Have you experienced a pregnancy loss? Grief is normal, although it can feel overwhelming.
You have recently experienced a pregnancy loss. Perhaps you miscarried, perhaps your baby was stillborn, or perhaps you have experienced the shock of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Whichever it may be, you lost your baby.
Your grief and pain are overwhelming. You are feeling this grief on a body level. Your stomach may be upset, you might have diarrhea, joint pains, or headaches. You may feel as if you are choking, like you can;t get air. You could be looking for your baby throughout the house, or thinking that you hear your baby crying. These are called seeking behaviors and are normal grief reactions. You are not going crazy. And you are not alone.
Grief is a universal and enduring emotion, felt by people of all cultures. Grief behaviors have even been recorded in animal studies, including geese and elephants. Human grief reactions were first formerly studied and recorded in 1944 by Erich Lindemann, only about sixty years ago. It is now widely recognized that grief reactions occur at a mindbody level, inclusive of painful emotions, irrational psychological thoughts and actual physical body pains.
Only recently has there been a willingness to acknowledge pregnancy loss as an event that causes very real grief. Sometimes it is difficult to discuss “pregnancy loss” as it covers a broad range of experiences, including miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and medically induced abortion. With this definition, one in four women experience a pregnancy loss in their lifetime. So there are many women and their families affected by the grief of pregnancy loss.
Women and their families suffer on a broad spectrum of of sadness, grief and shame when faced with perinatal loss. The bereaved parents often think they might have been able to avert the death. The persistent and irrational thoughts go something like: if only I had been more careful, a better parent, more vigilant, well, I could have prevented the death. These thoughts persist even when assured by doctors that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the death. Parents, particularly men, often experience a strong sense of survivor guilt, feeling badly that they are alive while the infant died. Post-traumatic stress symptoms can persist for many years after the loss. ScienceDaily recently reports that Emma Blackmore and her colleagues at the University of Rochester found that anxiety and depression caused by miscarriage can last for years, even after the subsequent birth of a healthy infant. And fifty percent of mothers who suffer perinatal loss become pregnant. Thus, perinatal loss is a risk factor for a postpartum mood disorders and affects many, many women.
You can see that you are not alone. There is help available. You can go to your local doctor or therapist for assistance. If you are feeling you need immediate help, please contact Befrienders Worldwide . Befrienders Worldwide is a worldwide resource dedicated to reducing emotional suffering and suicide prevention. Dr. Joanne Cacchiatore's blog Becoming is a resource for those needing connection and information. Remember you are not alone, seek the help you deserve.
Kersting, A., Dorsch, M., Kreulich, C., Reuttmann, M., Ohrmann, P. Baez, E., & Arolt, V. (2005). Trauma and grief 2 -7 years after termination of pregnancy because of fetal anomalies. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, March2005, 26(1), 1- 9. Retrieved March 9, 2011 Proquest Databases.
Worden, J. W. (2002). Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy. New York: Springer Publishing Co.