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Stillbirth can be the most traumatic form of bereavement, as all the hopes and expectations that accompany a pregnancy are suddenly dashed, replaced with a numbness and sense of grief that can seem insurmountable.

This very sudden change in emotions often takes a long time to recover from, and affects not only parents but grandparents, other relatives and the wider network of friends as well, who all have to rally round and try to support each other.

Expectant parents who experience a stillbirth are likely to suffer from a great deal of confusion and hopelessness in the immediate aftermath, which they may feel they need some help to recover from.

Fortunately, medical awareness of the trauma caused by stillbirth has increased significantly over the last few decades, and there is now a network of professional support options available to parents who suffer this devastating experience.

The NHS has a section devoted to helping people recovering from a stillbirth on its website:

This includes advice about how to get help from your GP, and a postcode directory of bereavement counselling services.

Another great source of support is Sands, a charity devoted to stillbirth and neonatal death. Founded by a group of parents who had experienced stillbirth to provide help to others, it offers a wealth of resources on its website, as well as support groups, chat forums and teams of trained “befrienders”: volunteers who provide personal support to recently bereaved families.

Registering a stillbirth

Unfortunately, stillbirths do have to be registered in the same way as adult deaths. The registration must take place within 42 days of the stillbirth occurring, and can be done at either the hospital or the local register office.

Advice on how to register a stillbirth can be found on the Directgov website. While you may not feel like dealing with officialdom in the aftermath of a stillbirth, try to look at this as part of the process of saying goodbye. In particular, registration does allow you to name your child, providing official recognition of their existence, and the fact that you were their parents.

Different parents do different things to commemorate their stillborn children. Some hold a full funeral, while for others a simpler blessing may be the most appropriate kind of ceremony. Religious ministers from the different faiths can offer you comfort, and advice on the different options that are available.

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