• Wendy Varley waited years before seeking private counselling for the death of her fourth child

  • If you have experienced a significant loss, therapy can help. Find a therapist here. 

My fourth child was stillborn, at full-term. I asked my GP about counselling, but there was a long waiting list, and I didn't feel strong enough to do anything about it. As time went on, I avoided talking about the experience, least a flood of emotion pour out of me.

I had my fifth child – alive, kicking and healthy – just over a year later, and it was a few years more before I found time to see a bereavement therapist, privately. I chose her on the basis that she was local to me, and listed bereavement counselling as one of her specialisms.

I saw her once a week, and at the first session she anticipated that we would take time to come to the details of my baby's stillbirth. In fact, I was so ready to talk that it came out in a rush, and we spent the subsequent weeks unpicking the memories step by step, and talking (well, I talked; she mainly listened) about all kinds of other issues: other times I'd felt guilty, or abandoned; my childhood; relationships with my parents and siblings and friends.

I had very powerful dreams, which echoed and fed into the sessions, but I felt very safe discussing them with my counsellor. Once, I dreamed I was examining a case of bones analytically, forensically, literally facing up to mortality.

I found the courage to talk to my three-year old son about his “older” brother who hadn't lived

I found the courage to talk to my three-year old son about his “older” brother who hadn't lived, as I didn't want it to be a family secret that we kept from him. We drew a family tree together. So my stillborn baby does have a place in all our histories, my son's included.

The bereavement therapist helped me with all this, and after going once a week for about 16 weeks, I felt I had accepted what had happened. Of course, the grief was – is – still there, but it's integrated. I lost the fear of it “drowning” me. I can talk about it calmly.

Further reading

Why I wrote a book about miscarriage

Why am I still crying? Understanding complicated grief

This is why we need to talk more about grief

11 ways getting a dog helped with my bereavement