October 15. Some of you may recognize the significance of this day. It is recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Many people around the world light candles to honor their babies that have gone too soon every year on this day. Pregnancy and infant loss is one of the most devastating experiences any parent could face. It’s such a unique loss and has an impact that is lasting. It’s not just about the physical loss of the child. It’s also the loss of the hopes and dreams you had for your baby. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be gentle, kind and have patience with your grief. It takes as long as it takes and you have to allow yourself time to mourn. Although nothing could ever take away the pain you feel or fill the place of your baby, there are things you can do for yourself to facilitate the healing process.
1. Find social support for your grief.
Many people have a tough time sharing their grief with family and friends. It’s a sensitive subject for a lot of people and many find it difficult to hear you talk about the loss of your baby. You may feel like people try to avoid the subject or that no one wants to hear you about talk about your experience. The truth is that many people are uncomfortable hearing about something so tragic and they often don’t know the right words to say. They feel helpless. What could they possibly say that would change the outcome? They are often afraid to say something that could potentially upset you. As a result of this, they sometimes say nothing at all which can leave you feeling isolated. You don’t have to struggle in isolation. It can be comforting and healing to connect with other parents who have also experienced the loss of a child. Acknowledging you baby’s death is an important part of the healing process. Support groups offer a safe space for you talk about your baby and your experience.
2. Understand that people grieve differently.
Grief is a very individual experience and there are differences in the way people grieve. More specifically, there are differences in the way men and women grieve. It can be difficult to meet each other’s needs when grieving styles differ. Your partner won’t know what you need unless you tell them. If because of your partner’s own grief, they are unable to provide the support you need, you may have to find other trusted family and friends to talk to or seek professional help from a counselor.
3. Communicate your needs to friends and family.
The people surrounding you may not understand the intensity of your grief and what you need from them. Focus on spending time with your loved ones that give you the type of unconditional support you need. If rest is what you need, be sure to communicate to them what your specific needs are so they can be helpful to you. If you encounter someone who you feel does not understand or support your grief, try to avoid getting into arguments with them and explain that the situation is just too difficult to discuss. In some cases, people are open to increasing their understanding and learning how to be more supportive. In these instances, you can help them by sharing things they can do to be helpful as well educating them about the things that aren’t so helpful for you.
4. Maintain good self-care.
Grieving is physically and emotional exhausting. Be sure to get plenty of rest and engage in meaningful activities that nurture your mind, body and spirit. Maintaining a journal and writing about your feelings can be helpful. Journaling helps you to express your emotions and overtime you can see how things change for you.
5. Honor your baby’s memory.
There are many ways to honor the memory of your baby. You can create a website or blog dedicated to your baby, create a memory or shadow box, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries or celebrate Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on October 15.
The first year following a pregnancy or infant loss is often the hardest. You’re triggered by so many special days like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, holidays, etc. Starting new traditions on these special days can help you prepare and cope with your emotions. After the first year, you will most likely have a better idea of what to expect and will learn to cope with your new reality. Overtime the frequency and intensity of your emotions will lessen and you will adjust accordingly. Whether the loss was recent or many moons ago, it’s something you never forgot.