Losing a child is often seen as the most painful, boring experience a person may have. An infant's loss can be sudden and shocking or follow a number of months of intensive neonatal treatment (NICU) visits.
Loss of a baby means a loss of dreams for the future of the baby. Parents may feel they have been out of time to get to know their child. Friends and family may never have met the child. Because the loss of infants follows a short life, some people find their loved ones to face loss as if they were miscarriage – not the loss of a living breathing child. This can compound pain and increase stigma.
Although loss of infants is often painful and traumatic, it is possible to find healthy ways of dealing with it. The right therapist can help parents find ways to mourn and honor their child. Treatment is not to forget the child or loss. Instead, the goal is to work through the pain of losing infants, to move forward and find ways to seek support from our loved ones. Although life can not be the same, a good life is still possible.
October is a national awareness month for pregnancy and infant loss, where organizations around the world are working to support parents who have lost a child.
How Infant Loss Affects Families
The loss of any child is painful and there is no good time to lose a child. Losing an infant presents unique challenges and sources of sadness. Some common issues include:
- Getting their loved ones to understand the magnitude of the loss. Because the child was only for a short period, some parents find their loved ones face the loss as if they were miscarriage, not the death of a child.
- Recover from the trauma surrounding the loss. Many infants die after traumatic birth or long stay NICU. Some die from infant death syndrome (SIDS). Apart from sadness, many parents feel exhausted by the trauma they experienced before or just after the baby's death.
- Stigma. Losing a baby can be terrifying for others, who may be looking for reasons that will not happen to them. For example, a pregnant family member can blame the death of a newborn for a mother's habits while she is pregnant. This stigma can lead to feelings of anger, isolation, and guilt.
- Self-isolation. SIDS and accidental injuries, such as falls, are the leading causes of baby death. Parents whose children die of these causes may feel guilty or endless second guilty of themselves, which can cause enormous self-isolation.
- Family trauma. The loss of a baby affects a whole family. Sisters may not know how to process the loss and parents may feel overwhelmed by the loss to help their other children cope.
- Difficulties in relationships. Parents who have lost a child may struggle to support each other, and sometimes desperate to understand the loss, blaming each other. Divorce rates are higher among parents who have lost a child.
- Physical challenges. A baby's death often follows a difficult pregnancy or work. The mother can be traumatized along with the baby. Tackling this loss while recovering from these injuries and post-natal post-natal management can be a difficult task.
Losing a baby can be terrifying for others, who may be looking for reasons that will not happen to them.
Stigma, myths and other challenges of losing babies
The loss of a baby is quite tragic, but many families also face stigma and other myths surrounding their loss. Some people mistakenly believe that a baby can replace another so as to reassure parents that they are lucky already having children or that one day they can have another baby. This may undermine the meaning of a baby's life as a single person and may worsen the wound.
Some other common challenges include:
- Secrecy and stigma. When an older child dies, family members and friends have got to meet the child and spend time with them. When an infant dies, many people never know the child. Beloved people may not know how to talk about the loss and thus ignore it. This can make parents feel stigmatized or they have to process their sadness secretly without support.
- Confusion over infant loss. Ejaculation, though tragic in itself, is not the same as losing a baby. No matter how small the baby was when they died, the loss of a baby loses a child, not a pregnancy.
- Barriers to the connection to the baby. The complications of pregnancy and genetic defects are the main causes of infant loss. Many dying babies spend much of their lives at NICU. In some cases, a parent may never take the child's home from the hospital. Some parents can never get their baby. This can complicate sadness, making a parent feel that he did not get to bind or relieve the baby.
How to help someone deal with the loss of a baby
There is no cure for the loss of a baby and nothing can make the pain disappear. Sadness in response to this type of loss is normal and comprehensible, so loved ones should not try to ruin the sorrow process or encourage parents to "go ahead." While it is possible to recover, parents will never forget their baby. Encouraging them to do different is harmful.
Some strategies to help someone who has lost a baby include:
- Encourage your loved one to talk about the baby. Recognize the loss and not hide it. Talk about the baby using his name.
- Talk about the baby in milestones such as baby birthday and holidays.
- Find a way to celebrate the baby's life with his parents. For example, help them design a memorandum service or give a charity to protect the child in the name of the baby.
- Talk about how your baby influenced life if you met the baby. Even newborn babies have personalities. The baby's smile, mild behavior or the desire to embrace are all things that need to be highlighted.
- Never tell the parents that another baby will replace the loss. Do not compare the death of a baby with a miscarriage.
- Offer material support in the months following the loss. Bring meals, offer childcare to other children, or help clean the house. Do not expect anything in return.
- Encourage other loved ones to talk and honor the baby. If some family members are not particularly sensitive to the loss, act as a buffer.
- Be sensitive to the natural challenges of recovery from childbirth, especially if pregnancy was difficult. Help your mother take care of her body by conducting a doctor appointment or by going to yoga together.
- Think about helping your loved one find a support team. Being with others who have experienced a similar loss can be comforting.
Offer material support in the months following the loss. Bring meals, offer childcare to other children, or help clean the house.
Treatment for loss of infants
Treatment can help parents find productive ways to cope with the loss. Some therapists specialize in the treatment of mourning that helps parents understand their feelings, work through the loss of their child and even find meaning in the loss. For some people, losing a baby inspires them to support other parents, fight off childhood illnesses or restore their community. Treatment can help parents decide what can help them move forward.
Treatment can also help family members and couples to support each other. Everyone deals with the loss differently. A husband may only want time while the other may need a distraction or a lot of hugs. Counseling for family and couples can help identify these needs and help families respond to the needs of others.
Therapists gently guide the delicate families from their sorrow and a good therapist never tells families to overcome the loss. Instead, therapists honor the life of the lost baby, while helping the sad parents continue to lead lives meaningful and purposeful. Recovery is difficult, but it is possible. To help navigate the pain of losing a baby, start searching for a therapist here.
- For family and friends – how to provide support after a mortality. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/pregnancy-complications/pregnancy-loss/stillbirth/family-and-friends-how-give-support-after-stillbirth
- Lyngstad, T. H. (2013). Fall and divorce: Does the death of a child affect the parental family stability? Family science, 1(4): 79-86. doi: 10.1080 / 19424620.2013.821762
- What causes child mortality? (2016, December 1st). Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/infant-mortality/topicinfo/causes
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