The creation of human life is one of the most complex and shockingly beautiful things that our bodies are designed to do. The microanatomy that goes into this task is so astonishingly complicated that it's a miracle any of us walk around at all. And yet, most of us do. Most...but not all.
When a baby dies, we are fragmented. Shattered, we must pick up the pieces and put them back together as we pay tribute to our children, our tables forever missing one, our families incomplete, our treasures in heaven, our babies alive only in our hearts.
It is through our stories that they live forever. These children were here and they mattered. They were loved. They are loved.
Maybe it is that simple.
What Is Loss?
Loss is the involuntary separation from something we have possessed and perhaps even treasured, or someone we love and care about.
Everyone experiences a loss at some point in their lives - whether or not it is major or minor. Loss is universal.
Loss involves emotional pain. Significant losses produce emotional upheaval. Loss requires change and uncertainty and adjustments to situations that are new, unchosen and uncertain.
There is no right or wrong way to feel after you experience a loss. Minor losses, such as the loss of an opportunity, may bring feelings of frustration, disappointment, or anger. Major losses can lead to similar feelings, overwhelming feelings, sadness, pain, or numbness.
You do not have to be "strong" after a loss to protect others around you. Expressing emotion is how the body and mind process and relieve the pressure of intense or overwhelming emotions. Crying or expressing other emotions does not make you less of a person. It is also not uncommon for people to feel numb. People who don't cry may still be feeling the effects of a loss. Everyone expresses their pain differently.
No one can tell you how you should feel about something. Anyone who tries to tell you that how you are feeling is incorrect is wrong.
Losing your baby is ridiculously hard and devastating. There is so much lost opportunity and pain and heartbreak.
What Are The Kinds of Baby Loss?
Miscarriage is defined as the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. (Pregnancy losses after the 20th week are called preterm deliveries.)
Stillbirth is defined as fetal death after 20 weeks of pregnancy. These tragic deaths occur in about 1 in 160 pregnancies.
Neonatal Death is defined as when a baby dies within the first 28 days of life. In the United States in 2006, about 19,000 babies died in their first month.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under age 1 in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death.
Sudden Unexplained Death In Childhood (SUDC) is the sudden and unexpected death of a child over the age of 12 months, which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation is conducted.
Accidental Death is heartbreaking for many reasons. Whether a car accident, a fall or some other tragic accident, these losses are hard to deal with.
Am I The Only One In This Situation?
NO! Not at ALL! You are, unfortunately, very much not alone.
Ten to twenty-five (10-25) percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
One in one hundred and sixty (1/160) pregnancies will end in stillbirth.
Six out of every 100 babies born in the US will die in the first month of life. (29th highest mortality rate in the world)
These numbers are shocking, but they serve to show you that you are certainly not alone. There are many MANY others who know how you feel.
Why Do I Feel So Sad All The Time?
Grieving is hard. The most important thing to remember is that you have to GO THROUGH the grief instead of GOING AROUND the grief. You need to encounter and experience all the stages before true healing can begin.
It's ok to feel sad. You lost your child, your hopes and dreams. Sadness is normal. But if after a few months, you're unable to function in daily life without crying all the time, seeing a doctor is probably a good idea. Depression and Anxiety, often lumped together as PTSD, is a common diagnosis for grieving parents. Luckily, there are ways to treat you so you can continue being productive and vibrant.
What Does "Normal" Feel Like After My Baby Dies?
Aah, the million dollar question. Likely, your world will never be normal again. Whatever normal is.
You'll begin to seek your "new normal" which will be some form of your former self and the development of a new self.
It will take a while before you start feeling yourself slip into a new routine. Whether you were pregnant and dreaming of a glowing pregnancy and new baby and lost the baby at 10 weeks or 20 weeks or you had to deliver a stillborn baby, your life changes. If your child is 3 days old or 2 years old, your life changes.
You are tasked with learning to live in your old world with your new view of life. That view is likely one that includes fear, anger, sadness, mistrust of others, guilt, and loss of relationships.
What Do I Say To Someone Who Has Lost A Baby?
If you found this page because you have a friend or family member who has lost a child, thank you for caring. The fact that you want to know what to say to him or her shows how much you care. Below is a post that will give you some insight into what you should and shouldn't say.
But You Can Have Another Baby: What to say and what NOT to say to grieving parents by Jana Anthoine on Band Back Together
The Band Back Together resource page, How to Help Someone Who Has Lost a Child, provides additional insights and ways to help a loved one cope with the loss.
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep- a non-profit network of professional photographers around the country that will come to the hospital and offer free professional portraits to families who have lost a baby. They're a great organization.
Faces of Loss- group blog for the baby loss community. Anyone can submit stories of miscarriage, stillbirth and pregnancy loss.
Still Standing Magazine - an online magazine focusing on encouraging women, men and even children to embrace life, connecting hearts around the world who have similar life experiences and becoming a resource for friends, family and even medical professionals, to know how to support someone enduring child loss and/or infertility.
Baby Loss Blogroll- (from Glow in the Woods)
Stillbirth Fact Sheet (from March of Dimes)
International Stillbirth Alliance- a non-profit coalition of organizations dedicated to understanding the causes and prevention of stillbirth. Our mission is to raise awareness of stillbirth and to promote global collaboration in the prevention of stillbirth and provision of appropriate care for parents whose baby is stillborn.
Bereavement Materials about grief and grieving the loss of a baby (from March of Dimes)
Neonatal Loss Reference Facts Sheet- (from March of Dimes)
Glow in the Woods- Community of Baby Loss Bloggers
How to Stop Lactation When There is No Baby- From The Glow in the Woods Bloggers
How to Plan a Baby's Funeral- From the Glow in the Woods Bloggers
The Compassionate Friends- The Compassionate Friends organization provides online and in person support for families who have lost a child, regardless of their age. They provide local chapter meetings, candlelight memorials and grief support for siblings and grandparents.
First Candle- First Candle has resources for parents, grandparents and friends to help deal with the the grief of the loss of a child. They offer grief counselors 24/7.
Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood Program- The SUDC Program was created to be a centralized resource for those affected by a sudden unexpected death in childhood, whose cause is left undetermined, unclear or unexplained. The site offers counselors for all family members, a huge database of resources and many articles.
The National Sudden and Unexpected Infant/Child Death Resource Center- A long name of a wonderful group that provides a lot of information about a wide array of child loss topics.
Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby -by Deborah L. Davis, PhD- This was by far the best book I read after the loss of our child. It has wonderful information on issues such as the loss of multiples, stillbirth, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and infant loss. There is a special chapter for fathers and it's an exceptional book for doctors, nurses, grandparents and others to read to help them offer comfort to the grieving parents.
When a Baby Dies: A Handbook for Healing and Helping by Rana K. Limbo and Sara Rich Wheeler
Grieving Dads - A wonderful site with a blog, designed specifically for grieving fathers.
www.stillbirthday.com - Wonderful resource page full of love, support, and information about all things related to miscarriage and baby loss. In addition to information about the loss, there is information about how to care for yourself during this incredibly difficult time. It also contains information about how to start the process again after a loss.