I have noticed that it is sometimes helpful for me to let people know things that can be a bit different for me and my family, in the light of losing our eldest child to stillbirth. Everyone is different and has things that are unusual to them and their circumstance. I think we could all be a little bit more open and share more. Maybe some people prefer not to or don’t need to, but losing a child makes a significant difference to life in so many unnoticeable ways. I think sharing promotes better relationships and it certainly makes my life less difficult.
Recently we were on a holiday abroad where we were contained on a smallish site with other families for a week. On day three, my son and I arrived at the beach to meet for a kids group sailing activity and he was behaving oddly and was very anxious about taking part. It wasn’t the first time that the other mums were looking at him like, ‘this doesn’t seem quite right’. As a family, we are recovering from grief and this can affect behaviour. I explained briefly to the two mums watching. Initially it was awkward, however, the rest of the holiday everyone was more patient and kind with my son, and the honesty bonded us together as families. It allowed us to relax and make friends like everyone else.
And it’s the same with grown ups. Last year we moved to a new area where I’ve been met lots of new people. But life is different now. When I meet someone I might form a friendship with, I have to tell them that my first child died. Why? because .. (‘How many kids do you have?’). This is awkward, but I can think of occasions where it went great – immediately cementing us together as friends. Within that first meeting, I can learn that a woman is strong, compassionate, kind and unafraid of the reality of life. An ideal friend for me! I think these days I can actually find and make good friends more quickly.
However, recently I was on a night out with a few women where one prospective ‘friend’ was dominating with her stories. When conversation strayed into the area around baby loss, I of course shared. She was dismissive and unhelpful, so I figured it out… not a friend for me. I genuinely think I am fortunate to be able to ascertain information so quickly about prospective friends, and to save wasted time with people who are not a match.
The most significant ‘share’ of all, is when you need to save someone from being unknowingly hurtful. This can happen at work or at play. Example; ‘Aren’t you glad you don’t have any girls Sophie? They are such a pain aren’t they!?!’ says the mum at the playground watching her two girls argue. The group falls silent because the other mums know me. It’s my job to tell her and that’s OK. She does not know that my daughter died and she does not mean any harm. I can explain in a way that makes it OK for her whilst others move on to another topic. That seems like hard work doesn’t it? but life is not fair. And, in my opinion, it is certainly better when you take control of the things that you can, and when you are not afraid to share.