By Fran Solomon
When a baby dies before it is born or soon after birth, parents face a difficult emotional task: they must try to say goodbye to someone they had little chance to know. They must accept that a life has ended, even though it barely began.
Guilt is a common reaction to loss of a child and can be particularly acute for parents who lose an infant or an unborn baby. Parents of unborn babies who die often mistakenly blame themselves for the death. The mother may believe she harmed her baby. Both parents may tell themselves they should have sensed something was wrong. While this is a normal reaction, eventually one must find compassion for themselves and realize that this was not their fault. They were not responsible.
Many parents feel overcome by a tremendous sense of emptiness. Pregnancy brings with it a number of expectations, dreams and fantasies – parents spend months planning not just the birth of their child, but also his or her life in all the years to come. Now, just as both parents are emotionally preparing to welcome a child into the world, they must instead accept the loss of both the baby and all of their expectations for their future.
For parents of infants, they will have a different set of triggers and potentially painful situations in the months following their baby’s death. Their home may be filled with baby clothes, bottles and a crib. If they have registered with any new mother websites or infant sites, subscribed to any magazines or registered for a shower, they are likely to receive coupons for baby food or formula and more in the mail. A baby magazine may show up as a trial subscription. Photographers may call and offer to take baby pictures. Just walking past the infant-wear department in a store may initiate tears of mourning.
Ways to Cope
It may be difficult to resolve the grief one feels. Even before one can accept their baby’s death, they must accept his or her life — their existence as a person. No matter how brief a baby’s life, parents have just as much right to grieve as any other bereaved parent. In fact, it is an integral part of the mourning and healing process.
There are many ways to remember and to celebrate a baby’s life. President Ronald Reagan officially announced October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and at 7pm on October 15th, one can join the worldwide Wave of Light by lighting a candle and keeping it burning bright. HealGrief.org has set up an online memorial in honor of this day so people from all over the world have a destination to light an eternal, virtual candle: https://healgrief.org/national-pregnancy-and-infant-loss-awareness-day-10152014/. This gallery is offered free of charge for those wanting to remember and honor a loved one’s life.
For more information and resources, visit www.HealGrief.org
Fran Solomon is the creator of www.healgrief.org