Birth Ease

Baby Loss Support

WHAT  IS  GRIEF?

Grief is a constellation of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with a death. It involves the internal meaning given to the external event of death. It is a normal and healthy response to the loss of a loved one. Grief involves common phases or stages that each person moves between and through. And, it is as unique to each person as their fingerprint.

 

The real grief process often doesn’t begin until months after the death. It is important to remind yourself that you are not broken or need to be fixed. You are grieving. It is the expected, healthy, and normal human response to the loss of your precious baby. It is the repression of the feelings surrounding the loss—by others and ourselves—that causes problems.

The death of a child blindsides us, making it one of the most difficult types of loss to come to grips with and process. Added to that, most parents have had little life experience dealing with grief and death. Being able to reference these phases of bereavement can reassure you that what you are feeling is normal. At times you may feel as if you are moving through all of these phases all at once or flowing between them, for these phases are not static. Grief tends to come in waves instead of discreet stages. It has been compared to enduring a fierce storm at sea. At first the waves are peaked and close together. Eventually the sea becomes calmer, but occasionally the storm regroups without any warning. For several hours, days, weeks you may not feel grief; then suddenly you meet someone, or see something (such as a pregnant women), or hear something (such as a baby’s cry), and the grief resumes. It feels as if you are taking one step forward and two steps back. And while feeling you would like to join your baby can be very normal, especially for women, if the suicidal thoughts become dominant or you feel you might act on them, please contact your ob/gyn provider or a mental health professional immediately.

THE FOUR PHASES OF BEREAVEMENT

     as it relates to baby loss

1. SHOCK AND NUMBNESS
 

The characteristics of this phase are most intense during the first two weeks after the loss. You may experience: 

  • feeling shocked one minute; angry, panicked, or distressed the next

  • a shortened attention span

  • difficulty comprehending or remembering what others are saying

  • difficulty concentrating

  • impaired decision making and impeded function

  • stunned disbelief—the shock is too much to deal with all at once

  • feeling like you are in a dream and this isn't really happening

  • may cry uncontrollably

  • being manic—laugh, look, or act like you are on top of the world

  • sit and stare, feel resistant to stimuli

  • time confusion

  • denial

3. DISORGANIZATION
 

The characteristics of this phase are most dominant the fifth month

through the ninth month after the loss. This phase is difficult because it comes when others think you should be “over it.” Exercise, a supportive friend or a counselor can be helpful at this time. You may experience: 

  • thinking, “I am going crazy. I am going to feel this way forever.”

  • anxiety attacks

  • social withdrawal 

  • sadness, depression

  • wishing you were dead because the grief feels unbearable 

  • unhappiness and conflict with your partner or spouse

  • lack of energy, exhaustion 

  • feeling disorganized and unable to get anything done

  • forgetfulness

  • difficulty concentrating

  • a sense of failure

  • guilt, self blame for the loss of the baby 

  • increased illnesses as the stress weakens your immune system

  • insomnia

  • weight gain or loss

2. SEARCHING AND YEARNING
 

The characteristics of this phase are most prevalent the second week through the fourth month after the loss. During this phase you may find yourself searching for your baby because your child still seems very much alive. The struggle between the conscious and unconscious mind to accept the reality of the baby’s death causes thoughts feelings that may seem bizarre. You may experience: 

  • thinking that you are hearing your baby cry. Women may still feel pregnant or that the baby is kicking. She may feel angry at her body for the normal postpartum adjusts it makes even though she no longer has a baby.

  • increased sensitivity to stimulus

  • restlessness and difficulty concentrating

  • emotional outbursts—anger, irritability often directed at others

  • crying uncontrollably or feeling like you might not be able to stop 

  • sighing

  • bitterness, resentment 

  • searching for the reason “why?” your baby died

  • suicidal thoughts

  • feeling guilty, experience self blame, feel lowered self esteem

  • time confusion

  • your arms aching to hold your baby, feeling empty

  • wanting to avoid pregnant women and babies 

  • palpitations, headaches, lack of strength

  • changes in appetite

  • difficulty sleeping or wanting to sleep all the time

  • journaling or reading about other with similar losses is helpful

4. REORGANIZATION
 

The characteristics of this phase may begin in the tenth month (or earlier) and moves through the twenty-fourth month, perhaps more... This is the time you begin to adjust to your new normal. Your loss will never be forgotten, but it becomes less painful as you work through your grief. You may experience: 

  • a sense of release

  • being able to laugh and smile again 

  • renewed energy

  • the ability to make decisions easier

  • eating and sleeping habits re-established

  • feeling increased self esteem

  • beginning to plan for the future

  • a sense of inner strength for having survived the tragic loss of your child

  • wanting to reach out to or help other grieving parents

Grief is a constellation of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with a death. It involves the internal meaning given to the external event of death. It is a normal and healthy response to the loss of a loved one. Grief involves common phases or stages that each person moves between and through. And, it is as unique to each person as their fingerprint.

Mourning is the outward expression of grief. The way in which someone mourns is influenced by many factors such as religion, culture, customs, gender, and personality. Mourning is an individual matter, and the natural way of adjusting to the loss.

Bereavement is the entire process a loss or death triggers.