27 July 2010

how-to cope with the loss of a baby

How-To Cope with the Loss of a Baby
by hilary of hilsblog.com

my darling friend, hilary has been an angel to us while dealing with this miscarriage. she has sent flowers, cooked meals and sent emails and text messages to let me know she's been thinking of us. it has made all the difference. sadly, the tragedy of losing a little one is all too familiar in her life. she has been an incredibly caring and empathetic friend to me. i have much to learn from her graceful example. i am so glad she was willing to share the insights from her experience.

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." --Psalms 30:5

November 25, 2010 I gave birth to our stillborn son, Michael.  I was 21 1/2 weeks pregnant on Thanksgiving Day when the ultrasound confirmed we had lost him.  He had a heart defect known as Ebstein's Anomaly that caused his heart to swell, so much so that there was too much pressure for his little frame to handle.  

Losing Michael was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through (and am still going through) but it has opened my eyes to the pain so many women suffer from during the loss of a pregnancy, whether it be a miscarriage or a stillborn.  In writing this "how-to" I must first state that I do not in any way count myself as an "expert" in grief.  I do, however, feel that I learned a little bit about what it is and learned ways to get through such a trying time.  Second, I believe there is no step-by-step way to get through grief, these are just a few things that at least helped me during the hardest months of my life.

01. Do not blame yourself or allow yourself to have regrets.  I couldn't help but think maybe if I hadn't been so sick that first trimester and could have taken my prenatal vitamins more often then things would have worked out better.  Don't think those things.  This happened for a reason that was beyond your control.

02. Do not push your grief aside and save it for another day.  Grief is necessary in order to grow from the experience.  When you feel like crying, cry.  When you feel like doing nothing but sitting in your pj's all day and eating cookie dough, do it.  

03. Allow people to do things for you.  I'm one who is uncomfortable with people going out of their way to help me out.  If someone would ask to bring a meal or watch my Little Guy, I had to force myself to say "yes".  Realize that people want to help you through this grieving process and will offer to do what they are most comfortable doing.

04. Get on your knees.  Whether you are a religious person or not, prayer is truly the only way to find comfort during those times of emptiness, darkness and loneliness that will come.

05. Keep something tangible of the baby if possible, as a reminder of your pregnancy.  There will be a point that you may reach where you wonder if you ever really were pregnant, or if it was all just your imagination.  Having something tangible will help remind you of that special one that was inside of you.

06. Treasure the memories of your pregnancy.  Try to remember the happy times (hearing the heartbeat, seeing the little one on an ultrasound, feeling kicks, etc.) and the positive, loving feelings you have for your baby.

07. Don't forget about the other half who is most likely suffering just as much as you are inside.  Remember your husband went through the loss as well.  Don't be offended if he grieves differently then you and heads back to work sooner than you would.  Everyone handles grief differently, and in many cases the husband feels like his only way to get through is to keep moving forward.

08. Find a way to facilitate your emotional recovery.  Whether it is pampering yourself, finding a support system, writing in a journal or helping other women through similar situations, it is good to find something that will help you through the grief.  I chose to write about Michael's story on my blog, and it has been a huge emotional release and aided me in my grieving process.

09. Be prepared for mostly bad days there at the beginning, but be sure to keep in mind that there will be good days again.  They will show up sporadically at first, but gradually will come more often than the bad.  

10. Remember that things will get better.  Be patient and continue on with hope.

As for those who know of someone who has lost a pregnancy or baby, here are some things you can do to help.

01. Acknowledge the fact that there was actually a baby.  To women who experience a miscarriage or stillborn (even in the very early weeks) to them it is nothing less than experiencing the death of a child.  Remember and care for that baby when talking to the parents.  In other words, do not ignore the loss. 

02. Realize that actions often speak louder than words.  Even if you have been through a similar experience yourself, you cannot just assume you know exactly what that person is going through.  Everyone grieves differently and it is important to remember that.  Instead of saying things like "I know just how you feel" or "You can always get pregnant again" bring them a meal or offer to clean their house, watch their kids... this will be much more helpful than trying to find the right things to say.

03. Don't try to rush them through the grieving process if you feel like they are taking too long to "move forward".  There is no set time limit for grief.  Be patient with them and just be there for them when they need you.

04. Even if the situation makes you uncomfortable, try not to avoid those who are grieving.  Now is the time when they need you the most. 

05. Never ever compare their experience to one that you have had or to someone else you know of.  Hearing "Oh, well I know a woman who went to full term and lost her baby" to someone who lost their baby in the first few weeks of pregnancy will not make them feel better about their situation.  If anything it will only be received as you trying to minimize their loss.

06. When in doubt, ask them what you can do to help.  It may be that all they need is a listening ear or a moment of peace.  

A wonderful book that helped me through my loss was called Gone Too Soon: The Life and Loss of Infants and Unborn Children by Sherri Devashrayee Wittwer.  I completely recommend this book to anyone who has either gone through a similar experience or knows someone who has.  

thank you, hilary, for sharing your heartfelt advice.

add to marta's collection :: the how-to series was created to encourage confidence in creativity. to focus on what we can do rather than what we can't. i am excited to showcase your talents and unique ideas. if you have a specialty (and i know you do), please submit your how-to guest post by emailing me. marta{at}martawrites{dot}com. i will be delighted to feature your how-to.

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden


Hannah said...

Hilary is amazing. I'm so grateful to have her for a sister in law.

I have suffered a miscarriage myself when I was 12ish weeks. I remember being just about ready to share the big news. At the time, it felt like my heart would never heal. I made the mistake of keeping it to myself. My mother didn't even know until 3 years later. I mourned inside and alone. I wish I could have read Hilary's advice at the time.

Hilary and you are such examples of faith. Handling loss with absolute grace.

jeanette from everton terrace said...

I went through 6 miscarriages. I put the grief somewhere else, to be dealt with later and I moved on. Kept thinking "I have one beautiful daugher already and a fantastic husband etc. I'm already so lucky" but that grief just sat inside me, which is never healthy. Your advice to "not put grief aside" is so true.

Dawn said...

"Keep something tangible of the baby if possible, as a reminder of your pregnancy. There will be a point that you may reach where you wonder if you ever really were pregnant, or if it was all just your imagination. Having something tangible will help remind you of that special one that was inside of you."

YES. We had an ultrasound and saw our baby's heartbeat the day before it died. At first it tortured me that we had seen it, alive and beautiful, right before losing it, but now I am so grateful, because we have the ultrasound picture. It's in a little white frame by the bed, among other family photos, and is a reminder for myself and everyone else that this tiny being existed, and would be about two weeks old now.

After being shocked and hurt by the way many people close to me reacted after our loss, I also blogged about how to treat a couple who have lost their child here:

It does get easier, but I have to say, I still have days and moments where I burst into tears and miss my baby terribly. A woman who is in her fifties who also had a miscarriage when she was younger told me that the pain never truly goes away. And how could it?

Thank you for this post.

I'm embracing you both, and feel we are kindred, although for an unfortunate reason.



Maven of Savin' said...

What a wonderful post that I really needed - i just had my 7th loss at 15 weeks on 7/15. Even though I have been through it before, it is easy to keep busy with the other kids and avoid the loss - but we all know the grief is there and will need to be dealt with.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and thank you for posting this wonderful information!

Travelin'Oma said...

I've learned so much reading the many comments on Marta's blog and now this helpful post.

Years ago I had two miscarriages, but I didn't talk about my feelings towards the babies. I was the one who minimized my loss. I didn't let anyone share my grief because I didn't share it.

Deep inside I felt that nobody would understand what a heartache it was for me. After all, I had other kids, I'd have other kids—that's what I assumed people thought, so I kept my pain for that particular child hidden.

Besides, lots of people didn't even know what had happened. I didn't want to look like a whiner, or invite people to my pity party. I didn't want to be the one everybody worried couldn't handle it.

Then, ironically, because it was my own fault, I started to resent the people who didn't realize what a hard time I was going through. I didn't WANT any special attention, but I desperately needed it.

Grief does have to be dealt with, and there are friends and family all around who have the experience to sympathize and support. I wish I'd taken advantage of those loved ones.

This is another great thing about a blog. Loved ones you've never even met enter your life without even noticing that you're still in your jammies and your dishes haven't been done for three days. It's truly a way to have a "heart-to-heart."

Amy J said...

Thank you so much for addressing such an important topic. So many women have been in that exact place and long to have someone understand and offer guidance. Ironic, I've just been sharing my story this week also on my blog. It is a very healing thing.... For those of you struggling with loss it may be something to encourage and comfort :) www.amyjdelightful.blogspot.com

feather said...

what a post. what a loss, what a process, what a way to give back to other moms who may be struggling. great job, girlfriend!

[eeny] said...

Hilary is so amazing. This post is wonderfully written even though it is such a sad topic.

The tips for those who know someone who lost a baby are so very helpful. For me, who has never experienced anything even close to losing a child, it is hard to imagine what those who do are going through. And it is hard to find the right words - I guess that is because there are none. Offering help, an ear or just a big bear hug is what I can do.

So now I am sending some hugs towards you, Marta and some more hugs towards Hilary.

Meg said...

Hil, you did a great job on this one. I too wish you were writing a post about how to make great brownies or something... I'm sad that we became friends through this common grief of losing our sons but one of the greatest blessings to me has been to be able to have someone who understands to go through it with you. Marta... you have a great friend here (I'm sure you already know that) and even though I'm so sorry that you now have this common bond, it will make your friendship stronger. One of my best friends and my little sister both have miscarried in the last few weeks. It's heartbreaking to relive it, but I'm going to have them read this. Hopefully it can help them channel their grief and realize that there will be a sunny morning after the rain. Thanks Hil, and Marta, you two are wonderful!!

Now... do you know someone who can do a post about great ways to entertain your two year old during church... we're struggling!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful tips and I couldn't agree more with them all after 4 miscarriages (3 in 2nd term). However, #7 really struck me. My spouse and I grieved completely different. If we hadn't talked about it then I could see how it really could have effected our marriage toward the negative, but because of communication, our experience brought us closer. So remember to talk to your spouse about it.
Karen G

Kate said...

Incredible, moving, truth-filled post, Hilary. I had my first loss in September and have struggled ever since. It seemed to get easier for a while but has been so hard since the due date came and went. It seems that everywhere I go I see babies the age that mine would be now . . . It seemed that people had a hard time relating because I already had 8 lovely children before my miscarriage and they didn't seem to understand that it did NOT help to be told to "just be thankful for the ones I have." I AM thankful for them, but that doesn't stop me from missing the one I will never hold here on earth. I thought for sure that I would be pregnant again by now and it gets harder each month. I know a new baby won't replace the one I lost, but I'm getting older and want my last pregnancy to end in life, not death.

Whew. This brought the tears flowing but in a good way. It's a blessing to share this in a safe place.


Meander said...

Thank you so much for this, specifically the second part of the how-to! I had a miscarriage a little over 2 years ago now. I was unmarried, had slipped away from God (although he never left me) and felt entirely alone. To this day it still hurts that no one acknowledges the life that was lost and it means so much to know that doing that is ok and part of the process of grief. Thank you once again. Blessings your way!

Sara said...

Thank you for posting this- during my miscarriage, comforting sweet notes from friends who had also suffered miscarriages were of so much comfort to me. I just learned of a friend today who had a miscarriage and this was such a good reminder to reach out and help during this time. I'm sorry Marta for your loss. Your blog is a delight and I love your attitude towards life. I'm praying for you...

Leaning Shanty Farm said...

Thank you so much...this was just want I needed right now.

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