When we lose a baby, it's not just us who experience grief and mourn. Those around us, our parents, our siblings and any children we already have, also all grieve. Of course, we know this, but it can be very hard to recall when we are consumed by our own loss and the associated pain.
I heard someone describe grief in the family as intergenerational grief. However, technically, intergenerational grief is defined as when grief is not resolved, and is passed on through the generations of a family.
Rather, I am talking about the grief of those who should be available to support us, but who are so upset themselves, it can feel like they need us to support them.
This can occur with all forms of grief, not just after baby loss.
Being strong for others
When someone we love dearly is deeply mourning the loss they have experienced (their grandchild, brother or sister, niece, nephew), they can need us to be strong for them.
This can feel inherently unfair and challenging to us as the parents of the child who has died; we wish these other people would be strong, as we need them to support us. But grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles are all allowed to mourn too, and shouldn't feel they cannot share their grief with us.
Instead of feeling that we must be strong for them, or that they must be strong for us, it might be better to acknowledge that we are all mourning.
Together we can mourn.
And together, share in our sadness the love we have for each other, as well as the love for the child we collectively lost.
By supporting each other, we don't need to be strong in their traditional stoic sense of the word. Rather we are strong by showing and sharing our vulnerability and grief.
Children need space to mourn too
This also applies when our children are mourning. We mustn't let our grief overshadow their right to grieve and mourn their sibling.
I readily admit, this can feel almost impossible! Especially when we are so consumed by our own loss. It is very hard to acknowledge the pain and suffering our children experience at the loss of their brother or sister.
But this is incredibly important as we are ALL grieving.
We are all suffering.
Together, by sharing the sorrow, we find strength.
Even very young children can be excruciatingly aware of their parents sorrow. You don't want them to keep their feelings from you in a misguided attempt by them to protect you from further sorrow. You want your children to be able to share their feelings freely with you, and together find comfort.
Seek support elsewhere
Personally, I did not have the experience of grieving parents needing my support. My parents were always there to support me and my husband. However, there were many times when my parents were grieving the loss of their grandson and upset about the pain I was experiencing. I saw their sorrow, but was never expected (nor was I capable) of providing support to them in the midst of my own grief.
Instead, my parents sought support from other quarters. They spoke to close friends, their own siblings and other people in their support network who could provide them with the love and care they needed.
I heard this described as 'give comfort inwards, seek comfort outwards'. In essence, comfort is given inwards, and sought outwards. The diagram (left) shows this.
The closer you are to the centre of the circle, the more support you will need to receive. Support, love and comfort is given from the outer circles inwards.
And equally, when we are seeking love, comfort and support, we find it further out of the circle. We receive support from those people who have been less impacted by the loss.
In essence, we need to manage our own emotions and feelings before we can provide support to others.
Whilst we would never wish child loss, grandchild loss or sibling loss upon anyone, it is a life experience and it is OUR life experience. It shapes us and changes us, and helps us become the people we are. This applies for parents grandparents and young children just as much as parents.
If you are a parent or a grandparent who has experienced the loss of a baby, Parents Evolving & Transitioning After Loss (PETAL) might be a group you'd like to join. It's an online support group for parents who have had some time pass since the loss of their child. It's a safe space to talk about the ongoing impact of baby loss and give and share support to other parents who have also lost a baby.
A coach can be a great support during times of transition. I'd love to support you, if that feels right for you. Click the button below to book a time for your complimentary consultation. The consultation is a 'no-strings attached' chat where we determine if coaching is right for you.
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