I have always been honest about the regrets I have surrounding Josephs death, the many questions which keep me awake at night, going over and over the things we did, and the things we didn’t do, wishing with all of my heart that we could go back and change them.
I guess one of the biggest regrets I have of that time is the way in which we dealt with our loss around a two year old Lewis who was scared, and uncertain, and so incredibly confused as to where his little brother had gone. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t remember the moment we sat him down and told him that his little brother had died, although I know that we did; and nor do I remember how he had reacted at the time, although I’m sure it was with utter bewilderment. But what I do remember is the look on his face as he watched me break down day after day, the fear in his eyes as he realised our entire world had turned upside down, the way in which he gripped my hand and refused to leave my side, desperately trying to remind us that he was still here, that he needed us to be okay.
Those moments, I will never forget.
And later, with every subsequent loss, as we returned home from the hospital with our hearts in pieces, as we sobbed over scan photos and a lifetime we had planned, I don’t remember a single moment when we had sat him down and told him why we were so sad. Even as the years passed, at seven and eight years old, when he was fully aware of our struggle to give him a sibling, we never invited him to share in our heartache with every baby we had loved and lost.
And I regret that, absolutely.
Because now, at fourteen, when we talk about Joseph, and particularly about the 15 babies we lost along the way, Lewis often says, “Why did nobody ever tell me?”. And its hard to explain to him that I thought I was doing the right thing at the time, trying to protect him from all of that hurt, trying my hardest to keep things as normal as possible, and, ultimately, that I just didn’t have the words back then to explain to my child, sixteen times over, that my whole world had ended.
And so earlier this month when a chance meeting led me to Frankie Brunker, author of These Precious Little People, I instinctively knew that I wanted to reach out and offer to share her story on the blog.
Having spoken to Frankie, she explained that, following the stillbirth of her first daughter, Esme, it was incredibly difficult to explain her death to young children within the family and this was made harder by there being no children’s books aviailable that could explain accurately what had happened whilst in a beautiful and moving way. She also wanted more guidance as to how she could retain Esme’s place in the family in positive and special ways. And during that grieving process, she was inspired to write a book, These Precious Little People.
“When a baby dies the focus is very much on the bereaved parents, but there are very often children who will have been aware of the pregnancy and will have to be told the news that the baby has died. Understandably, it is often our instinct to protect children from the harsh realities of babies dying, but unfortunately if the worst happens to us, or someone we are close to, it is impossible to avoid or skirt around the topic. This book is intended to be a framework from which to then have conversations where the circumstances specific to each baby can be explained more fully if desired.”
Illustrated by Gillian Gamble, an illustrator and photographer with a particular interest in storytelling, the story centres around Frankie’s belief that parents should have a book that helps them to talk to their other children about their family’s ‘missing piece’.
Most of us know someone who has experienced the loss of a baby, either through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death, even if they haven’t spoken about it. Every day in the UK around 15 babies die before, during or soon after birth. Since spending time researching this project to draw the illustrations, one of the things that Gillian found that comes up over and over is parents’ wish that others would TALK to them about their child, even ask to see a photo of them. These little people were and are precious. Gillian has therefore tried to create artwork and imagery around universal themes so that this book is useful for those of any faiths or none.
It was particularly important to Frankie that the book had a clear-cut-no-nonsense language that didn’t try and soften the blow with euphemism or platitudes. She wanted a timeless, rhythmic text that was easy to read but equally, time can be taken to pause and linger over stunningly beautiful images.
Of course, Frankie knows that the book won’t be for everyone, there is no ‘one size fits all’ book for such an emotive subject matter, and everyone’s experiences and grief are so different. That said, there is absolutely a place for this book as we all too sadly know, and I think it will be such a useful and comforting resource for those who, like me, had no idea how to deal with such a tragic loss with an older sibling.
I really believe in this book and hope that those of you who need it will find comfort in it, in just the same way that we will. You can pre-order a standard copy for £7.50 by donating money to the crowdfunder-style campaign to get the book printed (https://www.goldengiving.com/fundraising/ThesePreciousLittlePeople), and can request a dedication to a baby/babies within the book if you donate £20 or more. All money raised by the publication of the book will go to the charity Joel The Complete Package; they support bereaved familes who have experienced the loss of a baby, especially through pregnancy and/or parenting after loss.