A recent debate on Twitter between academic Petra Boynton (@DrPetra) and journalist Mehdi Hasan (@ns_mehdihasan) over the way in which Rick Santorum and his family dealt with the loss of their baby got me thinking... what is the right way to grieve?
"When his baby Gabriel died at childbirth, Santorum and his wife spent the night in a hospital bed with the body and then took it home where, joined by their other children, they prayed over it, cuddled with it and welcomed the baby into the family."
Whatever the journalist's reasons were, it seemed to suggest that this was somehow unusual or even abnormal behaviour on the part of a grieving parent. Anyone who has had experience of neonatal or child death might find this a little upsetting and even disrespectful.
I have worked with children of various ages throughout my career so far. In that time I have seen more bereavement than I would ever have thought. At times, I have even cried with parents. Whether it is coping with the loss of a premature baby, a critically ill child or a teenager with cancer, there is one thing that my experience has taught me: there is no 'right' or 'best' way to grieve.
The loss of a child, no matter what age, is a deeply difficult experience for parents and anyone involved in their care. I can remember every single child that I have looked after that has lost their fight for life and will always remember them and what they have taught me. No matter what, doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff will continue to provide whatever support we can to ensure that parents' wishes are honoured. Nothing is too much in those difficult times.
There are lots of organisations who can also provide further information and support including:
There is no magical answer or antidote that is going to make the loss suddenly easier to deal with. So what is the correct way to grieve? Whatever/whenever/however you need to deal with your pain.