Fraser and Kat’s baby daughter Elsie was stillborn at 30 weeks.  When Kat felt reduced movements, the couple went to the hospital for a scan and a trace of Elsie’s heartbeat.  Everything seemed fine but, a week later, at the follow-up appointment, Fraser and Kat received the devastating news that no heartbeat could be found, and that Elsie had died.  Fraser and Kat talk about how they’ve been supported by Child Bereavement UK to cope with their grief and with their fears, hopes and emotions surrounding Kat’s latest pregnancy.

 “Nothing can prepare you for what happened with Elsie,” says Fraser. “We went into a special room commissioned for situations like ours on Saturday where our wee girl was born.  We spent some time with her on that Saturday and on Sunday morning and then we left.  We weren’t sure how we were going to cope.” 

 Fraser and Kat received a letter from the hospital advising them to get in touch with the hospital psychiatrist.  However, he then got in touch with the couple saying it would be more appropriate for them to contact Child Bereavement UK.

 “I’m so glad he did,” says Kat. “Otherwise it would have just been quite clinical in terms of support, it wouldn’t have been what we needed at all.”

 The couple phoned Child Bereavement UK and spoke to Gayle, one of Child Bereavement UK’s bereavement practitioners. 

 “That was quite a hard call to make because it was maybe about five weeks after we had lost Elsie and we didn’t know what to expect,” says Kat.  “We didn’t know much about Child Bereavement UK, but Gayle was great at understanding the phone call was difficult.  She made us an appointment as soon as she could and we started going to see her every week and then every two weeks.  Now we go and see her every four weeks.”

 “At the beginning we talked about our experience of Elsie’s birth and how we felt.  And as time progressed, I would say it was about learning to cope with your grief, moving on.  Fraser went back to work four weeks after, I went to work three months after. We got a lot of help and support on how to deal with that. I’m pregnant again and Child Bereavement UK has given us a lot of help with that.”

 When Fraser returned to work he found he needed support from Child Bereavement UK.

 “I hit a wall. I struggled with the fact that no one really talked about what had happened or acknowledged why I’d been out.  Child Bereavement UK helped me to make sense of it and told me to look for further support at work. So, I talked to my boss and his boss, I just put my hands up and said: ‘I’m struggling here’. If I hadn’t had any support, it would all have got on top of me and I’d have circled the truth.  I was able to ask for the support I needed because Child Bereavement UK had signposted that this can happen when you return to work: you go back to work, the adrenaline is there and you’re so focused on ‘I’m OK, I’m OK,’ then weeks later you hit a wall.”

Child Bereavement UK is now helping Fraser and Kat manage their feelings about Kat’s pregnancy coupled with the death of Elsie.  Kat has had three early losses as well as losing Elsie.

 “Child Bereavement UK put things into perspective,” says Kat. “They explained to us that of course things are going to be hard, it’s going to be a difficult pregnancy in terms of anxiety and hospital appointments but it’s about managing little bits at a time and dealing with your grief as well and keeping them separate.  Obviously, the grief with Elsie, that’s a big thing. This pregnancy isn’t going to replace Elsie and it’s about learning to manage this pregnancy differently.”

 “We’re learning that we need to treat this pregnancy in its own right,” says Fraser, “Not to compare every stage with how it was with Elsie.  Because we’d had other miscarriages in the past, to get to 12 weeks was a massive thing and then we lost Elsie at 30 weeks. The milestone of 20 weeks is meant to be safe, but we don’t have that safe point.  Almost as soon as we get excited and start looking forward we feel guilt: ‘Should we be doing this?’, ‘Should we be feeling like this?’.  In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been better at looking forward and making plans and not always thinking ‘What if?’”

It gives you a bit more perspective and helps you to move on. I think a big part of it is we’ve learned from Child Bereavement UK that it’s OK to grieve alongside living your normal life.

- Kat

 “Child Bereavement UK talked to us about coping strategies to deal with this pregnancy. That’s been a big help,” says Kat. “We’ve also attended group sessions with Child Bereavement UK.  Even though the sessions are intense, at the same time as soon as you come out, you feel a big weight off your shoulders.  I’ve never had any counselling for anything in the past, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It kind of drains you, but afterwards it gives you a bit more perspective and helps you to move on. I think a big part of it is we’ve learned from Child Bereavement UK that it’s OK to grieve alongside living your normal life.” 

 “They say it’s about moving forward not moving on,” agrees Fraser.  “We’ve learned that there are two oscillating states, between grief and restoration, and you can move between them.  At times you’ll feel grief and at other times you’ll feel OK and it’s OK to do both as long as you’re not always in one.”

Having the support has made me realise that there’s no right or wrong in terms of how you should feel because everyone’s different.

- Kat

 “I think that would be something that would be very difficult without having a bit of guidance,” says Kat. “I might feel a bit more guilty about happier days and starting to move forward with other aspects, like this pregnancy and work and things.  I think that having the support has made me realise that there’s no right or wrong in terms of how you should feel because everyone’s different.  And the group certainly helped with that as well.”

We all know why we’re there. And in that space, we can just say things that probably wouldn’t make sense to someone who hasn’t been through it or someone who doesn’t have that grief.

- Fraser

 “There’s no sense of anyone’s grief being more powerful or anyone’s situation being any worse than anyone else’s,” says Fraser. “We all know why we’re there. And in that space, we can just say things that probably wouldn’t make sense to someone who hasn’t been through it or someone who doesn’t have that grief.”

 "We’d say to someone in the similar situation as us: 'Don’t turn down any offers'. We wanted to make sense of what happened and make sure that we could function. If you are just stuck in a loop, then you can’t function as normal.  Support isn’t for everyone and some people just aren’t open to it.  My advice though is just try it.”