I have a hard time every October.
I see the posts online and my heart just breaks. For a moment, I go back in time. Back to the hurt and confusion.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
If this is you, if you have a baby who became an angel before they went to preschool, before they could sit up, before you could hold them…
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I will never forget those calls from my doctor. My heart broke into a million pieces. Each time. It hurt. To know I would never hold my sweet baby. Either of them.
What does this grief look like?
This kind of pain can present itself in different ways for different people, and at different points in their lives.
The important thing to remember is that this pain, this grief, is anything but linear.
There is no “step one” or “step 5” in the grief process. And you can feel one thing at a time, two things, or ALL THE FEELS at once.
Sometimes, you will be angry. Angry at God for taking away your precious baby so soon. Angry at other people for not understanding or saying something hurtful. Angry at yourself for not being able to save your baby.
Sometimes, you will be sad, crying often. Crying when you see or hear someone you know has a precious baby to hold. Crying when you realize how far along you would have been today.
Sometimes, you will be in shock. Completely numb to any emotion whatsoever. Not feeling sad or angry or hurt or shame. Just numb. Because the pain and grief of what you have lost is so great, you can’t even comprehend it.
Sometimes, you will be in denial. Not necessarily denial that it happened but denying yourself to feel and process your grief. You will distract yourself, denying you have these intense emotions because the pain is too much to handle.
Sometimes, you will feel guilt. That this is somehow your fault. That your baby would have survived with someone else. That somehow, you are broken.
There is no “right way” to feel with this kind of loss.
How can I get better?
Don’t deny yourself these feelings. Don’t ignore the fact that what you experienced is traumatic and heartbreaking. When we ignore tough emotions, they will build up and then find other ways to express themselves.
To prevent this, you have to let yourself feel these emotions. You can do this in different ways.
- Mindfulness techniques.
- Join a support group.
- Honor your baby.
Body scans allow you to acknowledge how an emotion manifests in your physical body. Are you feeling this grief in your chest? Is it heavy? Or maybe it is in your gut, almost like butterflies? Meditations can help you to focus your thinking towards a particular process, rather than jumbled chaos. Look for guided meditations that are specifically related to grief; check out YouTube or search on your favorite podcast streaming app.
Join a support group. One in four women experience the loss of an infant or pregnancy. Joining a group can help you support each other through the process, and also help you to understand what you are going through and how it is okay to feel this way.
You can also find ways of honoring your baby who has gained wings. Maybe it is by purchasing a new plant to nourish and grow in your home. Or by having a special keepsake made to remember your precious child. For me, it was a Willow Tree Forget-me-not figure and a Willow Tree Love of Learning figure.
And on October 15th every year, there is a Wave of Light event across the globe. Everyone who has lost a little one lights a candle at 7pm your time. This creates a wave of light of candles across the globe, for all the little ones looking down on their families. I light four every year, two for ours and two for a friend whose little babies I loved so much before they went home to Jesus.
I encourage you to join with me on October 15th and allow yourself to grieve your little one.
What if it doesn't get better?
Sometimes, you will feel shame. Shame that somehow, this is your fault. That you couldn’t keep your baby because of something you did. This one, I want to address.
While all the other emotions are typical with the grief process, shame may happen, but it is not something you should be dealing with regularly, and especially not on your own. Shame is when you not only feel guilty, it is when you feel that at your core you are a horrible human being not worthy of anything good.
If this happens, you need to talk to someone.
Talk to a close and trusted mentor, a pastor. Talk to a counselor or a therapist. But make sure you talk with someone who can understand and be helpful with what you are going through. Some folks will say things they think are helpful, but actually can make you feel worse. Talk with a friend who has gone through the loss of a child. Talk to a counselor who specializes in traumatic grief (not just depression) or infertility.
The important piece I want you to remember is this:
It is okay to not be okay; just don’t stay there alone.
My heart is with you, friends!
Alisha Sweyd, LMFT
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