WHEN YOU'RE THE SURVIVOR:
It's hard to believe that after the death of your child, life does and will continue, even in the wake of your world being turned upside down. There is nothing you did to deserve or cause the death of your precious baby. In the hours, days and weeks following your baby's death, the range of emotions can be hard to manage. You may feel some of the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Confusion, and
- Even some physical pain
Grief is exhausting. There is no right way to grieve and no two people grieve on the same time-table. Also, women and men generally grieve much differently. Women generally grieve more outwardly and verbally, and men often internalize their grief, though such is not always the case. Unfortunately, this can lead to feelings of disconnect and isolation between husbands and wives - an event which compounds an already tragic experience. Talking about your loss and being honest about your emotions can certainly help to facilitate communication.
In Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's book, On Death and Dying, she defines 5 stages of grief. They are:
- Denial - This can't be real. Not me, not my baby.
- Anger - Anger at not only the situation but possibly at yourself, medical staff, and family and friends.
- Bargaining - I'll do whatever it takes to...
- Depression - Life feels hopeless without your baby
- Acceptance - Life DOES go on and your baby will always be a part of your life and your memories. A day will come when life does return to some normalcy.
There is no set time frame for experiencing the stages of grief and you may even experience a recurrence of these stages at various times after your child's death.
Below are ways to express and accept the grief as it comes:
- Keep a journal. It provides a private haven for you to record your thoughts and express your pain. When this bitter beginning of grief has lessened, it can also serve as a very healing experience to look back upon your entries and reflect on how far you have come in your grief journey.
- Be honest about your feelings. It is difficult for your friends and family to see you hurting. Let's be honest, grief is uncomfortable. People want to support you, but you need to let them know how. Do you wish for them to talk about the baby? Would a phone call be welcomed? Would you prefer a visit in person? Can they cook a meal or help with laundry? If you have living children, can they help to provide child care while you are recovering? The more specific you can be about what helps and what doesn't, the more helpful support you'll receive.
- Take care of yourself. Grief is hard work both physically and mentally. It absolutely zaps your energy. Be kind to yourself. Eat well, exercise (even a quick stroll to the mailbox!) and get plenty of rest. Taking care of yourself will at least help with the physical aspect of experiencing grief and exercise releases mood-lifting chemicals that can actually help you feel better emotionally as well.
- Know when to say when. Anger, sadness and depression are all a part of the grieving process. Unfortunately, sometimes these emotions can become more than we can handle. If you are experiencing sleeplessness, hopelessness, or thoughts of harming yourself, it is vitally important to let your obstetrician or family doctor know immediately. You will not be judged. It is likely that your doctor is already aware of your loss and is there to help you travel through the journey of grief. Sometimes, this journey simply cannot be voyaged without medical intervention.
Above all else, know this. The early days and weeks after the loss of a baby are excruciating. The pain can, at times, be unbearable. It's terribly difficult to believe, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Though your life will forever be changed after this loss, you will experience joy and laughter again. The unbearable ache of your loss will lessen with time, and hope and healing will happen.
* Important note: This website is not designed or intended to offer medical advice and should not be construed as such. All medical advice and opinions should be communicated directly through a licensed medical professional.