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Coping with Stillbirth Loss: When your baby is born still

by Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

It can be absolutely devastating to lose a baby.  The dreams and excitement of months and even years are dashed, leaving you with feelings of loss and overpowering grief. 


The loss of your baby may be affecting you in many different ways.  Most likely, you’re experiencing at least a few of these responses:

  • Sadness.
  • Unexplained crying.
  • A loss of appetite.
  • Loneliness and isolation.
  • Guilt.
  • Anger and blame.
  • A sense of despair.
  • A lack of concentration or memory.
  • Helplessness.
  • Hopelessness.

No advice can take away the feelings of pain and loss you’re feeling right now.  But here are some suggestions that can hopefully help you begin to deal with the pain and begin to look toward the future.

Let yourself grieve.
It’s important that you allow yourself to experience the emotions that are so strong within you.  One of the worst things you can do is to bottle up what you’re feeling and hold it all inside.  You might be tempted to deny your pain or even tell yourself that this experience is somehow less devastating than the loss of an older child or another loved one.  Resist this temptation.  Acknowledge your pain for what it is, and let yourself experience all of the emotions that are bombarding you right now.  Doing so is an important step in the healing process. 

Tell your story.
Find ways, however you can, to verbalize what you’re going through.  Journal.  Talk to friends.  Join a support group.  See a therapist.  As difficult as telling your story may seem right now, it’s important that you find ways to express your feelings and talk about this painful moment in your life.

Be understanding of your partner’s way of grieving.
Not everyone grieves the same way.  Be patient and allow your partner to grieve, too, even if he expresses his feelings differently from how you are.  Be there for each other, and make yourselves available to listen.  Also, watch for signs of depression so you can take any necessary steps to help yourselves and each other deal with the situation in as healthy a way as possible. 

Find a way to honor your baby.
Whether it’s a memorial service or preserving something special you were saving for your baby, make sure you find a way to honor the special place your child will always hold in your heart.

Prepare yourself for an onslaught of advice.
Well-meaning friends and family members will likely bombard you with advice that may not always be sensitive or helpful.  When you hear comments like "You're young; you'll have another," or "It just wasn't meant to be," be patient with advice-givers—they don’t really know what to say.  But be honest, too.  There’s nothing at all wrong with saying something like, “I appreciate your advice, but I need to deal with this in my own way right now.”

Seek help from a professional.
If you find yourself struggling with your emotions in significant ways, or if you can tell that you’re exhibiting signs of depression– feelings of deep oppressive sadness, problems sleeping, trouble concentrating, restlessness, loss of interest in sex, thoughts of suicide – then you should visit with a professional about what you’re going through.  A mental health professional can help you deal with your feelings in a positive way that moves you towards health and healing.

Don’t give up.
It’s generally the case that one stillbirth does not predict another.  In fact, researchers say that on average, the chances of a stillbirth occurring in a second pregnancy is approximately a 3% chance – which means that there is a 97% chance that your future pregnancy will not end in stillbirth.  So assuming that your doctor says that you are physically able to conceive and deliver another child, there is no real reason you should worry that your childbearing days are over.  Instead, look to the future while dealing with the present.  Do all you need can to deal with this painful moment in your life now.  Then, when you’re ready, turn to tomorrow and begin dreaming and planning again.

Other articles you may like

Nine Ways to Help Children to Cope With Loss and Grief
The biggest problem children have in coping with their grief is the inattention and lack of awareness adults have in the need to talk about it, express all kinds of feelings around it, and to help children to find a way to compensate for the loss.

Helping a Friend Through a Miscarriage
When you have a friend that has had a miscarriage there is a lot you can do to help her. Many times we are afraid to say anything because we don’t want to say the wrong thing but not saying anything at all can be just as bad.

Stillbirth Message Board
Support forum for moms who have had a stillbirth.


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