“There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.”Unknown.
Baby Loss Awareness Week, culminating with the global “Wave of Light” on 15th October 2020, was an emotional reminder of the high number of women (and men) affected by baby loss. Losing a baby is something you never forget. Whether you lost your baby in the early stages of pregnancy or suffered the agony of a stillbirth or a neo-natal death, whether this happened recently or many years ago the pain and grief for the baby you lost can be overwhelming and difficult to move on from.
Many women describe feeling incredibly isolated and lonely after losing a baby and this can be amplified by family and friends not understanding or inadvertently saying the wrong thing. You may also have a partner who is handling things differently which can put pressure on your relationship and increases your sense of being alone. Yes, you may be able to try again, or already have other children, but you wanted this baby, and it is this baby that you lost and this baby that you are grieving for.
Your feelings might be all over the place and range from being numb, exhausted and distracted to feeling angry, panicky or constantly on the brink of tears. This is completely normal. Give yourself permission to feel these feelings and don’t discount them. Give yourself time to grieve, you not only lost your baby but all the hopes for the future that were tied up in that tiny life.
It’s really important to be kind to yourself during this time. Let of of guilt and of blaming yourself. Taking responsibility for something that was beyond your control, makes no sense and can leave you tied up in a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions. Make sure you look after your physical needs by eating well and getting enough sleep helps your body recover and taking time to do things that bring you pleasure is so important for your well-being. Have a bath, go for a walk, read a good book or get your nails done, whatever works for you. It won’t make the grief go away but it will give you a rest from thinking about it.
Let other people in, don’t shut them out. You may feel that people don’t understand but don’t close yourself off from those who love you and are offering you support. You don’t have to talk about what’s happened if you don’t want to, just let them show you they care by being with you or offering practical support. If you want to talk (and as a counsellor I would say this can be one of the most healing things you can do!) find safe people who aren’t going to discount your feelings to talk to. You could join a support group for others who have been through the same thing or an online community. Consider finding a counsellor who can support you as you process your feelings in a helpful way.
Finally, find a way to say goodbye. You may not want to, but at some point you will be ready to accept your loss. This doesn’t mean that you will forget, just that you ready to move forward. When you are ready, find something that works for you. You could write a letter to your baby or plant a tree, or maybe just release a balloon. Whatever it is, the act of physically marking your loss can release suppressed emotions and help to bring you to a place of acceptance.
Grieving can be messy, unpredictable and difficult, often it feels like two steps forward and one step back, but with the right support you can get through this. You will never forget the baby you lost, but you can learn to manage the grief and enjoy life again.
For some people, loosing a baby can trigger mental health problems such as clinical depression or acute anxiety. If you think this may apply to you then please get help. You can speak to your GP or contact a mental health professional such as a counsellor or therapist.