The Silent Grief-Dealing with Perinatal Loss
Joy, Excitement, Anticipation, Hope, and Longing are all feelings that are felt with preparing to have children. Giving birth and having a family is something we talk about when we are children. We even talk about it when we are dating. “How many kids do you want?” After marriage the questions begin “When do you want to start trying?” Walking through the baby section at Target and seeing the sea of Pink and Blue items. “Boy or Girl?” Stopping by the maternity section wondering when it’s time to purchase those stretchy pants. Then comes the day when you get that first positive pregnancy test. Excitement and Fear come into play together. Excitement for the little person growing inside of you and fear that you have no control over what happens.
Then comes the choice part of “When do we tell?” We know that miscarriages are common. There is research that supports that. For some reason society has told us that we should not tell anyone until after the first trimester. Why? With miscarriages comes grief. Utter, horrible pain and loss. Feelings of injustice, betrayal, and robbed of seeing your child alive. Why do we feel the need to go through that pain alone? If no one knows you were pregnant, then no one knows you are grieving. Then there is the unhelpful advice that follows that is just as painful, “At least it was early.” No. There is no bad or worse scenario. Loss of a child hurts no matter when it happens. I have worked with women in their 70’s and 80’s who still grieve the loss of their unborn children. The connection we feel, the bond, the instant love, is very real. It is meant to be. Having that bond is what makes us want to take care of our baby and protect it.
Then there are the women that make it past the first trimester. Thinking all is well and nothing to fear, only to have something go terribly wrong. Genetic abnormalities, pre-term labor, or unknown loss of life for their child. These women enter the hospital only to come home to rooms full of baby items with no new baby. Although more people may know about the loss, they may less likely know what to say. “You’ll have more children” may sound like it gives the family hope. But instead it negates the loss of that one family member they had too short of a time with.
Perinatal loss is a real grief. Women often do not talk about it with others for risk of feeling damaged, isolated, and misunderstood. There is a privacy that protects this grief that often keeps them in silence. This grief has milestones just like every other. Due dates, anniversaries, death dates, Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc. Their grief must get to a place of acceptance before they can truly heal and move forward. Each person is different in their grief. If your friend or loved one has suffered Perinatal loss ask them what they need and what to hear. Remember that often this is not something women or men talk about openly. When asking couples if they are planning on having children or planning on having another child, remember they could have suffered a loss they are not telling you about. If they do disclose a loss to you, instead of trying to turn it into something positive, just offer your condolences and a tearful hug.