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.