ExpertBeacon Logo

Creatively coping with the loss of a baby is essential for healing

Elizabeth Berrien Author of Creative Grieving: A Hip Chick’s Path from Loss to Hope Co-founder of The Respite: A Centre for Grief & Hope Elizabeth Berrien

Losing a baby is one of the most devastating losses that a person can experience. It goes against the natural order of life and death. A parent should never have to bury their child, but sadly, it is something that happens more often than many people realize.

As a parent, it can be very difficult to escape the feeling that you should have been able to do something--even though it was out of your control. Along with the loss of your child, you lose all of the hopes and dreams that you had for him or her. You may have already envisioned what your child might have been like, as well as who he or she would have become. Consequently, it is also about grieving the loss of your perceived future and the memories that you would have made together.

It is possible to grieve the loss of your child in a way that allows you to honor his or her life, no matter how short. Even though the grieving process is extremely difficult, there are creative ways to move through your pain with comfort and support. By allowing yourself to grieve in a supported and creative manner, you can find new ways to keep living your life, while always honoring the love and memory of your child in your heart.


Do

Do create a memory book

Keeping a baby book or memory album can be a beautiful way to remember the time that you did have with your baby. Even if your child was stillborn, you can include cards that were given to you during a baby shower or memorial service. You might recall special moments during your pregnancy and write a story about them; describe how you honor special dates or anniversaries that come along as time passes; and include photos, footprints and handprints. Having an album can be a great source of comfort and allows you to share your memories with others.

Do develop a ritual

Creating a special ritual to honor your baby on his/her birthday or on the anniversary of the death can be a wonderful way to keep your baby’s memory alive. You might wish to have your friends or relatives gather together, release balloons with messages, visit a special place, plant a tree in honor of your baby or even have a cake. The possibilities are endless. It can be very healing to celebrate the blessings that your baby brought into your life, no matter how brief.

Do seek support

It can be extremely beneficial to find a support group for parents who have lost babies. When you have experienced this type of loss, it is easy to feel as if you are the only one going through it. However, there are many mothers and fathers coping with similar pain, and it can be helpful to connect with them and learn from each other. You might discover new ideas for coping with your loss, get the chance to share your feelings in a compassionate setting and even gain new, supportive friendships. If you prefer one-on-one support, there are also many counselors who specialize in helping individuals through the loss of a child.

Do remember your baby

Remembering your baby in a way that feels comforting to you is critical. He or she will always be a part of you, and his/her life and death has transformed you forever. Remember your baby by speaking about him/her with people whom you trust or wear a piece of jewelry with your child’s name on it. If you had hand and footprints made, keep these framed on your wall or have a piece of jewelry made from a cast of your baby’s fingerprint or toeprint. Plant a garden in your baby’s honor or create a memorial spot. Writing letters to your child or keeping a journal about your thoughts and feelings about him/her is also a special way to feel connected.

Do nurture yourself

It is vital to take care of yourself while grieving. If you are a mother who is recently postpartum, your body deserves a great deal of self-care. Allow family and friends to prepare healthy meals so that you don’t have to exert the effort. Drinking a lot of water is also essential. Even though it can be very difficult to even think about self-care, coping with grief can become even more difficult if your health is poor. You have been through enough, and you are worthy of self-nurturing and care.


Don't

Do not listen to what everyone else says

After losing a baby, some people say ignorant things. At times, it can be hard to avoid, but it is possible to put a protective barrier around yourself. If you know of anyone who might be insensitive to what you’re going through, be sure to distance yourself from them for a while. People who care about you--and simply want you to heal--might try to give you advice and have opinions on what they think you should do next. Unless it is someone who also has lost a child, you may find yourself getting offended or upset by someone else’s comments--even if they mean well. It is most important to listen to yourself and your needs.

Do not make quick decisions

Try not to rush into any quick decisions while grieving. There may be some things that you cannot wait on, but unless it is a pressing issue, give yourself time to navigate through the early months of grieving. If you are wondering what to do with special items that belonged to your baby, give yourself time to grieve and make decisions later regarding how to move forward. You may want to pack some things away before determining what you might want to hold onto. You will know when the time is right to make certain choices.

Do not be unkind to yourself

If you are unable to access compassion for yourself while grieving, your path through grief will be even more difficult. You may be holding onto feelings, such as anger, guilt or shame. It is important to remember that you are only human--and that you deserve care and support. If you are a mother who lost a baby to stillbirth or within the early months, you might feel uncomfortable in your postpartum body, especially without a baby to nurture. But it is vital to remember that your body went through its changes for a reason and it will take time to feel comfortable in your body again. If you don’t treat yourself with kindness and understanding, you will be holding yourself back from the healing process.

Do not try to rush through your grief

Grieving the loss of a baby is not something that can be rushed. You have suffered an immense loss and a huge life transition. If you put your feelings on the back burner or try to convince yourself that you are fine when you are not, you may become stuck in your grief or have difficulty trying to heal. While today’s society moves at a very fast pace, that doesn’t change the fact that the grief process is slow-moving. It may take many months or years to move through grief and eventually feel more functional, or able to access feelings of joy and happiness again. This is okay and completely normal. Your grief should be honored and respected, which includes giving yourself time to process your emotions.

Do not deny yourself help

Sometimes it can be tough to accept help from others, but when grieving the loss of a child, support is tremendously important. You may find that you have difficulty preparing meals or keeping up with daily tasks. If you don’t let friends or family step in to help, you can suffer from exhaustion--especially if you have other children to care for--or end up losing control of your health, finances and other necessities that help life flow smoothly. Don’t try to take care of everything on your own and attempt to be superhuman. This is a time to hand some responsibilities over to others, so that you can focus on essentials, such as self-care and healing.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Losing a baby is one of the most difficult losses that anyone can experience. It is incredibly painful and life-transforming. However, it is important to know that you are not alone and that it is possible to grieve in a healthy and supported way. There are many creative ways to move through the grieving process. This includes unique ways to honor and remember your baby, such as through a memory book, developing a ritual, or celebrating a birthday or anniversary. Your baby will always be a part of you and held close in your heart. Remembering your baby, while practicing self-care and compassion, can help bring you comfort on your journey to hope and healing.


More expert advice about Loss of a Child

Photo Credits: A month of pictures Mrs. Flinger via Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Elizabeth BerrienAuthor of Creative Grieving: A Hip Chick’s Path from Loss to Hope Co-founder of The Respite: A Centre for Grief & Hope

Elizabeth Berrien is the co-founder of the non-profit The Respite: A Centre for Grief & Hope (www.TheRespite.org) and also the founder of the organization Soul Widows (www.SoulWidows.org) for widows age 60 and under. Her journey began in 2008 w...

View Full ProfileRecent Articles