Break the silence in the workplace- stigma around talking about baby loss.

Last week we were celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week. Not that many of us know that from Friday 9th of October to Thursday, October 15th runs Baby Loss Awareness Week in the UK to show support, raise awareness and recognize on such an important subject that many people have no idea how to act with when they hear about it. Each day focuses on a different topic and on Monday 12th there was an emphasis on bereavement in the workplace after a baby loss.

Did you know that baby or pregnancy loss is NOT a rare experience?

Baby loss affects 1 in 4 women in the UK through the miscarriage, stillbirth, or very early death of a newborn. Miscarriage occurs in around 25 % of the pregnancies, where 1% of women experience recurrent miscarriages. When you look at the number, you can see how common that is, and yet still feels like a taboo topic in general. Losing a baby is associated with the women’s physical pain, where depending on the medical procedure might last up to a couple of weeks.  But according to the research, pregnancy loss is also linked to post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and sleeping disorders, an extended state called “complicated grief”, affecting both mother and father. It is important to note that return to work following the loss of the child or pregnancy is extremely difficult and heavy for parents, especially if it is poorly managed.

The impact of pregnancy loss and returning to work. 

Grief is often associated with crying in the corner, but we have to be aware that, in reality, it is a very individual thing about how grief is expressed. Energy and effort to engage at work during the grieving process is difficult. People who come back to work after such an experience might be different, and their perspective on life may have changed too. Returning to work is extremely difficult for grieving parents, as they have to not only cope with their own feelings but also with other people feeling awkward with them. Support from others is one of the crucial things in this process, and it impacts their experience directly. We don’t talk enough about pregnancy loss in society, and we don’t know what to say or how to react to it.  As a result, bereaving parents may feel isolated and alone.

There is a huge misconception that people should manage bereavement themselves.  No reaction is the worst thing that can happen, so is the lack of acknowledgment. Be mindful. Think about the language on how to handle the conversation as words in the conversation are most important. Silence doesn’t really help. Never assume that they are fine, and they move on. There is no getting over; people who lost the baby will always feel that emotion. Simple kindness can do a lot, and reassurance that they are not alone can make a big difference.

Break the silence- raise awareness!

There are plenty of organizations (list below) helping raise awareness and break the silence around pregnancy and baby loss, providing help for parents but also offering training for employees and managers to understand the journey of bereaving colleagues. Building knowledge can help you to get the confidence to best support your colleagues at work, going through such a difficult experience.

Irish Miscarriage Association