Emily Parker spoke with Zoe Clark-Coates, about the loss of her five babies and her desire to help others grieving the loss of a child; through to her book Saying Goodbye, and the launch of the Mariposa Trust.

Zoe Clark Coates
Zoe Clark Coates

Emily: What is the book about?

Zoe: The book is a journey through loss and grief. Sadly, we've lost five babies ourselves. We lost three babies before having our daughter Esme who is with us now, who is eight, and then we lost another two children before having our next little girl who is six.

Through that we founded the international charity, the Mariposa Trust, which most people know as the name Saying Goodbye, which is our leading loss support division. That supports people through any type of baby loss, whether it is miscarriage, however early or late; stillbirth, or neonatal loss, right the way up to four years.

Because of the charity and because of the reach, we support around 50,000 people each week and our website has over 650,000 hits a month. We saw a huge need for resources and publishers had started to ask me quite a few years ago whether I would write a book and I finally agreed to do it, if I could write the exact book that I needed when I was walking the path of grief myself.

Emily: As you said, you've lost five babies. Tell me what you knew about miscarriage before your first baby passed away.

Zoe: I knew quite a lot about it actually because I had trained as a counsellor prior to going into the business world. We were in national event marketing, but because my mum's a therapist, that's what made me train. I never intended to use my training professionally and now I use it every day.

I knew a lot from that training, but I also knew it from walking the journey with friends, especially one really close friend who sadly had two still births and a miscarriage. I'd been the one friend that she'd got to walk alongside her, the only one really allowed into the room in the hospital with her and her husband. So I felt I'd got lots. I felt I really understood baby loss because I'd been trained, I'd walked it with friends and I knew lots of other people who'd lost children as well.

Then we lost our first baby and I realised I knew nothing. All the training in the world, walking alongside other people, none of it can prepare you for actually encountering it yourself. That's when I discovered that unless you've been through it, there's no comprehension of it truly. You might think you understand it, and I certainly thought I did, but then I discovered I didn't. I discovered the fact that nothing can show you what it's like to have the bottom fall out of your world. You get caught in this fog of grief and desperation and you think you're never going to recover.

Zoe and Andy
Zoe and Andy

Emily: Each of your miscarriages were very different as well.

Zoe: It's the same with all loss; every single loss will always be different for every person. Not only does it depend on what is going on in your life, the stage you are in life, your relationships, your friends, your support, it depends on where you are emotionally, your journey, and whether you've gone through other loss recently. There are so many parts to what makes your grief journey unique to you. So, of course, every time you lose a baby it feels different and you have different emotions.

Our three children that we lost before having Esme, who is our eight year old, I was grieving not only losing the children, I was also grieving the fact that I didn't know if I would ever have a child to raise. I didn't know if my story was going to end with holding a baby in my arms. So you're grieving those elements as well as the babies you've lost.

Then after we'd had Esme and we lost another two children, we were not only grieving the babies again, we were grieving Esme's siblings, which was a really different type of grief yet again, because we were grieving for the child that we'd got with us as well. She was sad that she wanted a brother or a sister and was asking for it a lot. We were like, will we be able to give her a brother or a sister? So all of those elements really make grief very different.

Emily: In the book there's a quote of yours that says, 'Is there a secret to recovering? I believe there is, actually. Face the pain, face the grief and as you do the blackest grief does start to lift.' What do you think is one of the first steps that somebody might need to take in order to face that pain?

Zoe: I think talking about it. Sadly, loss in Britain is one of those subjects that people don't really like to talk about much. I think we're scared of it, we're scared of death, we're scared of loss, we're scared of pain often, and British people are really encouraged to just put on a front at all times. 'Fake it until you make it' is the going phrase, where you put a smile on your face and pretend all is ok. But that does not work with grief. It certainly doesn't work with dealing with loss.