Grieving parents say 'taboo' of child loss often leaves families shunned

Video report by ITV Granada correspondent Rob Smith

The grieving parents of a six-year-old girl say the "taboo" attached to child loss affected their interactions with other people on a daily basis.

Kathy and Rob Lapsley's daughter, Jasmine, died in August 2014 after choking on a grape while on holiday.

The couple say following her death some people would not mention Jasmine's name, while others would avoid conversation altogether.

"It was quite profound," said Kathy, "The lack of understanding from other people and the taboo of child loss."

Jasmine's parents started a support charity - Love, Jasmine - to help others who have lost a child.

"It was daily. It's in all your interactions: when you go to the shop, when you meet with a friend, when you're in work.

"That lack of knowledge about how to speak to someone who's bereaved, that fear of getting it wrong [and] not knowing what to say.

"So people don't say anything and that's worse because then you're isolated."

The couple are among a number of grieving people and support experts who have spoken to ITV News for a series of special reports on how to better deal with bereavement.

They started a charity, in Jasmine's name, to provide somewhere where grieving parents can speak directly to others who have endured such a loss.

Rob added it is "easier" for some people to just ignore what has happened to someone who has lost a child.

He said: "They're uncomfortable with the subject. They don't want to talk to you about it.

"It might be that they don't want to upset you, but they're not going to remind you that your child's died.

"If they talk to you about it, then [it's] actually reminding you that they've lived."

How we can better deal with bereavement after a pandemic where so many died in such a short space of time? We take a look in the latest episode of our podcast, From the North.

Psychotherapist Nadine Baynes turned the pain of loss into "purpose" by counselling others.

Reminding and remembering with respect, is the key, according to psychotherapist Nadine Baynes from Southport.

After enduring miscarriage and termination - and losing her brother to suicide - she turned "pain into purpose" by counselling others.

Nadine says she is very aware of the shocking silence faced by bereaved parents but also knows that the words chosen by unthinking people can be equally shocking

Her advice is simple: "Don't start with the sentence: At least you can... At least you know you can get pregnant. At least you've got still got two kids."

Instead, Nadine wants everyone to offer sympathy and understanding to grieving parents and use their child's name.

And she stresses a miscarriage should be treated like losing a child who has already been born.

"It's a baby at the end of the day," she said.

"People have got their hopes and dreams here. You don't tell people you're pregnant and then say: 'It could just be a bunch of cells at the moment so I'm not getting attached to that.'

"You expect a baby at the end, a human being that you've longed for."

Counsellors say the void left by losing a child can pull relationships apart.

Experts say any bereaved parent needs to know it is not wrong for them to them to grieve differently to their partner.

Carole Ray, from Liverpool Bereavement Services, believes open communication with each other is the only option.

"It's important that they talk," she said.

"Not just talk but explain how they're feeling, where their pain's coming from. Is it dark? Is it sharp?

"That way they can get a real understanding of how each other's feeling and it can help them to grieve together.

"I always say to my couples: you make the baby together, grieve the baby together."

A psychotherapist says the range of emotions felt by couples is entirely "normal" - even if they do not realise.

"It's ok to get angry. It's ok to get frustrated," psychotherapist Ayesha Aslam told ITV News.

"To go through whatever emotions you are, it's absolutely normal."

She added that the "narratives" around child loss have to change.

"When it comes to loss there can be stigmas attached to it. For example, parents feeling like it was their fault - particularly mothers.

"There's also cultural views like it was witchcraft or black magic had taken place.

"We need to encourage people to be able to talk about their loss."

If you are grieving, know someone who is, or have been affected by any of the issues raised above help is available here.