Shock And Loss
There is no way of knowing, and nothing can prepare a couple for the sudden loss of their baby during pregnancy. Stillbirth is particularly difficult as it happens much further into the pregnancy than miscarriage. Having felt movement, a bond with the growing baby develops and the mother becomes very attached to her baby, even before birth. She, consequently, feels the loss more profoundly and intensely than those around her.
The Symptoms of Grief
Grief, the most common emotion experienced by parents who have had a stillbirth, is difficult to cope with and presents itself in many and varied ways. It is very normal to feel the symptoms of grief that can occur at the time of a stillbirth, including loneliness and a feeling of isolation, a loss of appetite, lack of concentration and even a loss of memory at times. Guilt can be overwhelming as questions plague the mind about things done or not done. Fear of having caused the stillbirth and the added fear that it might happen again should another pregnancy occur can be exhausting and incapacitating. The path of grieving includes anger and blame often accompanied by crying bouts as answers to questions may not be available, or seem inadequate. There are times when the feeling of hopelessness and despair that can overtake some women, leads them to depression.
Physiological Loss As Well
The emotional turmoil of numbness, shock and disbelief are not all that has to be contended with – there is also the physiological impact. A woman’s body is still in the act of pregnancy or post-partum after a stillbirth. She feels like she’s been through labor and her breasts are producing milk. These processes are very hard to cope with and are a reminder of her loss. This may not feel like the time to do anything positive, but perhaps by turning the pain to memories, the healing process can be hastened.
The Healing Process
Some women want to hold their babies, even dressing them in the clothing they would have taken them home in. Foot and hand prints, pictures or a lock of hair can also be solid remembrances of the child lost. A memorial service or blessing can also open the door to grieve the loss of the baby. The fact is that losing a baby in stillbirth is the same as losing anyone who has died. Talking about their baby and experiences can often help a woman to move forward. A support group or professional counseling may be useful if there is depression.
While some people may not understand her grief or expect that a woman should just “get over it”, the reality is that a child has been lost and it may take a long time to recover. Taking whatever time is necessary to heal is so important. While the impact remains, hopefully over time and with support, and with the memories of the baby, a woman can cope with her loss.