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What to expect

Practical stuff

One of the hardest things to deal with is that in the midst of your grief there are practical considerations that need to be dealt with.

In terms of the baby, you will need to decide:

  • whether to have an autopsy done
  • whether to have a burial or cremation
  • whether to have a funeral or memorial service (and all the decisions that go along with that – music, readings, notifying friends and family, etc)
  • what sort of coffin to order
  • registering the birth and death

The mother’s body will be recovering, either from labour or surgery or both. She will need to:

  • ensure her post-natal checks are done properly (to ensure the uterus is retracting properly)
  • tend to any physical wounds (stitches, tears, etc)
  • deal with post-partum bleeding (which can last for several weeks)
  • deal with her breastmilk ‘coming in’ and take special care to avoid mastitis
  • sleep and rest, so may need to take sleeping pills if she starts to suffer from insomnia.

For both parents, depending on the baby’s gestation, there will be a need to deal with the legalities surrounding maternity and paternity leave and pay.

Hopefully, there will be a community supporting you through your grief. If not, then you will still need to think about shopping, cooking and preparing food. For the mother particularly, eating healthily and sensibly is vital at this stage, even though it is often the last thing you want to think about or feel you have the energy for.

Grief

While many people still believe there are 5 stages to grief, the fact of the matter is that grief is an individual process that does not fit into any formula. It has certain common characteristics, but no straight-forward pattern of behaviour.

Common characteristics of grief:

  • fatigue/ extreme tiredness
  • anger (often irrational)
  • uncontrolable weeping
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • changes in appetite (either loss of, or gorging) with the resultant changes in weight
  • changes in activity levels (hyperactive or under active)
  • pains in various parts of the body (chest, stomach, head, arms)
  • nausea
  • sighing and shortness of breath
  • tightness of the throat
  • inability to form coherent sentences
  • numbness
  • anxiety
  • emptiness
  • loneliness
  • guilt
  • fear
  • needing to be alone/ withdrawing from community
  • needing to be with people
  • needing to talk and tell your story
  • forgetfulness
  • nightmares and/or dreaming about your baby
  • loss of meaning and purpose

All of these are natural. You may experience all of them, or only some. You may experience them for weeks and months at a time, then never again, or you may find you experience them in a cycle – sadness, then anger, then numbness, followed by sadness again, etc.

Key moments in the process:

Each of the key moments in your life following the loss of your baby you will find difficult. Being aware that they may cause you pain will help to prepare yourself for it, and thereby enable you to survive it a little more easily.

  • Leaving the hospital
  • Holding the funeral/ memorial service
  • Your original due date
  • One week, one month and one year anniversaries
  • Going back to work
  • Seeing others pregnant (especially friends and family members)
  • Falling pregnant again

Leaving the hospital represents a major shift in your life, because it brings home to you the fact that all of the hopes and dreams you had have not yet come true. The baby that should be going home with you, is no longer there.

The best advice anyone can give is to just be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself as best you can – eat, sleep, exercise, do something fun, keep to a routine, organise events to keep yourself busy while still scheduling some time to be on your own. Talk to others as much as you can about what you are feeling. Try not to keep asking ‘why?’. Most of all, be patient with yourself. You will go through your grieving at your own pace, so don’t compare your journey with anyone else’s.

Friends and family are often very supportive during the first few months, but then begin to forget that you are still grieving. At this point, it is common for bereaved parents to feel abandoned and lonely, and angry at those who they feel have abandoned them. It is important to maintain open lines of communication with friends and family to try to prevent this from happening.

On average, the grieving process takes between a year and two years. Initially you wonder how you will ever be able to continue with normal life. As time passes, though you never forget and a piece of you remains broken forever, you will learn to live around your pain. You will be able to laugh and experience joy and love again, but your life has been irrevocably changed by your loss.

For Dads

For Grandparents

Support group meetings

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