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Perinatal Bereavement: Grieving the Loss of a Baby

If you or a loved one has experienced the death of a baby, it is a tragic and frequently overwhelming experience. Many parents are shocked by the intensity of their grief and wonder when things will ever feel “OK” again.

Common experiences of grief

Grief is a normal reaction to the death of a loved one, and for many parents going through the death of a baby, it is also the loss of all the experiences and milestones that will be missed. It is common for parents and family members to feel a wide range of emotions - shocked, disoriented, sad, angry or numb. Know that you are not alone. While every parent grieves differently, there are some common experiences and needs for all grieving parents.

  • Exhaustion/Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Lack of strength/muscle weakness
  • Loss of Appetite/Decreased Appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Sleep Problems
  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • Decreased Self-Esteem
  • Denial
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Fluctuating mood swings
  • Guilt
  • Irritability
  • Preoccupation with deceased
  • Resentment
  • Sadness
  • Time Confusion
  • Isolation (emotional and physical) from friends, family and/or spouse
  • Redefining roles in life
  • Withdrawal from usual activity
  • Anger with God or a higher power
  • Longing for sense of connectedness/community
  • Questioning beliefs or faith
  • Searching for meaning in loss

Suggestions for dealing with grief

There is no one “right” way to grieve. It is a unique experience for everyone, but there are some general guidelines that can be helpful in living with grief.

  • Talk about the baby and your feelings with your partner, family and friends.
  • Write down thoughts and feelings about your baby in a journal or writing app. Write letters to your child.
  • Therapy can be a helpful outlet. Ask your social worker for some referrals.
  • Eat small regular meals and include a protein, fat and carbohydrate any time you can.
    • Apples and almonds
    • Crackers and cheese or peanut butter
    • Granola bar or beef jerky
    • Hummus and carrots or pita chips
  • Sip water throughout the day, ideally eight glasses total. Fill a large container as soon as you’re up in the morning to keep near you.
  • As soon as your doctor says it is okay for you, move your body daily. A short walk or stretching session can be simple ways to stay active.
  • Do your best to avoid these. Tobacco can cause palpitations, decreases circulation, and increases stomach acidity. Alcohol depresses body function and effects natural emotional expression.
  • Have a regular bedtime every evening and include a short bedtime routine that helps you wind down.
    • Use dim light before bed, and sleep in a dark, cool room. White noise may be helpful.
    • If you have trouble sleeping, try using an app with relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep (Relax Melodies or Slumber are apps you can try)
  • Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep total, including naps. You may need more sleep than that for a while to help with fatigue.
  • It can be helpful to read about grief to find support, validation and to know more of what to expect as you grieve.

    Book Recommendations:

    • "Empty Arms" by Pam Vredevelt
    • "Saying Goodbye" by Zoe Clark-Coates
    • "Tear Soup" by Pat Schwiebert - good for adults and kids
  • Avoid or delay putting off major life decisions (job changes, relationships, moves, etc.) if you can. Coping and problem solving are often reduced by grief, making decision making and judgment challenging.
  • Consider when and how you would like to store, keep or give away baby items. There is no “right” timeframe with this – whenever you are ready is the right time.
  • Accept help from others when offered. Have a loved one oversee organizing any offers for meals or childcare (using a care calendar can help take the planning off your plate).
  • Have 2-3 people identified who will support you and listen when you need to talk.
  • Keep talking with your partner. Give each other grace and space to feel and grieve differently.
  • Attending a support group, either in person or online, can be helpful to connect with other parents also grieving a child.
  • There are many ways to keep your baby’s memory alive and present with you. Completing a baby book, planting a memorial tree or small garden, creating artwork, finding a small area in your home to display a photograph are all ways you can incorporate your baby’s memory into your life, among other ideas.

Additional support

For therapy referrals or additional grief support requests, please contact Kara Hansen LSCSW, LCSW, PMH-C in the Fetal Health Center at (816) 983-6895.