Grief after the death of a baby
Grief is very individual. Everyone involved in your baby's care will be grieving in their own way.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Feelings can vary from ambivalence in one person to profound grief in another. Some people find themselves overwhelmed by a number of feelings, including shock, sadness, denial, guilt and anger. Others might experience physical reactions like nausea, headaches, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating as well as generally feeling unwell. Others again, may feel numb and unable to cry, but feel that they should.
Some people find that it takes weeks or months before they start to feel ‘normal’ and able to return to daily activities. Occasions such as the baby’s expected birth date, the anniversary of the miscarriage or birth, a subsequent pregnancy or other significant family events, may bring back more intense feelings of grief.
It may be helpful to anticipate occasions that might remind you of your baby’s death. Try putting some rituals in place with your family and loved ones so that the grief is acknowledged. Some families have a place where they can put flowers or light a candle each day; some have a special place in the garden where they can sit and remember. How you remember your baby will be unique to you and your family.
If you find your grief is overwhelming or is stopping you from doing the things you need to do, or doesn’t diminish with time, it may be useful for you to speak with a trained counsellor or another parent who has gone through a similar experience.
Many parents are concerned that their emotional and physical reactions to grief are different from their partner’s. This can be especially difficult if you feel that your partner doesn’t understand, or care about what has happened. It can be hard to look after your relationship if you are overwhelmed by your feelings of grief and loss, but it may help to keep talking, openly and honestly about how you feel, and what both your needs are at this time. It is also important to listen; this may be very hard at first but will eventually become easier. Sometimes it is not possible for you or your partner to meet each other’s support needs, and speaking with other friends, family or professional supports may be helpful.
It is often hard to know how children are affected by death because their reactions can be so very different to those of adults. A child can seem to be upset one minute and then be happy to go and play the next. It’s important to remember that children use play to understand the world they live in and to make sense of things. Children’s grief may come out in their behaviour; some may become more clingy or unsettled, and others may be aggressive or disruptive.
What can you do?
- Many families tell us that being open and honest with their children was helpful.
- You can include your children in activities to remember your baby. This gives them the opportunity to acknowledge the baby and respond and grieve in their own way.
- Bereavement workers and social workers can be very helpful in helping you to work with your other children.
Reactions from family, friends & colleagues
Family and friends may respond in different ways to your loss. They may feel upset and powerless to know how to help you. Sometimes they don’t know what to say or they will make comments that you find unhelpful and hurtful. Friends and family can be very helpful for the first few weeks, but some will expect you to return to normal soon after. This can be very upsetting, and at this time you may need to remind them that things are still difficult for you. Professional support organisations can help, and have useful information to give to your family and friends.
When there has been a multiple pregnancy, parents can be divided between mourning and making funeral arrangements for the baby or babies who have died, and keeping vigil at a sick baby’s cot. Sometimes joy at the birth of a healthy baby, and sadness at the loss of another baby occur at the same time which can be a very confusing and distressing time.
The staff will support you while you are in hospital and your bereavement worker will stay in contact with you for a time after you go home. You may have a lot of questions about what happened and why your baby or babies have died. There will be many opportunities to talk to medical staff who will ensure that you are kept informed and involved throughout your care and the care of your babies.
When you are single
Even with a high level of support from family and friends, it can be a very isolating experience to be grieving the death of your baby on your own. It is important that you are able to share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. There are professional supports available to you, some of which are available twenty four hours a day.
The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.