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Express your emotion

November 21, 2012

In addition to their loss, some women will suffer the indignity of mastitis, despite taking the anti-milk tablet. It feels so cruel, having lost your baby, to have your body betray you and continue producing milk. The advice given to me was to express some of it, to relieve the pressure, but only a small amount.

When it comes to emotions, many people seem to take the same approach – you can talk about your loss, but only a little bit. However, your second grief task is to express your emotions – ALL of them.

The more you suppress your grief, your emotions, the worse it is. Not only can suppressing your emotions result in you becoming physically ill, but it makes your grief journey longer and more painful to bear, because you’re in it alone.

There is wisdom in the (Biblical) saying that trouble shared is trouble halved.

Many well-meaning individuals will try to help you move on by saying the most painful things. They are genuinely well-intentioned. They genuinely want to help. They just don’t have a clue how their insensitive comments actually make things worse.

“It could be worse…”

“You’re still young – you can have more.”

“At least you have your first/ other child/children.”

These sorts of statements only result in denying that you are grieving, that you have lost a child. Part of the reason people say these things is because they don’t know how to deal with emotion. This may be because they have their own deep-seated emotions that they can’t express (for whatever reason, and they could be on something completely unrelated). However, seeing others’ deep emotion makes them uncomfortable because they start to tap into their own pain, and they don’t know how to deal with their own pain.

You can help them by being honest about what you feel, and about what you need from them.

Scream, cry, rant, rave, break plates, write, draw, paint, run, swim… do whatever it is that gives you that emotional release.

If you struggle to do this in the presence of others, or if doing so really does create difficulties that others can’t deal with, then do it alone. Go away for a few days to a B&B and allow yourself the space to express what is inside you.

Initially, it may feel as if you’re going to get stuck in this grief task, as if your pain will never end. You may find yourself thinking that it’s not possible to cry as much as you have – can there possibly be any water left in your body to cry out?! It may feel as if you’re falling into the deepest, darkest pit, with no stairs and no rigging to climb out. The depth of your emotions may be scary to face, which is why it’s helpful to have someone else around.

But this depth of emotion, this depth of pain – it does recede. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Common wisdom says it takes about 2 years. For some it’s shorter, for others longer. Again, the length of time depends on how you progress through each of these tasks.

Next post we’ll look at the third task.

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Accept the reality

November 14, 2012

In traditional parlance, this grief task is called ‘acceptance’. It’s the only one of the 5 tasks that has a similar name, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less revolutionary.

When you lose a baby, especially if it’s a miscarriage, you go through a period of numbness, a sense of unreality. This can’t be happening to me. I’m going to wake up and find this has all been a horrible dream. Over time though, you start to realise that this is your life now. This is the way things are always going to be. Your sweet angel isn’t coming back.

The length of time it takes for this to happen depends on a number of things. One of the things that falls into this task, that will really help to you come to this point of acceptance (as tough as that is) is to hold you baby after birth, if that’s at all possible.

Making that physical contact with your baby, washing and dressing him or her… it brings a measure of closure to the pregnancy. If you are fortunate enough to have time and access to hold your baby after birth it helps to speed up your acceptance of the reality.

In most countries, and still in many SA hospitals, there was a practice of not letting the mother (or father) see or hold her baby. While this was well-intentioned, it actually added to the pain and made the grief journey longer than it needed to be. If you are a regular on any of the international message boards you’ll no doubt have come across women in their later years who experienced this, and who can testify to how difficult it was.

This is not to say that holding your baby after birth will make your grief less painful. It just means you are more likely to be able to move through the grief journey more smoothly and slightly faster. Doing so is not disloyal to your baby in any way – your grief will last a lifetime! – it just means that you are able to become a functional member of society again in a shorter space of time.

What happens, though, for those who miscarry, or who are unable to hold their babies for some reason? Hope is not lost! If that’s you, talking about your baby, or writing about him/ her (or writing TO him/ her) is a helpful way of coming to terms with your loss. Don’t try to sweep it under the carpet – speak openly about your experiences. It may make others uncomfortable, yes, but only because they don’t know how to respond to you. (You will need to guide them in this – be as explicit as you can: I need you to sit here and listen to me talk about my baby. I don’t need you to say anything. Just listen and then give me a hug.)

Sometimes, reaching that place of acceptance feels like the opening of a yawning valley that slides down into the darkness. Sometimes, acceptance feels like the beginning of the end – why carry on when my baby is dead? But remember – acceptance is just the first grief task of five! You still have another 4 tasks to work through, and we’ll discuss the next one in the next post.

Grief tasks

November 7, 2012

Braam Klopper spoke at the Remembrance event, and spoke about grief tasks. He believes that talking about the usual stages of grief, or milestones, is often unhelpful. Referring to them as tasks, on the other hand, is more active – tasks are things you can do to move forward, and so thinking of them this way helps to prevent you from getting stuck in your grief.

  1. Accept the reality.
  2. Express your emotions.
  3. Commemorate your child.
  4. Accept that conflicting emotions are normal.
  5. Decide where to spend your energy.

I’ll look at each separately, so keep an eye on the blog for updates.

Remembrance Event

October 28, 2012

The sun was shining and the breeze was slight. It was a beautiful day in beautiful surroundings. The service itself was beautiful – and Braam Klopper spoke beautifully. Rechelle Vermaak, from My Miskraam, shared a tear-jerking poem. Sonja Smith MC’d the event beautifully, but then, she’s had lots of practice! Legacy Parks donated the tree we planted, and all the refreshments for the day.

I thought those who weren’t able to attend might appreciate a few photos from today… (click on the photos to see a bigger image).

Remembrance Day

October 5, 2012

Where: Legacy Park, just outside Stellenbosch on the R44 near Klapmuts.

Time: 11h00-12h00

Bring: a picnic lunch (if you would like to)

The well known Braam Klopper, minister of religion, author, radio- and television personality and pastoral therapist specialising in the process of grief, will conduct the ceremony. His CD’s “Conversations on Grief” will also be available.

This informal family day starts at 11:00 and all are welcome to join us picnic afterwards. You can bring your own picnic eats or order some at Legacy Parks. Children, families and friends are welcome! Admission is free.

Bring comfortable walking shoes, bicycles and picnic blankets. There is a beautiful pond and the nature reserve has free roaming antelope.

For more information visit http://www.mymiskraam.co.za/event or RSVP with Luzanne at luzanne@mymiskraam.co.za  or call 082 335 3975

Child Mag article

September 2, 2012
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GOOD NEWS! You remember that article that was going to appear in Child Mag last year? Well, it’s ACTUALLY GOING TO HAPPEN! Yup – it will appear in the Oct issue (i.e. coming out at the end of Sep). Keep an eye out for it!

Remembrance event

August 15, 2012
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After meeting with various other interested parties in and around Cape Town, we are all working together to have a Remembrance event on 28 Oct (2012), at Legacy Park, in Stellenbosch, to coincide with International Stillbirth Awareness Day. We don’t have more details yet – so watch this space – but it will be a good day. Legacy Park is very beautiful and natural – no headstones, for example – and is suitable to bring a picnic along. As we finalise details we’ll keep you updated, but please diarise the date, as it would be great to have you come along and share your memories of your baby with us.