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Grief

Grief comes in one size, Extra Large.
If we tuck it away in the bottom drawer
where it never sees the light of day,
it remains exactly the same.
On the other hand, 
if we wear it, feel it, talk about it,
and share it with others,
it is likely that it will become faded, shrunk and worn,
or will simply no longer fit.
When grief has served its purpose,
we are able to recognize the many gifts we have gained.

-- Dianne Arcangel, in
 
Life After Loss : Conquering Grief and Finding Hope

 

Grief

Grieving the loss of your baby is a complex grief, as women we experience our baby as part of us, not only have we lost our baby, we are suffering from the effects of both birth and death. Baby loss is unique in that our loss can be minimised or invalidated by others, which can lead us to question our feelings of grief.

It is the strength of the bond with our baby, not the length of time we had with them that determines the depth of our grief. This bond may have begun long ago with our hopes and dreams, our grief is a normal reaction to this broken bond.

 

People often don't know how to appropriately respond to someone suffering this loss, which can add to our feelings of isolation. Some may not even realise we are grieving, this adds to our stress as we feel the need to explain.

People may not want to talk about what has happened perhaps because of their own discomfort with the issue of death, when we are consumed with it. We are left vulnerable and open to well intentioned yet hurtful platitudes.

 

The losses felt are difficult to explain unless the person hearing them has experienced baby loss themselves, which is why talking to someone who has walked this path before you can offer the most comfort and empathy. Some of the things you might be feeling and thinking are listed below, be reassured these are very normal reactions to baby loss.

 

 

♥ The loss of the joyful experience of pregnancy and birth, and the celebrations surrounding that.


♥ The loss of our dreams for our child, and the future our family would have had.


♥ The loss of our identity as a mother.


♥ The loss of trust in the body that betrayed us.


♥ The loss of innocence for future pregnancies, due to knowing you may not neccessarily have a baby at the end of it.


♥ The loss of our basic trust in life, the fear and insecurity of an unpredictable world.


♥ The loss of self-confidence.


♥ The illogical but real sense of shame, guilt or embarrassment for our failure.


♥ The feeling that we should hide our loss and not talk about it in case people think we are over-reacting.


♥ The fear about the sometimes overwhelming size of our grief.


♥ The jealousy, envy, anger and bitterness triggered when we see women with their babies.


♥ The loss or change in our relationships as we experience others lack of understanding.


♥ The loneliness and isolation.


♥ The pain inflicted by others insensitive comments and thoughtless attitudes.


♥ The pain of being around other pregnant women or babies.


♥ Our strong reaction when we see children being mistreated, knowing how precious they would be to us.


♥ The thought that we somehow didn't love our baby enough to keep it alive.


♥ The thought that we did something wrong, or didn't do something right.


♥ The difficulty in understanding how hard it is to miss having your baby still safe inside.


♥ The longing to keep our baby safe inside.


♥ The difficulty adjusting back to normal life again.


♥ The feeling we have let our partner/family down.


♥ The harsh judgements we make about ourselves.


♥ The feeling of being emotionally broken.


♥ The pain of not knowing the colour of your baby's eyes.


♥ The pain of not knowing the cause of the loss.


♥ The loss of the last chance to have a baby because of our age.


♥ The feelings of guilt and regret that we waited too long.


♥ The belief that somehow we are being punished, or deserved to lose our baby because of some perceived wrong doing.


♥ The pain of having little or no tangible evidence of our baby.


♥ The 'What ifs' and the 'If onlys'


♥ The continued loss of what might have been, of all the possibilities.

 

Though this list is long it is by no means exhaustive, but it represents just some of the powerful and devastating aspects of losing a baby.

 

The sharing of all our feelings and thoughts with someone we can trust, who is compassionate and understands the pain of baby loss is the most healing and validating thing. I urge you to find this gentle support and not be alone with your feelings.

 

Grief is a normal, healthy and appropriate response to a loss, the grief is for the baby and the place it would have taken in our lives. Everyone is different and grieves in their own way, Grief is not self-indulgent, it is a neccessary process to go through to find healing.

 

Grief is unpredictable and you may feel one or more of the following at any time; shock, confusion, denial, anger, guilt, shame, jealousy, numbness, isolation, loneliness, emptiness, depression, frustration, forgetfulness and lack of concentration and unreality.

Staying in the present can be difficult, time can slip by unnoticed or drag. Dates and things associated with your loss can seem set in your memory forever. Your body will experience the sadness and may result in you being unable to sleep even when exhausted, or feeling tense, itchy, cold, shaky and disorientated.  You may experience aching arms, from not having your baby to hold. You may have milk even though you have no baby to feed, this will settle down in a short time, but can be shattering when it happens. Even when you are well supported you can still feel very alone. None of this is unusual, it is part of grief and it will pass.

 

Grief can be further complicated if it is suppressed and becomes unhealthy, avoiding feeling the pain of grief, trying to deaden it, only makes it harder to heal. It is important to honour your feelings, let your grief take its course, express it in healthy ways and have it validated. Grief is known as "the healing feeling" and leads to acceptance and eventually peace within the new normal your life has become.

 

Even when we are functioning on a reasonable level again and we may think we have dealt with our grief feelings because they are no longer disrupting our lives on a daily basis, and we have begun to tentatively feel joy again, they can recur, especially around dates and personal anniversaries. The wound is still there and the healing still fresh, the "what ifs" are always there to be imagined.

 

Though healing through grief means finding acceptable ways to live with your loss, it does not mean forgetting or making memories insignificant, or getting over it, you will never get over it, but you will learn to live life again.

The bond formed with your baby can last forever, the pain and sorrow will disipate over time, the intensity of sadness will diminish, and the memories will find a place to dwell in us, there will always be a tiny, precious, secret place in our heart that aches, but we can come to cherish it in a healthy way, recover and embrace our new normal.

 

"A tiny flower, lent not given, to bud on earth, and bloom in heaven"