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Stillbirth: I am a mother without a baby

Stillbirth: I am a mother without a baby

My arms no longer ache like those first hours, but they are still empty – I am a mother without a baby

BBC Journalist Fiona Crack became pregnant last year with a much – longed for baby girl, but her waters broke early and her beautiful baby girl, named Willow, died. This is her story of a year of grief and healing, and the stories of 5 extraordinary women who shared her experience and all went on to channel their grief into futures that bear the legacy of their child.

In this moving article, Fiona describes her ordeal and the grief that followed:-

Grief folded and stretched time. ..One day we travelled to a register office and an official asked quiet sad questions. We left holding legal proof she was here, she was real. Birth and death shared the paper, the only document she will ever have.

She describes her coping mechanisms, so recognisable to many of us who have suffered the death of a child:-

My coping mechanisms are all about doing stuff and so I planned a part of our garden to dedicate to Willow, buying graph paper and poring over garden design books. We started landscaping in the coldest wettest week in February. We hired a 1.5 tonne digger. Friends and family came to help us in snow and frost, in driving rain.

After being given a memory box in which to place special things to remember Willow, Fiona set out on a journey to meet other mothers who had experienced such a loss as her and the stories of five remarkable women are here. They are:


Val runs the Tigerlily Trust, which provides hospitals with blankets, wraps and gowns for stillborn babies

Rachel runs Gifts of Remembrance, which trains midwives to take photos of stillborn babies

Ruth retrained as a midwife after the stillbirth of her daughter Scarlett. She has just started her first posting, having qualified this summer.

Aliyah Publishing graduate makes bespoke wall prints through her online shop, which help parents celebrate their baby’s name and birth date and is working on a bespoke memory book.

Megan began a popular vlog about stillbirth just weeks after the death of her son Milo

Val says:-

My advice to other parents going through this is let yourself grieve hard. Don’t be afraid of your grief – share it with people. That’s almost precious time before the world sort of expects you to be OK. Let yourself have that time.

To read the full article please click here

SLOW support groups are here for bereaved parents weeks, months or even years after the death of a child.   And I know personally for me that in the early days it was so important to understand from others further along how the grief for a lost child evolved.

For more information on our forthcoming groups click here

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Getting through it – Jason Watkins and Clara Francis

Getting through it – Jason Watkins and Clara Francis

SLOW Patrons, Jason Watkins and Clara Francis talk to the Guardian about losing their daughter Maude, aged two and a half.

“It changes you. It changes everything in your life, and that includes your work. In one sense, after a loss this huge, work seems trivial. But in another sense, it becomes more important. I feel that whatever I do, I’m going to really make it count …”

You can read the full article here.


Photograph of Jason and Clara by Christian Sinibaldi for the Guardian

If are looking for support groups in London please get in touch using the details below or take a look at our calendar of events here.

North London Group

In North London (Islington) we run weekly daytime support groups for bereaved parents on Wednesdays during term time.  We also run monthly evening support groups for bereaved parents and sibling workshops.   For further details contact 07532 423 674 or

South London Group

In South London (Streatham) we run weekly daytime support groups for bereaved parents on Tuesdays during term time.  For further details contact 07908 93 77 22 or
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My daughter died when she was seven. I still get waves of terrible grief today

My daughter died when she was seven. I still get waves of terrible grief today

Tim has written about the loss of Naomi and his experience of managing to continue through the grief. He also talks about the help from Helen and Douglas House and also the support group for bereaved dads he started.

It’s been eleven years since Naomi died and I still get sudden waves of terrible grief. But in this group we find real comfort in one another. Some of us have been on real journeys, had relationships break-up and come back together, had more children,  all the things that happen in life. But this is a place where we can bring our relationships with our dead children – it just goes on.

The article was published in this Tuesday’s Telegraph and you can read the article here.

If are looking for support groups in London please get in touch using the details below or take a look at our calendar of events here.

North London Group

In North London (Islington) we run weekly daytime support groups for bereaved parents on Wednesdays during term time.  We also run monthly evening support groups for bereaved parents and sibling workshops.   For further details contact 07532 423 674 or

South London Group

In South London (Streatham) we run weekly daytime support groups for bereaved parents on Tuesdays during term time.  For further details contact 07908 93 77 22 or
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Radio 4 Alone and Together – Revd. Dr. Anna Poulson preaching on Radio 4’s Mothering Sunday Service

Radio 4 Alone and Together – Revd. Dr. Anna Poulson preaching on Radio 4’s Mothering Sunday Service

A very good friend, the Revd. Dr. Anna Poulson is preaching today on Radio 4’s Morning Service for Mothering Service.

She is considering her own experience of motherhood in a reflection of “And a sword shall pierce your heart too”. This is part of Radio 4’s Lent series, “Alone and Together”.

If you didn’t catch it, you can listen on the BBC site after the program airs here. Dr Anna speaks about her loss and its meaning for her, if you want to start at that part of the program, forward to 18 mins 15 seconds into the audio.

The text from her sermon is also below:

“Two parents and a baby.

A couple of experts gathered in a place enshrined with expectation. A wise man proclaims his words of wisdom over the child: words that amaze, words that devastate, words that leave a trail of bewilderment long after they’ve been uttered. There’s been so much joy: the wonder of pregnancy; the agony and ecstasy of a demanding delivery; hordes of visitors: how could sorrow be the future?


That was the moment old Simeon told Mary as she presented Jesus in the Temple that ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ That was also the moment when my husband and I were told our infant daughter had a rare life-limiting condition, that could possibly live till three but probably wouldn’t get through the winter.


In a few gentle, measured sentences the doctors dismantled all our parental hopes and dreams. She would never walk or talk, or feed herself. There would never be a day when she’d be free of seizures. In the dark days that followed my husband and I held onto her tighter than ever, grieving for all that had been lost, yet recalling that every child is a gift from God. We were letting go of so much; we could only trust that the wonder held in store in this tiny, fragile, precious gift would somehow be revealed.


Mary too, believed she had been blessed with a gift. ‘My soul magnifies the Lord,’ she sang when she was expecting, ‘for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.’ Was she still singing after what Simeon told her in the temple? What were her expectations now? Simeon, upon whom, we are told, the Holy Spirit rested, who was able to recognise the Lord’s Messiah, who praised God for the salvation bestowed in Jesus – yet Simeon who also knew the excruciating pain that this would inflict upon Jesus’ mother.


Did Mary stop then to rethink about her Magnificat song, or reevaluate the visit of the shepherds and the gifts of the wise men? Were Simeon’s words enough to silence her singing? Did she too have to let go of the dreams she had once dreamt for the child she had carried? One of the universal characteristics of motherhood across continents and cultures seems to be the pain of letting go. Sometimes this pain is mixed with pride: watching your child swallowed up by school on their first day, stride onto the platform at graduation, head off into the sunset as a newly-wed. But other letting goes are forced upon us: a phone call tells of a tragic accident, a test reveals a terminal disease, a confession discloses a terrible secret: all agonising reminders that life is not ours to control.


In the midst of Simeon’s song of praise, he reveals the mystery that challenges everyone’s expectations of the Messiah: that this glory, this salvation, would be found through searing, piercing pain. Pain that would wrack Jesus’s body, break Mary’s heart, and pave a path of sacrifice for disciples to follow. In the moment of pieta, as Mary at the crucifixion cradled her son’s pierced body with the intensity of her love for him, and as the sword thrust into her own heart too, she embraced the ultimate act of letting go. Her song silenced, she surrendered her son to the terrors of hell and the darkness of the tomb. Yet his was a light and glory which could not be overwhelmed or constrained but which would burst forth after three days, shattering all expectations and revealing the new realm, the realm in which wounds are visible yet healed, the realm of resurrection – and Mary sang again as never before.


My daughter, Lydia, did survive her first winter, and the next, and the next. And in the three years she lived, amidst the struggle, we discovered many miracles. We discovered that when you let go and surrender your expectations, when your hands are completely empty and open, then can they be filled with a host of precious things. We discovered that when you know you’re going to lose something, you cherish every moment. You linger over every goodbye in case it’s the last. We discovered that Lydia and her friends at her nursery and hospice were not objects of pity but shrines of joy to be revered with awe and wonder. We discovered that the sadness wasn’t that they weren’t more like us, but that we weren’t more like them. For slowly we realised that it was they who instinctively knew the secret of the good life, and in their abundant generosity it was a secret they would share, if only you would stop long enough to listen: love and be loved, love and be loved.


There was no pieta moment of intense love for little Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian three-year-old who drowned last year en route to the Greek island of Kos. Few could have seen the picture of his lifeless body lying on the beach without wanting to scoop him up and cradle him one last time. I was deeply grateful for the time I had to cradle my little three-year-old after she died. In that moment of paradox, there was searing pain, yet insurmountable beauty: heaven breaking into earth within the walls of a children’s hospice on a suburban estate. Hearts wounded, yes forever, but also eternally transformed. This was the place of light and glory that Simeon had seen in the infant Jesus, the place of the most intense vulnerability, intimacy and love. Simeon’s eyes had seen God’s salvation.


Our eyes had seen it too.


In her living and her dying, Lydia revealed the truth at the heart of the Gospel: that when and only when we have the courage to admit defeat, to let ourselves go and to surrender, then we find ourselves cradled in the hands of another, of the Father whose hands flung stars into space, of the Son whose hands were nailed to a tree, of the Spirit on whose hands we will find names, so many names: Aylan Kurdi, Lydia Eve Poulson, mine, yours, beautifully engraved by the God who will never forget us, by the one who will never let us go.



As you may have noticed, we’ve started to post a few wider articles from the local community so I thought this might be a good time to state our ethos –

SLOW is committed to posting anything that may be of interest of any members of SLOW regardless of faith belief or culture and does not endorse any belief over any other … just an openness to the human experience.

Update on this post: March 2019

The audio of this episode On Lent pilgrimage, broadcast on Sun 6 Mar 2016, is no longer available, but the full transcript of the Mothering Sunday’s service from St Martin-in-the-Fields, with the Rev Dr Sam Wells and the Rev Dr Anna Poulson, can still be found here on Radio 4 Sunday Worship.
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When your child dies your world is changed forever

When your child dies your world is changed forever

When grief is new

Your heart is broken in a way you could never imagine possible.

You cannot return to the person that you were before your child died, and the process of coming to terms with the death of your child involves irreversible life changes for you, for your family and for all those around you. This can cause others to feel mystified and shut- out. They seem to grieve the person you were ‘before’. But the most important thing is that you are able to get as much support that you can find, along with the necessary time and space for you to grieve in your own way. There is no map, and no right way, and there is no short – cut. There are no recognisable neat patterns and there is nothing clean about it. There will never be a day that it will feel “acceptable” to you that your child’s life was cut short and that you outlived them. Life has been thrown into unrecognisable turmoil, and you find yourself in a bleak and lonely world that feels completely alien.

Becoming accustomed to the reality of your life without your child physically in it, alongside you, is a slow and painful process. In our high- speed world people want solutions fast. Often others close to you, who love you, may want you to’ ‘recover’ quickly or come to terms with your loss. They may feel frustrated with how long it’s all taking and they may offer advice or well-meaning comments that feel hurtful and inappropriate. They may also have their own opinions as to how you are coping, or not, and may express these without invitation. Sometimes you might sense a feeling of relief from those around you when, in their eyes, you make one tiny step, seemingly forwards. However, for you, it may be that you just got through the last day relatively unscathed by the demons of grief, and it can feel like a hollow victory. (“So I had a better day. But my child is still not here”). You may battle with guilt and try to appease, after all, you know that it is all well-intentioned and loving. All this can make a bereaved parent’s heart hurt even more, that you are not doing it right, that you are a disappointment, that you should be feeling better, for your child’s sake, for your family and friends. You may feel pressured to hide your true feelings, and you can often feel isolated and vulnerable.

Early months

The grief that follows the death of your child unfolds in a way that others find hard to imagine.

In the early weeks and months, you may feel raw with grief, in deep shock and after-shock, inconsolable and unable to imagine a life without your child. It is common to feel that you want to join your dead child, or to feel that you cannot focus on your other children, if there are any. You may experience confusion, memory loss and inability to concentrate on anything going on around you. You may also feel so physically exhausted that you are unable to move, as if you are weighted down. You may be desperate to sleep but unable to. Answering the telephone, and dealing with the mail can seem like mountainous tasks, all requiring you to speak words to people that you are barely able to say to yourself – that your child is gone for ever. Most social events may fill you with dread as they inevitably revolve around conversation about children and everyday family life. For you, the everyday hurts and feels like a luxury you no longer can access. It’s important for those around you to be gentle, and to allow you time and space to spend thinking about your child, wherever you feel and sense that they are.

How others can help

If you are supporting a bereaved parent, don’t expect them to plan too much further than the present day, or sometimes, the present hour.

Offer a quiet place for them to feel they can express themselves if they need to. Sometimes, silence can be most comforting, as bereaved parents often feel crowded by other people’s opinions as well as the thoughts in their own minds as they try to make sense of the chaos they experience. Don’t give them advice, or suggest how they should feel. Your most important act is to listen, be patient, and walk beside them in this most terrible experience. Don’t be tempted to offer advice on how they should deal with their child’s belongings, or what they should do with their child’s bedroom. These are all deeply personal choices, and it is up to the parents alone to decide, in their own time, how to best deal with these things, and they will. Most importantly don’t feel afraid to mention their child’s name, for fear of upsetting them or ‘reminding’ them – they are upset already, and will not have forgotten! You can be sure that their child’s name is never further than a breath away for them. It is always in their heart and mind, and on their lips. To speak or to hear the name of the child they love so much and miss so desperately, and to know that the world has not forgotten, is a great relief. Be sensitive around birthdays, anniversaries and annual events such as Christmas and New Year. A Happy New Year is often a painful reminder of another year further from the life they spent with their child. These events can throw bereaved parents into the grips of grief, no matter how long after a child has died.

In the later months and first few years after your child dies, other feelings may emerge, such as prolonged feelings of bleakness, despair and the realization that your child really is never coming back. Often at this point, family and friends may be wondering if you will ever be able to resume a life with any happiness in, and they may despair themselves. If you are supporting a bereaved parent, be patient, and be there for the long haul.

Further Along

It is important to remember in these later months and years that this is not a permanent state, and often the support of other bereaved parents can be invaluable at this time, when it feels as if the rest of the world has peeled off.

The community of parents who share the death of their child can offer immeasurable depths of support and companionship. Though it feels that you may never feel colour in your life again, it is still an important part grieving. Slowly we find different things that have meaning, and may discover friendships that we never knew we would find. We may find that our priorities are altered in a way that gives us room to live in a different way. We find we are slowly moving – not necessarily because we feel we have made any progress, but because time allows us to look back over the landscape we have trodden and see that we have inched forwards and something of the nature of our grief has changed, our capacity for being in the world without our child has expanded. We may at times feel the presence of our lost child profoundly with us, and at other times, feel alarmed when it may feel hard to envisage or remember our previous lives with them. We sometimes find a way to live or work that honours our child and their gift to us, and can adjust to a life that feels meaningful again. Each grief is unique, each timescale has its own shape, and each imprint of a child’s life is irreversible. It’s not a question of ‘ getting over it’

We put ourselves back together somehow– readjust, recalibrate, relearn our worlds, rather than recover our previous state. Our hearts were broken and the love inside is deeper than ever. We have not ‘moved on’ from our child, we have ‘moved with’ our child. They may not have grown alongside us in life as we dreamed of and expected, but we have grown alongside them in love and grief, and they will be with us and inside us for ever.

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