The Telegraph has today published an article by Marina Fogle about the tragic death of her son.
The little boy, whom she and her husband Ben named Willem, was born sleeping when Marina suffered an acute placental abruption that also left her near death.
It is positive to see an article about baby loss in a national newspaper. It is sad that it takes a tragedy experienced by people in the public eye for such issues to receive a higher profile, but such is the way of the world.
Grief needs to be talked about openly and honestly to help those enduring the grief process to understand that those strong, terrifying emotions are a natural response to their loss.
In her interview, Marina explains how grief changes constantly, like the weather. I can relate to this: it makes it difficult for me to know who I am, to trust myself, or to make plans.
I too have experienced the lack of concentration and memory problems: for a while, as Marina connected this to the haemorrhage she experienced, I connected mine with HELLP syndrome. Ultimately, it is connected to the exhaustion that goes hand-in-hand with grief.
Talking about what has happened is great advice. I have barely stopped talking about Hugo. It is a useful way of helping me process everything. Talking about your baby doesn’t have to be public, though: you could talk to friends, family, write your feelings in a diary, or write letters to your baby that no one else has to see. Whatever is right for you.
Marina suggests getting professional support to help deal with grief – I agree that living with grief is a skill that needs to be learned. However, getting such support is much easier said than done, as I discovered. That means living with grief is a skill I am still trying to master, some 10 months after Hugo’s death. Marina does acknowledge her luck in receiving such good support, however.
Perhaps most importantly, she talks about spending time with her baby. When Hugo died, this was something I was uncomfortable doing because it felt so morbid. It meant I don’t have any decent photos of Hugo without his medical paraphernalia, which is one of my biggest regrets. Helping parents understand that spending precious time with your baby after they have died, and making memories with them, is invaluable. Such regrets cause further heartbreak.
The fee donation to Child Bereavement UK will help so many in need of support, too.
I must admit that at first I felt the article was lacking in emotion. I don’t know if this was the intention in the way it was written, or whether the emotion was edited out. What irked me was that it made grief seem while awful, rather neat and tidy. So much British restraint. Where was the wailing, the ferocity of sadness?
After thinking about it for a while, I realised the tone is wholly appropriate for a broadsheet newspaper. Death is taboo, baby loss even more so. We already know that many people don’t like to engage in genuine empathy because it involves connecting with scary emotions.
The interview has been published on a Saturday morning. Readers may be enjoying a lie-in, getting jobs done around the house, or preparing to go out and do something fun. I asked myself whether people would be likely to read an emotive interview that would make them cry, or feel sad on their Saturday morning. Possibly not. On balance, I would rather people read about baby loss, learn from a bereaved mother’s experience of grief, and perhaps learn how to better support someone through baby loss than ignore it because it is too emotional, too scary to think about.
Perhaps people did shed a tear reading the interview. Perhaps I am being too harsh.
Irrespective of my views about the tone of the piece, I hope that people with half a heart would be able to imagine how difficult the article would have been for Marina to write. That there were undoubtedly many tears shed, too many tissues to count used, and time out taken to regain composure.
It is this thought that struck me when I re-read the article. When I first read it, I scrolled quickly past the headline, photo, and standfirst, eager to get to the interview.
On my second reading, I took time to look at the photo of Marina. She is well-presented, just as I would want to be if my photo was going to appear in a national newspaper. I looked in to her eyes: so sad. Of course they are going to be. I could not help but wonder, though, how many would look at the photo and think: “Well, she’s not crying and her hair looks good, so she must be ok.” Our image-obsessed culture does like to make judgements on how people look, after all.
Since discovering Instagram last summer I have been posting selfies. I like to make an effort with my appearance; it’s kind of my armour. I also don’t get out much at the moment – a self-inflicted method of protection and control – and Instagram gives me an opportunity to show off a haircut, or an outfit.
Looking closely at the photos, however, I am struck that while my mouth is smiling, my eyes are incredibly sad. My eyes used to sparkle. A recent selfie is below.
This made me realise just how important articles such as Marina’s are for helping the population in general better respond to, and support people affected not just by baby loss, but by any kind of bereavement.
To help people realise that a person bereaved might have got out of bed in the morning, and made themselves look presentable to face the day. That a person bereaved might be able to talk or write eloquently about their loss.
To help people realise that just because that person bereaved is not crying at that moment, or otherwise openly showing painful emotions, it does not mean they are not shattered, or that they are not utterly broken inside.