Whether you were pregnant for only a few weeks or were fortunate enough to get to cuddle your baby for a few days, losing a child via a miscarriage or a post-delivery illness can be a heartbreaking, life-changing experience. Be it an unexpected or planned pregnancy, a special bond materializes almost immediately between you and baby, as parents begin protecting, nurturing and loving their little ones in utero. And while you may not ever get the opportunity to know your child as they age, the hopes and dreams you had for them are very real.
In much the same way, your grief is very real, also. After the death of a baby, you will likely feel a vast array of emotions, including shock, depression, guilt, anger, hopelessness, and despair — and you may even question your ability to survive the sorrow. While you may always feel a sense of loss, there is hope that you can work through this troubled time. One in four women will suffer from a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss during their lifetime — here are a few tips for coping:
Give yourself time to grieve and heal. Pain can be a complex process void of deadlines. Let yourself feel your emotions and work through them in your own time. Don’t put pressure on yourself to “feel better” right away. You may find other feelings coming up as your due date or other painful milestones approach, but over time, the sadness will lessen.
Talk about your baby and the loss. Acknowledge the loss rather than ignoring or hiding from it. Talk about the baby by name. Being vulnerable and sharing your story may help you to feel less alone and supported as others open up about their own losses and how they coped.
Take time out for yourself . While distractions can be nice, take a break from your job and other obligations to allow yourself time to heal and work through your feelings.
Seek out support. Consider attending a grief support group with other parents who have been there or one-on-one grief counseling sessions, both of which can offer validation for your feelings, as well as some additional coping skills. You can also ask your doctor for a therapist referral.
Accept help from loved ones. Tell people what you need, be it a warm meal or a shoulder to cry on. Take help when it is offered. The less alone you feel, the easier your grief will be to work through.
Honor and celebrate your baby’s life in a creative way. Plan a memorial service with loved ones or donate to a charity in the baby’s name. Plant a special tree or order a customized piece of jewelry to serve as a sweet reminder of your child. Here is a list of many additional keepsake ideas to help you honor your baby.
Practice self-compassion and self-care. Above all, be patient and gentle with yourself and the time it takes to heal. Caring for yourself and your own well-being by getting adequate sleep, proper nutrition and exercise can also aide in the grief process. Meditation and mindfulness exercises can also prove soothing when dealing with loss.