FEELINGS YOU MAY EXPERIENCE
AFTER A LOSS
1 in 4 women have experienced some sort of pregnancy or infant loss. And, it is something that is rarely spoken about. This silence can cause the necessary grieving for many to be a lonely, isolating, and uncertain experience. Other people often do not know what to say and may say things that they do not realize are extremely hurtful. Often it is something they think would feel helpful for they themselves to hear, while feels devastating to the grieving parent. It may be helpful to consider that not everyone will be able to listen. Some may be so uncomfortable with loss in general or with your particular kind of loss that they may unwittingly try to silence you by telling you, in so many words, to look on the bright side before you have even been able to talk about the dark side. Please, do not let this kind of response convince you that you are wrong to be upset. Just keep looking for people who can accompany you in this difficult journey. Anyone who has been able to consciously tolerate the pain of any kind of loss can be there for you.
A light from our household is gone.
A little voice we loved is stilled
A place is vacant from our hearts
that can never be filled.
Baby Loss Support
“I could cry forever, and it would not be enough.”
-Ashley, a newly bereaved mother
Emotional numbing and partial memory loss of the events surrounding the pregnancy or infant loss seems to be a form of psychological anesthesia which follows trauma of all kinds, and which protects the person from having to cope with the overwhelming nature of the event. The numbing and/or memory loss can continue for days, weeks, or months following the crisis.
Fearfulness, hopefulness, and a sense of vulnerability commonly follow sudden losses of all kinds, and pregnancy losses are no exception. The sudden loss of a precious child or control over your bodily function may offend your sense of the natural order of things, making the world seem like a foreign place. Feeling weak, unlucky, or doomed is also a typical response to sudden loss, as is a sense of foreboding or fear of sudden catastrophe. This fearfulness seems to be intensified when someone experiences recurrent losses, genetic abortions, IVF failure & ART pregnancy loss, or with combined losses such as infertility & pregnancy loss.
Intense rage is not uncommon. It may be directed at hospital staff and doctors (especially if you did not feel listened to or you feel they were insensitive to your needs and feelings regarding your pregnancy and loss), friends and family, your partner, or even at your own body. The loss of control over your own destiny that pregnancy/infant loss frequently symbolizes is the cause of this reaction. Some people even become angry at God and question and/or experience a crisis regarding their faith and spiritual beliefs.
It is not uncommon to “feel pregnant” for the duration of an uninterrupted pregnancy or to temporarily forget that you are no longer pregnant even though you quite consciously know that you are not. This imaginary pregnancy seems to be a form of protective denial which allows the knowledge of the loss to sink in slowly, so that it does not overwhelm the psyche. Dreams about being pregnant and feelings of still being pregnant are often prevalent during this time, especially around the original due date of the lost pregnancy.
Feelings of self-blame, remorse, shame, and/or the sense of being punished are also normal reactions to pregnancy loss. Parents often blame themselves for the loss, expressing such thoughts as: “If only I wouldn’t have done____. I should have done____. If only I would have done____. Why didn’t I____?” Self-condemnation for particular personal failings seems to be a way to try to explain the loss or the unintended pregnancy, assigning it a clear and hopefully avoidable cause.
Remembering involves gradually recalling all the details of what happened before, during, and after your loss without pushing the flashes of memory away when they arise. Remembering means approaching the loss and all the circumstances surrounding it with an accepting, nonjudgmental manner which can help you to more consciously come to terms with the loss, and to avoid unconscious guilt and self-punishment. Remembering includes recalling your aspirations and dreams you had about the baby you lost, the kind of family you would have had, and the type of parent you imagined yourself to be to your child. Mourning for what never will be is a natural part of grieving. Allow yourself the freedom and the time for the sadness.
Making your loss real, concrete, tangible can be one of the greatest challenges in coming to terms with it. This seems to be especially true in the case of earlier losses, abortions, and in later losses where the baby is not seen. There is something about seeing which makes the loss more tangible and allows grieving to begin. Also, the more unreal the loss seems, the less possible it is to make conscious sense of it and to assimilate the experience as being a part of one’s life and identity. Funerals, memorial services, and personal rituals or ceremonies—especially when held on important dates such as the baby’s date or an anniversary—can also be helpful in making the loss tangible and significant. Some rituals or ceremonies may include naming your baby, planting a tree in your baby’s honor; wearing the birthstone of the month your baby was due; releasing balloons; burying mementos or the baby’s placenta; writing a note to the baby, reading it to others, and/or dropping the note into the water or burying it; and burning or burying the medical records related to the loss.
Everyone grieves in their unique way, as well as at their own depth and pace. Grief, when allowed to progress naturally, tends to come in waves instead of discreet stages. Common fears at this time are loss of control, appearing weak to others, your tears will never stop, being unable to bear the loss, and your baby will be forgotten. After the initial shock of the loss abates, waves of sorrow begin to wash over you rather unpredictably. At first, the waves are huge and close together and you may feel as if you might drown. Eventually, the waves get smaller and more manageable, though they never go away completely. You grow less afraid of them, although a big one can still take you by surprise. You can get hit with stronger waves of grief around the baby’s due date, on the date of the loss, and on holidays. It is not uncommon to feel lethargic or anxious, or to have difficulty concentrating or sleeping. It can be common to feel more compulsive than usual and to have a strong desire to numb your feelings. In the long run, it is better to acknowledge your sadness rather than avoid it, trying to block it or hide it from yourself or others. It is quite understandable that you feel grief-stricken; you have experienced a real loss. That intense ache won’t last forever, especially if you let yourself remain receptive to whatever emotions arise and allow yourself to gently work through them. Staying open to your feelings and giving yourself the freedom to experience the full range of your emotions, allows for healing to begin.
This information is adapted from "UNSPEAKABLE LOSSES" by Kim Kluger-Bell
“A person is a person is a person, no matter how small.”