The initial difficulty in relating to others after our daughter, Cecilia, twin sister to our son Frankie, was stillborn.

By John Garden

After Cecilia died, there was a slight mania. We were saying things like ‘We are just going to make this a really positive experience’, and ‘We’re going to mine the gold out of this experience’, crazy things like that. Looking back, it was a noble aspiration but completely unrealistic, but we were desperate to be positive about it all.

I think we were giving off the impression of coping in the first few months. It was our GP who said that it’s when the people have gone away, when you’re left on your own and time kicks in, that it’s all going to start getting hard. Having someone point that out was really useful.

You can become a grief magnet of memories for people who have lost a child; it becomes fresh for them. It’s not a problem, it doesn’t detract from what you are going through, but you have to be careful with your energy, how much you give people. 

I had friends coming over to see us and they’d spend the whole time talking about how difficult it was when their dad died; I cared but it was exhausting. I hate to say it, but you need to set boundaries. Everyone has gone through something but what you are going through is your experience. They try to connect with you by saying ‘Well I went through this grief so I know how you feel’, but sometimes you want to say ‘You don’t know how I feel, that's nothing like how I feel, but thanks for trying’.

I was holding on to a lot of grief and holding it inside, not letting it out. Coming to Child Bereavement UK has given me the space to share things with Vicky that I just didn’t know how to share. Now I can wear my identity of being a bereaved parent rather than hiding it.

I am a husband, a father, and a bereaved father. It’s just who I am and that makes a huge difference in terms of how I engage with the world.

                         John with his wife, Vicky