Perinatal loss (the loss of an infant or pregnancy), is a loss unlike any other and is likely one of the hardest losses one can endure. In addition to the overwhelming sense of loss, it is complicated by the fact that it is often a disenfranchised loss (not one that is traditionally recognized by society). There are few, if any, physical, tangible memories or mementos to hold on to and the ones that do exist may be a continual reminder of the inexplicable loss.
If a miscarriage or stillbirth occurs, it is possible that no one but you and your partner were aware of the pregnancy, creating an even more private pain and loss. If information had been shared regarding the pregnancy, a seemingly constant flow of questions about the pregnancy and/or child may ensue from friends and family. It is often very easy for others to move on and forget about your loss; but for you, it may remain painful for a significant length of time. Not only are you grieving a child, you are grieving a future for a child you had envisioned, as well as your role as a parent and family unit.
Symptoms of grief do tend to decrease in intensity and severity over time, however you will likely think of your loss throughout your lifetime. Grief can take on a variety of forms, unique to each individual.
Symptoms often include:
- feeling numb
- waves of guilt
- sleep disturbances
- feeling overwhelmed
It is important to note that gestational age at loss does not necessarily correlate with the intensity or duration of your grief. There are no rules or time limitations on your grief. Give yourself and your support system time to explore the meaning of this loss and how it fits into your life’s narrative.
Remember, you are not alone. Statistics vary, ranging from one in four to one in three women experiencing a perinatal loss in their lifetime. Utilize the support system around you: partners, family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, medical and mental health professionals. Being vulnerable with others in a time of need also opens you up to a wide range of support and connection.
Below are some suggestions that may aid you in your healing:
- Depending on how you view this loss, consider naming your child. It can help connect you, and others, to your child
- Think about making a variety of keepsakes. Even if you do not believe you will want this immediately, years down the road you may want things to look back on, touch and hold, to feel connected with your baby. Ideas include photographs, foot prints, blankets, yarn bracelets for baby to wear, locks of hair. You can put them in a box that can be placed out of sight in your home, but easily accessed whenever you desire. Possibly plant a tree or indoor plant, to watch grow as a representation of the growth your child would experience.
- Free of charge professional photos of your little one from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
- Consider holding a funeral or celebration of life. Some have chosen to have a small gathering of family and friends to celebrate the young life that was lost, and allow time for others to view the photographs and mementos, if desired.
- Seek professional help through individual, couples or family counseling
- Join a support group, whether online or in person.
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland and Fenton, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Additionally, we offer psychiatric care in the form of evaluations and medication management. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.