October was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. What does this mean to you? Maybe you saw posts from family and friends on social media with statistics or asking you to remember their child. How can you help?
You may be a parent whose baby recently died that is overwhelmed as you try to navigate life after loss. I found myself in this exact position not so long ago. As a mother of five children, but only three living, I have answers to many of the questions you might have.
What Is A Loss Mom?
A loss mom is loosely defined as a mother whose child of any age has died. In this article, we will be focusing specifically on baby loss.
Baby loss includes miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, a blighted ovum, termination for medical reasons, stillbirth, neonatal/infant death, embryo loss, and implantation failure. This seems like a long list because it is. It is almost guaranteed that, whether or not they are open about it, you know a loss mom.
It can happen to anyone. Two lines on a pregnancy test do not always mean that you bring your baby home. Unfortunately, this is a reality that many moms come to know only after it happens to them.
Each loss is different, and each person grieves differently. The five stages of grief we hear so much about are irrelevant in a conversation such as this.
In the early days after my baby died, I found myself in a fog. There was complete shock followed by unimaginable pain. Witnessing death is traumatic on its own, but when it is your own baby it’s on a new level. Completing even the simplest task can seem impossible.
Something you may not realize is that even though a baby dies, a mother still goes through the same postpartum period as a mother with a living child. Our bodies don’t get the message. Not only are you attempting to live in a world that you no longer recognize, but you are doing so while constantly being reminded your baby SHOULD be here.
Grief does not fade into the sunset as time goes on. Oftentimes it intensifies. Grief changes shapes and coping methods change, but the core of the pain remains.
Society expects a mother who experiences loss to tuck grief away and get back to life. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t talk about it. Stay positive and you’ll get better.
It’s not practical, not helpful, and it leaves mourning mothers left trying to figure out who she is now and how to live again.
Loss Mom Community
When a baby dies, a mother is usually provided with a couple of handouts at the hospital in hopes of providing her with helpful resources. Most times the handouts end up in the trash.
No one understands a loss mom like another loss mom. Once I decided to publicly tell my story of loss, I stumbled upon the greatest support system I have ever known. Enter the loss mom community.
At the moment a child dies, their mother joins a club they never wanted to be a part of. We say, it’s the worst club with the best members. Loss moms have a connection unlike any other. It is a sisterhood.
Along my journey, I have met the most kind, loving, and empathetic women I have ever known. I know they are there no matter what. Day or night, I never have to walk alone. They love and remember my babies right along with me.
There are local loss support groups you can join by conducting a Google search or you can take to the internet. Instagram has been my platform of choice. Many grievers make separate pages from their personal social media to post content they may not feel comfortable posting otherwise. If you are a loss mom looking for someone to talk to, do a quick search and you will find thousands of other moms just like you.
The reason this community has been so helpful to me is because of a lack of support in other places. An ugly truth about baby loss is that most mothers have little to no true support. Even best friends and close family fall silent or respond inappropriately. People quit showing up.
The silence is deafening. They forget our babies or worse yet don’t think of them as children at all. People have unreasonable expectations of bereaved mothers. Lack of sensitivity is the norm.
A lack of support makes a grieving mom’s journey that much tougher. They are no longer just mourning the loss of their child. They feel angry, hurt, and isolated from the world around them.
Many withdraw further from relationships because of the strain. It causes bitterness and negativity of epic proportions.
How To Support Bereaved Moms
1. Be Present
This doesn’t have to be a physical presence. This means checking in on the family. It can be in person, a phone call, or a text message. Letting them know you care about them, and their baby means so much.
They may not answer you and that’s okay. Keep checking in after everyone else stops. Grief lasts forever and your absence is noticed.
2. Don’t Use Platitudes Or Offensive Statements
Although everyone is different, there are some things that are universally inappropriate to say to a loss mom. Statements such as: “Everything happens for a reason,” “Time heals all wounds, “You can have more kids,” and any statement that begins with “At least…” are all inappropriate.
Also, use statements of a religious vein with caution. Not everyone shares the same faith and what may be comforting to one person can send another into a rage.
A simple, “I’m so sorry.” Or “I’m here for you.” Is pretty safe with most people.
Many times, the best thing you can do is listen to a loss mom when she talks about her baby. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
We are proud of our babies. We love them and think about them just as much as living children. Being heard and validated goes a long way.
4. Remember Our Babies
Write down important milestone dates. Things like due dates, birthdays, and the date of their death are all times you can check in on mom and do something to honor their child.
It means the world to us. Simply lighting a candle or telling us you’re thinking of them at any time is one of the greatest gestures. Talking about them is welcomed. Our babies matter.
5. Help With Basics
In the immediate aftermath of a baby’s passing, things like providing meals, helping with household chores, running errands, and helping with older children can be a lifesaver for Mom and Dad.
No matter how bad you think child loss might be, it’s worse than you imagine. There is no universal playbook for grief. Being aware of the things you say and being present in the life of a bereaved mother is key to support.
Ultimately, grieving moms want to be heard and for their babies to be remembered. That isn’t too much to ask. If you are a loss mom looking for support, finding your community truly can make all the difference in the world. We cannot change the hearts of others, but we can walk together through the greatest storm and light a path for those who come after us.
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