John and Vicky’s daughter Cecilia (Cece) was stillborn in January 2014, the twin sister of their son Frankie.  John and Vicky talk about their experience of bereavement and how they have been supported by Child Bereavement UK.  


I was holding on to a lot of grief and focusing on the sadness but not letting it out.  Child Bereavement UK gave me the space to share things with Vicky. I can now wear the identify of a bereaved parent rather than hide it.

“I had suffered a miscarriage in my first pregnancy and so we were pleased to be pregnant,” says Vicky “There was a problem quite early on, so I had to have a scan at 6 weeks - that was when I found out we were having twins.  It was a hugely exciting piece of news, a bit of a different way of thinking about being a parent. When we found out we were having a boy and a girl, that was amazing.”

 “We bought a few books and pamphlets and found out how things were going to be different with twins. I found it exciting,” says John. “The fact we were going to have a boy and a girl was amazing - lots of people said: ‘You’re done’!”

 When Vicky’s pregnancy was nearly at term she and John saw their consultant.  Together they decided it would be better if the babies were induced.

 “After I had the first set of drugs, my waters broke naturally, and I felt I was going to go into labour pretty soon,” says Vicky. “They started to monitor the heartbeats and they could only find one. They tried another machine in case that one was broken, then lots of people came into the room. 

“I think early on John realised that Cece had died but it was a while later that it was confirmed. They had to find a doctor – a prolonged process - and because I’d had pain relief and other drugs, I wasn’t quite there. I think John really went through it, feeling every moment as it happened.”

Vicky was rushed to surgery where her babies were delivered by Caesarean section.  Afterwards Vicky and John spent some time in a room designed for bereaved families. John bathed and dressed Cecilia and together they swaddled her, after which their family were able to visit and see her.

Three weeks later, the couple had a meeting with the consultant who explained that Cecilia had died because of a cord prolapse – the umbilical cord was in the wrong place at the wrong time. “I don’t think anything could be done to prevent it,” says Vicky.

 Baby Frankie was a constant consolation but, inevitably, there were bad days.

 “You have to grieve part time,” says Vicky.  It’s an impossible situation, no matter how many parenting classes you’ve been to, you’re not prepared for it; it’s completely new and so is grieving in that way.  I’d lost grandparents and a close friend but it's not the same kind of thing.  It's like the core of you has been pulled to pieces.  However, it can’t be all consuming because you have another child to care for and another child to love.  I don’t think I fell into any postnatal depression or anything.  We were so happy with Frankie and he was such a lovely baby, it was part-time grieving.

“We had a couple of really messy days early on. We made a pact that, when one of us fell apart, the other had to hold it together.  Frankie was in the house, he needed one of us to be competent.  In a way that became useful because it taught us to let the other person grieve, to be there for them and be the stable person.”

 “I think there was a slightly different schedule for our grieving,” says John.  “I realised we had lost Cece before Vicky so may have started adjusting more quickly. Also, Vicky had an emergency section which is a huge operation to recover from, so that, possibly, also postponed the grieving.”

 Vicky agrees: “It was more of a physical experience for me. I think my body was in shock for months, I didn’t allow too much of the thought processes to take over, everything was physical.  John had more in his head to deal with. It was possibly more traumatic for John, he had to take on what had happened very quickly; phone calls had to be made, things had to be sorted out. He had to cope, whereas I was dealing with my body”

It was after Frankie’s first birthday that John and Vicky sought support from Child Bereavement UK.

“The first flurry of help had died down,” says Vicky. “We had reached the first milestone of Frankie’s first birthday and after that I really went into a slump. It’s a weird thing to say, but the novelty wears off, the adrenaline goes out of your body and you feel deflated. You’ve coped, you’ve been strong, you’ve been bolstered; I just felt all of that had fallen away and we were still really sad. I read about Child Bereavement UK and felt it would be a good time to start regular support sessions together.”

At their support sessions, Child Bereavement UK helped Vicky and John to understand that it was alright to move between engaging with and avoiding grief.

“This was something that I felt guilty about, but Child Bereavement UK showed me that it’s a healthy technique,” says Vicky. If I constantly forced myself to engage with the grief I’d go crazy.  People say time heals but I don’t necessarily agree with that.  I can’t imagine what we lost getting any smaller, but the gaps of time between my active grief are going to get bigger.

It’s about doing what you think is right, not what you think you should do.  We both suffered a loss of confidence in work, in our social circles, in every bit of our lives. We felt we needed to rebuild, to embrace a new reality, to take charge and to know that it was OK. You have to be given permission to allow yourself to adjust to the new you.  The support helped to clarify that, which was important.

 “It’s about doing what you think is right, not what you think you should do.  We both suffered a loss of confidence in work, in our social circles, in every bit of our lives. We felt we needed to rebuild, to embrace a new reality, to take charge and to know that it was OK. You have to be given permission to allow yourself to adjust to the new you.  The support helped to clarify that, which was important.”

John agrees: “I was holding on to a lot of grief and focusing on the sadness but not letting it out.  Child Bereavement UK gave me the space to share things with Vicky. I can now wear the identify of a bereaved parent rather than hide it.  Now I say I’m a husband, a father and a bereaved father – it’s just who I am. That makes a huge difference to how I engage with the world.  I feel better and that makes me feel happier in my family.”