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Perinatal loss: coping with the unthinkable

The unexpected loss of a pregnancy or baby can be a devastating experience. And while the statistics mean you’re not alone, the grief you are feeling is unique to you. Everyone grieves in their own way, and the ripples of this loss will extend from you and your partner to your families and beyond. Unfortunately, the pain that occurs with this loss can also be isolating, as well-meaning people, unsure of how to help, revert to conventional platitudes along the lines of, ‘It wasn’t meant to be’ or, ‘You can always try again’.

What is perinatal loss?

Perinatal loss is defined as the death of a baby during pregnancy, birth or the first month after birth. It includes miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth and neo-natal deaths. It also includes termination and termination for medical reasons. If you are living with any of these experiences, you may be overwhelmed by the profound and complex grief that accompanies your loss. You may be feeling sad, numb, angry or isolated. Your feelings may involve a sense of biological failure or a loss of self. Your grief may not only be focused on your present pain, but also on an imagined future that is now not possible.

Coping with perinatal grief

The magnitude of this heart-breaking loss can be overwhelming for parents. It may make you feel desperate for another pregnancy or as though you could never survive the anxiety of becoming pregnant again. You may struggle to make sense of your loss if there is no medical explanation for your baby’s death. Loss of this kind is likely to involve lifelong grief, but that does not mean you aren’t strong enough to cope with it.

If you are experiencing perinatal loss, you can honour your baby and make space for your grief in a number of ways:

  • Firstly, remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and how you are grieving today may be different from how you will grieve next week or next year.
  • Remember as well that your partner is also grieving, but that their grief may look entirely different from yours.
  • Give yourself permission to sit with your emotions as they arise – without judging or trying to stifle what you are feeling.
  • Take care of yourself with nourishing food, gentle exercise and (as much as possible) adequate sleep.
  • Talk about what you are experiencing with someone you trust.
  • Try to accept practical help if offered to you (whether that is a load of washing or a baked casserole or someone taking the dog for a walk).
  • If you’re ready to, connect with others and offer support to families with similar experiences, accepting support in return.
  • You may find it helpful to express your grief by ‘doing something’ – constructing a memorial garden, for instance, or writing a letter to your baby.
  • Allow yourself to be joyful when these feelings start to reemerge. Remember that your life is still there to be lived, and that celebrating moments of happiness does not dishonour your loss.

Contact a Geelong psychologist who understands

Mourning the death of a baby doesn’t have to be something you do alone, behind closed doors. Working with a grief counsellor can be a powerful way to rebuild your sense of self and your personal resilience. At Happy Minds Psychology, we comprehend the devastation of miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn loss, and we can assist you on your journey as you process your feelings of grief and anxiety. Reach out to the team at Happy Minds Psychology on 📞 0431 666 050, fill out our contact form to request a call back or email us at appointments@happyminds.net.au.

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