Since the death of my baby son Hugo earlier this year I have been overwhelmed with love, kindness and support from family, friends, strangers I have met and new friends I have met online.
Very few of these lovely people were able to meet Hugo. My baby was born 16 weeks early and spent the 35 days of his life in a neonatal intensive care unit on a ventilator.
However, all of these lovely people know exactly how much Hugo means to me. They say his name, listen patiently to all the stories I have to tell about his spirited and mischievous character, and look at the many photos I have of my gorgeous son. They admire him, and agree that he was a wonderful baby.
For those few minutes, I feel my face light up and I feel like any other proud new mum showing off my amazing new baby. For those few minutes, I am able to forget that I am a mother bereaved. For those few precious minutes, I treasure the feeling of what it was like to feel happy, and full of hope.
Sadly, not everyone feels able to listen to a mother talk about her dead baby. Our culture has a fear of death. It is not a subject that is talked about openly. Death, grief and bereavement are all taboo topics.
Recently, a lady told me the main topic of my blog – dealing with the loss of my baby – is a ‘conversation stopper’. The lady was pleasant enough and I am sure she didn’t intend to be hurtful or insensitive. Like a number of people I have met in the months since Hugo died, she just didn’t know what to say.
While that lady was the only person to have explicitly said that my son’s death is a conversation stopper, I have felt it on other occasions. I can see it in their eyes, and in their body language. I can see they would like the ground to swallow them up, or to have an urgent appointment elsewhere. Anything other than having to talk to the bereaved mother.
The bereaved, whomever they have lost, suffer enough without also feeling like a social leper.
If you are one of those who is stumped for something to say when talking to someone who has been bereaved, a really simple thing to do is just ask to be told the name of the person they have lost. Start a conversation.
I love saying Hugo’s name. I love that name. It suits him perfectly – it means ‘bright in mind and spirit’, and he really lived up to it. I love talking about all the things he got up to. I love talking about how proud I am of him. I love talking about how much I love him.
If you are someone who is worried about causing further upset to a bereaved mother by talking about their baby, please don’t be. A bereaved mother has already endured the worst thing anyone can possibly imagine.
For me, not talking about my baby causes more hurt than talking about them.
I know that if everything had gone ‘to plan’, those same people who find my grief uncomfortable would be likely to be cooing at Hugo in his pram, asking me about his sleeping and feeding patterns, and whether he is meeting his developmental milestones.
I would do anything to be able to have Hugo in my arms, to be suffering sleepless nights and be changing endless pooey nappies.
It breaks my heart that I can’t. It breaks my heart that I have to enjoy my son through memories, photos and videos. It breaks my heart that one of the ways I am now able to show my love for Hugo is by tending to his grave.
The way that Hugo lives on is through my writing, and through talking about him.
I will never again lose my voice. I am now even more determined to talk about my special son. I will continue to talk about Hugo with those who love to hear about him and speak his name.
I will also find a way to talk about Hugo to those who would prefer to stop the conversation.
If, after reading this, you are still uncomfortable with hearing about dead babies think on this: your discomfort will last for a couple of minutes. My heartbreak will last for a lifetime.