Thursday, 3 December 2015

Why a Support Group was not for me... by Tennille

Tenille shares with us her feelings about Support Groups.
** Please note that these are her own feelings and not necessarily those of others who have found attending peer to peer support groups beneficial.

"I think support groups, if needed are great. They provide a valuable outlet for grief and emotion; people often develop very strong friendships from shared experiences and they assist families through some very difficult situations."

Entering the world of a bereaved parent is like landing on the moon. Every day, survival is a challenge; you need to make decisions about things you often know nothing about. The decisions you do make will stay with you forever and can have a lasting impact, both positive and negative. Some decisions I made were incredibly healing and others I regret and play over and over again in my mind. This new landscape, a new ‘normal’ is completely foreign and you have to pick and choose the support, information and guidance that is right for you.

Prior to Oscar being stillborn, I knew very little about stillbirth, apart from the fact that there were some babies who died in utero, but I had never given any thought as to why, or what happened after the baby died. I didn’t consider what it would be like to hold your baby or plan a funeral. I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to tell people about your baby, where to go to seek support or the impact it would have on the mums and dads long term. I think we don’t consider these things because as a society stillbirth isn’t talked about frequently and to consider this at length when one isn’t faced with the experience is just too sad and too emotional to comprehend.

There was literature on being a bereaved parent, booklets explaining how everyone’s journey is different, even support groups. I read all the pamphlets over and over again in those first few days, I googled stillbirth, signed up to online forums and newsletters for stillbirth support and research agencies worldwide. Yet, to be honest, the idea of going to a support group, in person, frightened me. Did I belong there? What was I going to say? What if I just couldn’t control the tears? I suppose in essence, that is what it is for; a safe haven for people experiencing similar situations to share their inner most feelings without judgement. However, the idea of going along to a support group made me feel anxious. I was lucky to have a very supportive husband family and friends. I was able to retell Oscar’s story to these people, talk about him, and contemplate what life would have been like if he had lived. I somehow felt that by going to a support group I was making Oscar exclusive. Exclusive only to those in the support group. I couldn’t contain Oscar’s story or my grief to just a few hours a week. I needed everyone to know about Oscar, my family, my friends, people who had known I was pregnant. I didn’t necessarily want to share Oscar with ‘strangers’.

I think support groups, if needed are great. They provide a valuable outlet for grief and emotion; people often develop very strong friendships from shared experiences and they assist families through some very difficult situations. I just couldn’t go, yet I also couldn’t shake the feeling that I was ‘supposed’ to go. After about four months I went ….once. I sat there and listened to other people’s stories of loss; I felt very emotional and left feeling like I had been hit by a truck, which I’m told is perfectly normal after your first meeting. These women were lovely in their support for each other and their understanding and compassion but I still didn’t feel like this was the right fit for me. I choose not to go back and I now realise that is ok not to ‘need’ a support group. I have maintained contact with varying social media groups and other stillbirth support and research agencies and find that this is the best way for me to manage my grief.

The right support is the one that helps you get up each day and find a purpose. Some people are looking for friendship, others need understanding. And others, like me, prefer to work through their grief with people already close to them or prefer to expresses their feelings through writing or painting. Group support is available and that’s great, but you also don’t have to go in order to grieve or heal.

If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

Tennille Welsh

Tennille Welsh is a mother to three beautiful boys. Mark (her husband) and Tennille experienced the stillbirth of their first son Oscar, at 33 weeks gestation in 2011, cause unknown. Tennille lives on a hobby farm with her family and enjoys horse riding, swimming and playing with her children.

Tennille is a teacher, specialising in Japanese, Indonesian and is also a teacher of the Deaf. Since having Oscar Tennille has also become a civil celebrant. She has officiated at several weddings and is considering turning her hand at funerals. Tennille feels giving families the gift of a personalised, and heartfelt farewell, especially for a child is so important and can have a huge impact on the grieving process. Before having Oscar, stillbirth was something Tennille knew nothing about and raising awareness by openly discussing all three of her children has been a passion for her.

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