Healing During a Time of Grief: Infant & Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month
October 20, 2016
There is no greater joy than welcoming a new baby into the world. While the majority of pregnancies result in a healthy baby boy or girl who thrives into childhood, thousands of families are faced with the trauma of losing a child. According to the March of Dimes, approximately one in four pregnancies in the U.S. ends in miscarriage.
October is Infant & Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, a time dedicated to women and families who have experienced the grief of losing an infant.
There are many reasons for infant and pregnancy loss including miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, sudden infant death syndrome and birth defects. Whatever the cause, losing a baby is a very trying event for a woman and her family filled with difficult feelings and tremendous isolation. It can be hard to know what to say to loved ones in this situation, but it is important that we support them and help them to heal.
It is important that those who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy or infant seek support. Such a traumatic loss may leave a woman and her family feeling shocked, cheated, guilty or angry. These feelings are normal. Talking to loved ones or support groups who have experienced similar losses can be helpful. Building a sense of community with others who can relate to their loss can help those grieving stem feelings of loneliness.
In addition to connecting with a support network, it is important to:
- Give yourself time to grieve. Everyone grieves in their own way. Give your partner time to get a handle on his or her method of grieving. Some women may want to become pregnant soon after the loss of a pregnancy or infant, while others may be scared of ever trying again. Taking time to grieve the loss that has been experienced can help couples think purposefully about the timing of their next try.
- Take care of your body. Plenty of rest and proper diet and exercise can help boost the spirits and revitalize a body that has been depleted both emotionally and physically.
- Talk to your doctor. Physicians can give families insight into their losses and clarity in a time that feels unsettling and unexplainable. Medical professionals also can explore alternative options or actions that can help give a couple the best chance at a healthy pregnancy and baby in the future.
If you have a friend or loved one who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss, consider the following:
- Be sensitive, yet supportive. All people express grief and loss differently. Some cling to family and friends, while others revert to isolation. Those coping with pregnancy or infant loss often feel like no one can understand their pain, which, in many ways, is true. Help loved ones grieve in their own ways, while offering support in any areas they are willing to accept it. This could be a shoulder to cry on, making a meal or offering to run errands.
- Remember their loss. There are many ways to remember a baby including blankets, footprints and memory boxes. These small mementos can help celebrate a life cut tragically short. Immediately after a loss, many families may be inclined to avoid conversation and mementos of their lost baby, so be sensitive and mindful of overwhelming them too soon. However, as time passes these keepsakes can help transition from grief to healing.
Wilson Medical Center is here to help anyone in our community coping with infant and pregnancy loss. Last Saturday, on October 15, the hospital sponsored a Wave of Light event in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
In addition, Wilson Medical Center has a monthly Grieving Together support group for families who have experienced the loss of a baby. The group meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the hospital. To learn more about this support group, visit wilsonmedical.com or call 252-399-8241.
Amy Browder, RN, BSN is a Clinical Lead Nurse in Labor & Delivery at Wilson Medical Center. She coordinates the annual Wave of Light event and monthly Grieving Together Support Group.