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  • Writer's picturethesepreciouslittlepeople

#StayAtHome - support during these uncertain times

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

* Please note that the following blog post was first published in 2020, around the start of the coronavirus pandemic hitting the UK

"Why why, what a terrible time to be alive

If you're prone to overthinking and

Why why, what a terrible time to be alive

If you're prone to second-guessing..."

- George Ezra, 'Pretty Shining People'

I'm no mental health expert but I'd wager that many of us who have firsthand experience of a baby or young child dying will be finding the coronavirus pandemic is proving triggering. Of course all of us are finding our daily lives totally disrupted and we are facing unprecedented challenges in so many ways, but the grief we live with already could well be exacerbating things (particularly for those of us who suffer with anxiety or depression). My heart truly goes out to people who will be living through the nightmare that is their baby dying during this time. With our healthcare services stretched and restrictions having to be placed on visitors and time spent in hospital it is my sincere hope that bereavement care is not compromised.

If you do suddenly find yourselves part of this horrible club I hope you have lots of love and support around you, even if only from afar, and that you are signposted to some useful sources of ongoing support and advice. If you need to break the news of a baby's death to children around you, I have shared some guidance in previous posts (here and here), and have uploaded the 'Notes for Adults' section of These Precious Little People to a new blog post for your reference.

For those of us who have known this pain for some time this could find us thrown back to some of the darkest times we've endured, as we are reminded of the isolation and shock of fresh grief in its most painful, raw form. I read something wonderful from clinical psychologist Michelle ('From The Other Chair') today who reminded those of us who have endeavoured to heal from our trauma and who have started to find ways to live with our grief that, "hard work cannot be completely undone - you cannot un-know what you have worked so hard to learn". She also shared that an old supervisor of hers once used the mountain climbing analogy that, "you can only fall back as far as the last point you secured your ropes. And because you’ve already trodden the path ahead of you, you will have renewed courage and confidence to get back to where you were before."

Of course it's vital to follow up-to-date government advice, but beyond that, please try and trust in doing what feels right for you and your family. Look after yourselves however you need to. If you aren't compiling a Pinterest-worthy schedule of activities, making endless Zoom or What's App video calls to stay in touch with wider family, work colleagues, and friends, learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby, that's more than ok. Eating well and staying hydrated is important, as is getting enough sleep and keep moving your body, but go easy on yourself and try not to have unrealistic expectations. Your healthy eating plan might go out the window some days, your daily exercise doesn't have to involve Joe Wicks, your resolve to have an early night might not pan out that way (says she, writing this after midnight): take things a day at a time, take each day as it comes and remember tomorrow is a new day.

There are some wonderful yoga classes available online that I've been doing with my living children - Cosmic Kids is our recommendation - the Headspace App is great for encouraging mindfulness, there are numerous opportunities available to connect with others online (I have recently joined a writing therapy group set up by Butterfly Award winner Lydnsey Lang - author of the blog 'After Evelyn' - Paper & Hearts, and I regularly connect with people in the Joel The Complete Package Facebook support group), but don't underestimate the power of your own abilities to guide you through this.

Text on background of sky: "On particularly rough days when I'm sure I can't possibly endure I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days is 100% and that's pretty good"

It might sound horribly cheesy but daily affirmations and a gratitude journal can be incredibly powerful sources of strength, motivation and inspiration. If you are lucky enough to have access to safe outdoor space near you, use it: for some fresh air, exercise, and to stop you feeling trapped within your own four walls. If you enjoy getting out running but are missing the challenge and group support that comes with entering races or taking part in a weekly Park Run you can join various virtual runs at the moment; some are linked to online communities that you can connect with to motivate you and inspire you to set yourself new goals. There is also a wonderful #RainbowRunningClub tribe that you can connect with over on Instagram, with weekly self care sessions held over Zoom and other regular events that help uplift and encourage one another.

Watch, read and listen to whatever makes you feel good or brings you comfort. We are unable to visit our daughter's grave in its woodland burial ground as often as we would like, so seeing things we have planted in her memory in our garden growing has made us feel a little closer to her at a time when we can feel even further apart than normal.

Spring flowers planted in our garden in memory of Esme

We have also embraced the rainbow craze that has swept the nation to try and bring us some cheer.

Rainbow with caption: 'For Luke, love Jago xx"
A picture my son drew for his cousin

I wanted to pull together some other bits and pieces that I've come across that have been helpful for me so far, as well as highlight the support services that are still available, even if only online or over the phone (see below - listed in alphabetical order). It's worth noting in case you haven't already guessed that I am based in the UK - please do let me know of any more I can add that I may not be aware of. The links below are specific sections on the organisation's website that are relevant to support and information related to coronavirus, unless otherwise stated.

- Baby Loss Awareness Alliance have put together some advice and resources for those experiencing baby loss during the COVID-19 pandemic

- Beyond Bea - their full Study Day programme is on hold, but they have lots of resources to assist a multitude of families with their memory making to bring just a little bit of help during the most horrific time:, and they have been holding several online sessions for healthcare professionals, with more planned. Beyond Bea's founder, Stephanie, is currently working as a midwife in the NHS, but has kindly said she is happy to be contacted for advice if you are a family or a professional needing help, assistance or even just someone to talk to.

- Books! Unsurprisingly, I turn to them for many things, and times like these are certainly no exception. For recommendations of books to read with children affected by baby loss, you could start with this blog post. The adult baby loss support books I find myself recommending most are Nicola Gaskin's Life After Baby Loss and Sarah Nelson's 'Life After Stillbirth'; Megan Devine's 'It’s OK That You’re Not OK' is probably the best book I've read on coping with grief in general. Nosy Crow has released a free e-book for children about coronavirus: illustrated by the legendary Axel Scheffler.

- British Psychological Society highlight the value of talking openly to children and reassuring them about the changes they are seeing around them due to Coronavirus in this useful article and document.

- Legacy of Leo's #BabyLossHour held on Tuesdays at 8pm on Twitter - topics vary (check Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for updates) but participants are always a welcoming and friendly bunch; it's a hugely supportive lifeline for many to reach out to

- MAMA Academy - the UK's baby loss prevention charity - has sections on their website dedicated to baby loss support and pregnancy and coronavirus

- Oscar's Wish Foundation - providing support to families affected by baby loss - they have several Facebook support groups and have been running Q&A sessions via Zoom with a clinical psychologist. They have also produced an informative and supportive leaflet that accompanies their Bereavement Support boxes called: “How to initiate conversation- information for friends and family”; this can be emailed to you on request.

- Podcasts: Footprints On Our Hearts releases weekly episodes interviewing different guests explaining how they have navigated life after baby loss. There is a special episode talking about COVID-19 and grief, which offers ideas of how we can look after ourselves during these strange times. Other podcasts that release regular episodes talking about difference experiences of baby loss and life after loss are Sisters in Loss, Worst Girl Gang Ever and Smooth Stones.

- Pregnancy After Loss Support - there is a wealth of information and advice available through this incredible US-based organisation, but the founder has put together this special article focused on how to cope with pregnancy after loss during this pandemic, and a PALS contributor has also written about grief in the time of a pandemic

- Tommy's - the UK's largest charity funding research into the causes of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. Tommy's also provide information for parents-to-be to help them have a healthy pregnancy and baby. Their excellent website has comprehensive and regularly updated sections on pregnancy and coronavirus, baby loss information and support.

- Willow's Rainbow Box - a charity based in the north-east of England supporting women and families experiencing pregnancy subsequent to loss at any gestation, providing comfort boxes for pregnancy after loss

- Zephyr's - offering online support to those affected by baby loss (including those pregnant again and/or parenting after loss) via regular Zoom sessions

George Ezra's song 'Pretty Smiling People' really resonates with me right now, so I'll sign off with some more of his lyrics - a valuable reminder that although we might feel isolated right now, we are not alone in this, and brighter days are ahead:

"Hey pretty smiling people, we're alright together

We're alright together"



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