Maternal Mental Health Perinatal & Infant Loss & Grief
I am so very deeply sorry for your heartbreaking loss!
If you have suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, or loss of your baby, are you asking yourself these questions?
· If I had seen my doctor sooner, we could have saved
my baby. Why did I not call my doctor sooner?
· Why did this happen to my baby?
· How can I ever become a mother when my baby has died?
· What was the purpose of this tragedy in my family?
· I should have known that something was wrong.
· My dreams of having a family have ended with my baby dying. How can I possibly go on?
· I am constantly on an emotional rollercoaster. Will I ever feel like myself again?
· It is all my fault. I could have stopped this from happening.
One or two out of one hundred births are stillbirths or miscarriages after the 20th week. Unfortunately, our American culture and society view pregnancy loss as not a genuine type of loss. Likewise, due to this perception of expressing grief and loss, it is usually restricted to simply expressing one’s sympathy with a common cliché. Our culture often intellectualizes pregnancy and baby loss and does not hold a place for official mourning and grieving rituals. Usually, this leaves mothers and their partners feeling as if they have to carry the burden of mourning in private. They may think they must protect their family and friends from their loss.
Family and friends may try to console the grief and loss of your baby by stating typical clichés, including, “I know how you feel.” “At least they are in heaven.” Time heals all wounds.” “You are still young.” “You will have more children.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “You have your whole life ahead of you.” “You will have more children.” Although they have good intentions, these statements downplay, minimize and diminish your legitimate painful loss. The traumatic experience of losing a pregnancy or baby is incredibly devastating and heartbreaking.
Symptoms of Grief & Loss
· Anger, guilt, blame, shame
· Crying, loneliness, isolation, weeping
· Wanting to talk about the details of what happened
· Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, depression
· Loss of appetite, overeating, sleeplessness, irritability
· Inability to concentrate, comprehend, or remember
· Loss of goals and a sense of despair about the future
· Experiencing aching arms in wanting to hold the baby
· Grief and loss may last longer than anticipated
Acknowledging the loss of your dreams for a family is essential to the grieving process. Please do not feel that you are to blame or could have done something to prevent the loss. This was not your fault.
If you have suffered a trauma of pregnancy loss or a baby, talking to a therapist that can provide compassion and a safe space with a trusting relationship may help heal the traumatic issues associated with your grief and loss. Psychotherapy modalities, interventions, and clinical techniques provide essential treatment when working with mothers who have suffered a pregnancy loss.
Collaborating with a therapist provides a vital component in assisting mothers to grieve and mourn the loss of a pregnancy or baby. If you listen closely, these are not only stories that encompass grief and loss. These stories provide healing, hope, love, and resilience. A therapist can help provide an essential role in processing the suffering of the pregnancy or baby loss and walk alongside you to begin the journey of healing.
If You Are Experiencing a Crisis or Suicidal Thoughts
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself:
· Immediately call 911 or the local hospital emergency room
· Call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK
· (1-800-273-8255) 24 hours a day, seven days a week
· Chat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.
· Contact the Crisis Text Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week
· Text HELLO to 741741.
· Seek help from your primary care physician
· Call a mental health professional
· Reach out to your partner, close friend, or family.
· Contact a spiritual leader in your faith community.
Diamond, D. J., & Diamond, M. O. (2016). Understanding and treating the psychosocial consequences of pregnancy loss. In A. Wenzel (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of perinatal psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Frost, M., & Condon, J. T. (1996). The psychological sequelae of miscarriage: A critical review of the literature. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 30(1), 54–62. https://doi.org/10.3109/00048679609076072.
Grunebaum A, et al. (2017). Fetal death and stillbirth: Maternal care. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. LeDuff LD, et al. Transitional objects to facilitate grieving following perinatal loss. Advances in Neonatal Care: 17:347.
Haezell AEP, et al. Stillbirths: Economic and psychosocial consequences. The Lancet. 2017;387:604.
Lang, A, Fleiszer, AR, Duhamel, F, Sword, W, Gilbert, KR, Corsini-Munt, S. (2011). Perinatal Loss and Parental Grief: The Challenge of Ambiguity and Disenfranchised Grief. OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying. 63(2):183-196. doi:10.2190/OM.63.2.e.
Layne, L. L. (2003). Motherhood lost: A feminist account of pregnancy loss in America. New York, NY: Routledge.
Lobo RA, et al.(2017). Emotional aspects of gynecology: Depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, substance use disorders, “difficult” patients, sexual function, rape, intimate partner violence, and Grief. In: Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; https://www.clinicalkey.com.
Maguire M, et al. (2015). Grief after second-trimester termination for fetal anomaly: A qualitative study. Contraception ;91:234.
Markin, R. D. (2017). An introduction to the special section on psychotherapy for pregnancy loss: Review of issues, clinical applications, and future research direction. Psychotherapy, 54(4), 367-372. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pst0000134.
Markin, R. D. (in press). Cultural processes in psychotherapy for perinatal loss: Breaking the cultural taboo against perinatal Grief. Psychotherapy.
Shear MK, et al. Grief, and bereavement in adults: Clinical features. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search.