Life After Baby Loss by Nicola Gaskin – Book Review
As some of you may know I was recently delighted to be selected to receive a copy of a brand-new book to review on my blog. The book is written for parents who are going through the motions of baby loss; Life After Baby Loss – A Companion Guide For Parents by Nicola Gaskin. For quite some time now I have been following an account on Instagram called @onedayofwinter and have found much comfort following her journey of life after loss as I try to navigate through my own grief. Nicola unfortunately lost her little boy Winter Wolfe at only one day old and now carries his legacy on through her blog, book and her beautiful little girl Raven Rain. Social media can be a great platform for support but I feel Nicola’s book really helps give that much needed direction at a time when you can feel so lost.
One thing I must say that is easily apparent throughout reading her book is that Nicola’s personality shines through her writing. Even for people who do not know who she is, it is quite apparent Nicola is a gentle soul with a kind heart. I love the fact this comes through because I found especially in those early days when you can feel so isolated and deep in the throes of grief that this is the sort of friend you need. Having gone through her own loss she is able to be the person she no doubt recognised would have been helpful during her own loss. We have all experienced well meaning yet ill placed comments which can often be quite hurtful despite good intentions. Nicola recognises exactly what is appropriate and gives advice on how you may gently educate people around you on exactly what would be helpful and what is at times triggering.
A common theme throughout the book is how to deal with the support that is offered from others. How we may direct them, educate and encourage them to understand our perspective. The book covers many different topics, all of which I have found some friends and family at times are unable to understand. She has even given suggestions of how to word it in a way that people can recognise our feelings and realise that despite their best intentions they can never truly understand the grief and loss we feel nor the eternity of such emotions. There is even a chapter right at the end of the book so you may pass this book to loved ones where Nicola helps explain to them directly how is best to offer support along with what not to say, and suggestions of what can be said and done.
I actually think the whole book would be of benefit for loved ones to truly understand each and every possible phase we will go through after losing a baby. It covers topics such as our child’s first birthday, Christmas, trying to conceive after loss and welcoming a rainbow baby into the family. I especially think for most people who do conceive a rainbow it would be extremely beneficial to share this particular chapter with friends and family. As I am expecting a rainbow myself I even fear that people will expect me to have moved on, after all I finally have what I wanted. Nicola is very good at explaining exactly why this is not the case and there will still be grief that coexists with the happiness we feel. I was so glad this chapter was included as it has actually put my own mind at ease through reading about her own personal experiences and allowed me to mentally prepare for January when I have to go through birth myself.
As I just mentioned, there is a wide range of topics covered within this book but what I find most helpful and think others will too is how it is all split into separate chapters. I know for example this book would have helped me so much in the very early days of grief but I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to read about trying to conceive or rainbow babies. So it is actually quite easy to take from this book exactly what you need at the time you need it and perhaps some chapters you wish to leave for a later date when they are more relevant. It truly does cover every aspect from seeing new born babies in the supermarket right up until hopefully having your own rainbow baby. In that sense I feel pleased to say I could recommend this book to friends who have lost a child without thinking they then need to read other grief books too because of something being missing. It really is a comprehensive guide without being too heavy or longwinded. Not only this but each chapter is summarised with bullet points, a gentle reminder of what has been discussed and how best to direct your thoughts and actions regarding the particular subject title.
It is very clear from reading this book the good nature of Nicola and how it is purely to help as many parents are possible. Although she does share some of her own personal stories it is not actually an autobiography detailing all her own personal experiences. At the start of the book I thought it would have been nice to have known more about her story but as I continued to read through the book I realised that wasn’t actually what I needed. Her little boy is so precious but at the same time it was more important to hear the words of wisdom she had to offer which benefitted me more personally in dealing with my grief than simply sharing stories of her own grief. That’s not to say that she doesn’t refer to her own experiences, because she does and it can help put the advice into context but her main focus is so clearly to help ease the suffering of other parents which I actually found admirable and much more helpful in the long term.
Two things that I think all parents are pretty good at is finding negatives and bullying ourselves with guilt. I am quite frankly an expert at both. You know how people always say “what would you tell yourself” if you were the friend, and of course you’d always be much kinder to a friend than yourself. Well that sentiment pretty much summarises this book, Nicola is the friend we all need that tells us to be kinder to ourselves. She addresses both guilt and why our mindsets are so important to monitor and adjust accordingly. Feeling guilty after all only makes us suffer and as Nicola keeps reminding us, our baby loves us deeply and would not want us to be suffering. I love how this book often manages to gentle turn our thoughts to more positive ones without dismissing any grief or sadness we feel. It acknowledges that sadness and happiness are perfectly capable of coexisting and that is okay.
What is my only negative with this book? I really want this review to be honest and I have to say the only one thing that I didn’t like was that the tile of the book suggests it would be perfect for both parents to read. I do feel the actual lessons learnt within the book would be perfect for not only both parents but also anyone else touched by the loss of a child or supporting someone through the loss of a child. I did notice however a few times within the book the reader is often referred to in the female gender. I would still strongly urge men to read this book however and do feel it would really help the dads who also experience much of the similar emotions as we do so long as they are prepared to overlook the slight direction towards the feminine gender.
Lastly, would I recommend this book? Yes! I have only ever tried reading one other book like this before and I honestly gave up, I found it dull and more about their own story than anything that would help me. This book however is so beautifully written and quite frankly easy to read (in a good way!). Her analogies and metaphors have a special and beautiful way of explaining such a traumatic experience and allowing us to truly see the beauty of the gift of life we have been blessed with; however short that time might have been. I did find it brought back a lot of my own buried grief but actually has helped me see how I can allow memories of my little girl into my life a little bit more and know how to cope with the grief that comes alongside the celebration of her life. I’ve gained new perspective on life after loss and how I can move forward through my life in a gentle loving way with my angels close to my heart. I feel as though a weight has been lifted from my heart and I now know how exactly to navigate this journey with a motivation to help others that are navigating loss too.
I know if I hadn’t got pregnant with our little rainbow baby I would no doubt have been in a very dark place myself right now, as I was in the early days of our loss. I honestly think this book would have been a lifesaver for me. I did contemplate suicide not long after we lost Silver, on Mother’s Day actually and I know the words in this book would have been just what I needed, just as I truly feel they will help many other parents in what can be a very dark and lonely headspace. So if you are looking for a book that could help you see your loss from a different perspective without being told how you should and shouldn’t feel then I highly recommend giving this book a read. It is a book for anyone who has suffered a loss, whether it be miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss. All loss is valid and you will find this validation within the book and guidance that can correspond with each type of loss.
To purchase your copy, click the link here. And, to visit Nicola’s blog click here.