“Grief is a love story told backward” – MISS Foundation
Take a deep breath. Remember to love yourself. You are a mother but your baby is not with you physically. Your body is in recovery and your milk, if it hasn’t already, is coming in. You had this vision and now the reality is setting in. Take a deep breath. Breathe.
The first few weeks post-loss will be the most difficult you ever experienced. Your body, mind and soul are recovering from birth. And grief and loss.
The weeks turn into months and you start thinking about milestones. If your loss was pre-term, you may think about events planned and your due date. You have to get to and past your due date. If your baby was full-term still you will think “today he/she would be 1 month old.” It is going to be difficult but trust in your inner strength.
One of the most difficult aspects is your postpartum body yet you do not have your baby.
- You will shed “lochia” for 4 to 6 weeks post birth. Lochia is a combination of blood, tissue and mucus and is a lot like menstruating.
- Engorgement – your breast will fill with milk. Milk comes about 2 – 7 days post delivery and can be very painful emotionally. Physically you will have discomfort but try and avoid direct heat, and tight bras.
- Your uterus is going to shrink back to its normal size. You may feel phantom “kicks” and some mild discomfort.
Practicing self-care is an important necessity during the first few months postpartum. You have to maintain a healthy lifestyle and allow your body time to recover from birth. We will never know the answer to the “why me? why us? why my child” question. You may have a semi-answer such as an umbilical cord accident but it will not make you feel physically better or understand your loss any easier.
- Write about it – writing is therapeutic. If writing isn’t your thing try cooking, ceramics, art or equestrian therapy.
- Begin counseling – one-on-one, grief group, or online support.
- Create a memorial – plant a tree, designate part of your garden or public garden, shadowbox, shrine or even placing a special candle in your “special” place at home
- Yearly tradition – it may sound odd to think you will celebrate your child’s birthday without your child physically but find a way to honor them. You may refer to the born date as birthday, anniversary, or angelversary. It can be brief (lighting a candle) or longer like release of a floating lantern.
Grief does not have a “cure”. It has no end. In time you will learn how to walk the rest of your life with your grief. Finding a way to honor your child(ren) may ease the pain overtime.
Caring For Your Relationship
You are in pain but remember your partner is in pain as well. While you have physical and emotional pain your partner may have visual and emotional pain. Statistics show nearly 80 % of marriages end after baby loss . It is important you recognize and respect each others grief journey.
- Anger – It is natural to express anger. You experienced a horrific loss but be kind to your partner. They hurt and are likely just as upset only expressing emotions differently. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. Being outwardly upset is not equivalent to level of sadness.
- Intimacy – it is likely one will be ready for intimacy before the other one. Sex after loss can be a reminder you are alive and a link to euphoria and endorphins. Wanting our pain to stop, even if for a short time, is natural but your partner may not be ready. This causes confusion and additional hurt. Talk openly about how you are feeling.
- Blame – As humans we want an answer for everything. It is not your fault or your partner’s fault. Remember why you fell in love.
Find a peer! Find a postpartum bereavement doula, online or in-person support groups, one-on-one therapy, read blogs (Doula Spot has a bereavement section and resources), or attend a retreat (Return to Zero). The key is finding someone you identify with. This is a very difficult time for you and your loved ones but It is hard for most outside of the baby-loss community to understand the emotions you are feeling.
- Treat yourself. Do not punish yourself. You deserve to feel as good as possible. Try a spa day, massage or manicure/pedicure. If you’re up to it, bring a friend.
- Schedule activities. Maybe you aren’t ready to attend social events within your circle but do go out socially. Dinner, a movie, hike, plan a mini vacation. Get in a routine and make plans to aid you from living in your grief.
- Talk about it. While it is important to connect with a peer, try not to exclude your partner. The process of grief looks different to everyone but remember your partner is hurting also. It is really important to support each other equally.
Advice for Friends and Family
You feel so helpless and want to take the pain away. Grieving parents wish no one ever had to walk in their shoes. The truth is you cannot take the pain away. Words are a blur to the grieving mom but the person you love still exists. She is still the same dynamic, funny, beautiful, caring person you knew and loved; just altered. She will forever be changed by her loss but you are still as valuable to her as ever. No words will take the pain away, ever, but allow her to talk about the loss in her own time. Maybe she will never talk about it. Grief is a very personal emotion and everyone processes differently and that is okay.
- Listen – if she wants space know that it is not personal.
- Be present – if not physically then help with routine tasks and meals.
- Keep questions to a minimum.
- Offer or arrange childcare (if needed).
- Treat the family as you always would.
- Write your feelings – it is okay to acknowledge this is a painful time for you as well
- Find your own support system – talk about it maybe just not with the family at this time. You know your loved one best.
- Light candles.
- Remember – if they are distant it is because they are in shock and disbelief. Do not take it personal.
- They are still the person you love – treat them the same but with extra love and patience.
“The loss of my children felt like I was selected for the unluckiest of lotteries in existence. The frequency of loss worldwide is astonishing and happens to approximately 72 Americans daily. Yet I wasn’t aware of this fact. Society wants to avoid taboo and sad topics. Especially this one. One so taboo and sad, parents aren’t even referred to it in a relatable matter. A widow is a widow right? No one tells you there is a chance of loss in any pregnancy. We might be familiar with miscarriage statistics but it doesn’t make your miscarriage any easier. I know, I had three miscarriages prior to my preterm labors and losses. The loss of a loved one is never easy but that of my innocent children is the most profound and heartbreaking of them all.”
– Doula Spot Bereavement Director, Jake McKenna Ibarra