and venue to attend. Sitting together, working out the practicalities of the ceremony also provided a way for her to talk about what happened which was less intense than sitting face to face, with me asking clumsy questions. She seemed so comfortable talking about why she wanted a particular venue or who she would like to be there for example. I feel that this has given her an easy way to open further discussion if she wants to and I can just follow her lead.
She also said she feels she at last can do something for her baby – so heartbreaking but we both felt better after a little blub!
A year later, the reader got in touch again.
“I’m not sure if you will remember but over a year ago, I sent a problem in to your column and received some great advice.
We organised to attend a Saying Goodbye service, near to where mum had her daughter, and waited for the day to come. It was wonderful! A beautiful setting and touching service, we couldn’t have hoped for better.
Me, mum and my sibling made the long journey together and this was the first time we were able to talk properly about what happened to mum when she lost her baby, her feelings and memories. Actually, because I had my children running about, it gave us a chance to talk about all sorts of things and actually finish the sentences! We had a lovely meal out and stayed in a hotel the night before then attended the service in the morning. To come together with so many different people who had all been through the same thing as mum was incredible. She has had no way to acknowledge that event all these years and was so grateful to have this chance.
Since we have returned, she has spoken about her daughter’s death to other people, and seems to be able to do it with more ease. She has said that she feels ‘lifted’, like something has been ‘healed.’ I sometimes feel so heartbroken that she has carried this around on her own for so long, but I am also pleased that she has now managed to do something for her baby. Something so lovely, that involved lots of talking, crying, wine-drinking and hugs!
Thank you for your advice. Not just the practical tips but for acknowledging that this was important and traumatic for mum. And for sensing that she would feel better from making this small mark for her baby girl.”
When I wrote to the reader asking for permission to do this update she replied with a bit more information which included that they had applied to get copies of the baby girl’s birth and death certificates, “It was very emotional to read them with mum.” The baby girl has a lovely name, but I won’t share it as somethings are best kept private.