The loss of a child, whether due to stillbirth, miscarriage, SIDS, elective termination, or tragedy, is without a doubt one of the most painful experiences an individual will endure. No words truly capture the impact the loss will have on a parent, as personal expectations and wishes are terminated without control. Research shows that 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies end by miscarriage, SIDS impacts 5,000-7,000 infants annually, and over 11,000 newborns die within 24 hours of their birth.
If you are someone who has been impacted by an unimaginable loss, I hope you will hear and find some comfort in these words:
- There are no “should” statements in this process. There is no right way to feel, as one individual may feel strength sooner than another, while another feels consumed by the grief process. YOU are allowed to feel whatever arises within you.
- Hormones will play a role in your feelings, and this sudden shift can create significant changes in brain chemistry (e.g., postpartum depression).
- Grief often occurs in stages, although the order may vary with each individual: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
- Feelings of shame, guilt, self-doubt, and depression are common during loss. The important piece is to examine whether you are “moving” thru grief or if you are stuck. It is equally important to feel a sense of hope, trust, and self-acceptance after significant loss.
- When you lose a baby or child, it is also common for individuals to fear loss among other aspects of his/her life (e.g., relationships, health).
- Be alert to signs of isolation. It is very important to receive support from people around you so that healing can take place.
- Remember, everyone grieves differently; your partner may grieve differently. Losing a baby is extremely painful, and it is important to give space as needed. Women will experience the physical loss that may also be hard for a man to understand fully.
- Some friends may withdraw due to their own insecurities and fears of loss.
- Honoring your pregnancy or baby can be very symbolic, such as naming a child, planting a rose, developing another ritual on an anniversary date, etc.