Coping with Grief After the Loss of a Baby.
April 14, 2007 — There will never be another day more meaningful to me than this one. Unequivocally, no other date in life has pierced me deeper than the day I birthed Kyle and Kendrick, my twin sons, and became a mother to children who are now beyond my grasp. Born prematurely at 23 weeks gestation, my sons lived for a few hours, drawing shallow breaths outside of their former home in my womb.
As you read this now, you may recall the date — the very moment — when life was tragically disrupted as you entered motherhood. The day you learned the life you created and nurtured would not sustain to manifest the future moments you planned. Perhaps you’re a first-time mom who is dealing with the immediate loss of your baby. Or maybe you’ve experienced several miscarriages in recent years, following difficulties conceiving. The specifics of our losses may differ, but the fact is there now remains a chasm in our lives. You may question if you will ever heal from this deep, unimaginable, and out-of-order pain. Even so, through the process of mourning and grieving, healing can take place.
Please consider the following as gentle promptings to encourage you on your path of transformation in surviving loss.
Feeling in Grieving
The traumatic loss of a pregnancy or baby is an unspoken yet harsh reality for many — a select club of mothers who are often not seen or understood. Some may question your feelings and the depth of your grief, not understanding you grieve the loss of the present as well as the future. Saddened by what no longer is and what could have been, you feel the emotional, physical, and spiritual impact of grief. Or maybe you hurt in such a way that you are detached, and feel nothing at all.
Your emotions may be varied, sudden, persistent, unrelenting, or absent. Maybe your trauma is easily triggered, or you feel like you’re sinking in quicksand, unable to grasp anything around you. You didn’t desire this outcome for you and your family, but you can grieve in your own fashion and at your own pace.
Grief has no target date or set instructions. Everyone grieves differently and uniquely. Consider journaling to identify and process your emotions in grieving, including shock, anger, despair, guilt, and shame.
Navigating the path of grief is a singular and difficult journey. However, the discomfort of loss can be eased with support from caring individuals. Take a moment and reflect on your support system. Ask yourself:
- Am I being supported in grieving?
- What do I need (or not need) from others?
- Do I want them to know about how I feel right now?
- What additional services can benefit me at this time?
As you know, not all attempts of support are helpful. Those closest to you may want to be comforting but not know how to do so because they lack context for your hurt. Instead, they may act inappropriately by not respecting your boundaries or even make hurtful comments. In some instances, those who you believed would be your greatest supporters may now be silent and distant, acting as if your loss never occurred while deepening your tender, emotional wounds.
Once you have insight about what you need in grieving, plan to have assertive conversations with others. Being intentional in cultivating your support system may be a challenging concept, but it can be beneficial to determine how you want and need others to show up in your life. Please know you have rights in grieving and do not have to suffer in isolation for lack of understanding.
Counselling, either in person or online, is a positive outlet to express your wide range of emotions in a safe and secure environment without filtering and needing to care for others. Working one-on-one with a clinician who is experienced in supporting parents who’ve survived loss can provide you a dedicated space to work through your feelings. Additionally, support groups can promote healing as you are encouraged by other individuals who are at different stages in grieving their losses. Overall, you can cultivate the support you value.
Loss does not have to define your motherhood. Yes, even in the absence of your baby and the milestones or everyday experiences of parents raising their children, you still have the right to be acknowledged for the life you created. Beyond loss, it is your choice to define motherhood in a way that comforts you. This declaration does not require permission as you direct how you and your baby’s indestructible bond will be acknowledged.
For you, motherhood may include speaking your baby’s name without shame or creating personal rituals and actions honouring your baby’s identity, such as having an annual ceremony, creating a shadowbox, or growing a flower garden. For me, writing to you now promotes healing while also honouring my sons. Because I choose to give my sons’ lives meaning in serving others, I continue to adjust, heal, and transform in motherhood.
11 years ago, I couldn’t envision how resilience would look after enduring the greatest pain I have ever known. To the mama going through loss, though you may not see it now, I hope you will make meaning of your loss and realize resilience as I have.
I hope you know that it is OK to grieve, mourn, and cry.
I hope you know that it is good to celebrate your baby, talk about your baby, and remember your baby.
I hope you know that it is ok to not move on, but to move forward instead.
Dear grieving mama, I hope you know you are not alone, and that myself along with many other moms are going through this with you.
About the Author: Keisha Wells, LPC, NCC
Keisha Wells is a mom to twin angels, Kyle and Kendrick — her greatest creations. Keisha is also a licensed professional counsellor and owner of Transformation Counselling Services in Columbus, Georgia. Her practice focuses on grief counselling and perinatal mental health services for mothers and their families impacted by neonatal loss, postpartum anxiety and depression, and traumatic birth experiences.
Keisha is an avid reader and writer, contributing to articles in Essence Magazine, The New York Times, Bustle, and Elite Daily. Keisha and her family are also committed supporters of the March of Dimes’ annual March for Babies. Connect with and follow Keisha on Facebook here!