Soundwaves Perinatal Bereavement Support

Bereavement Support For Parents Grieving the Loss of a Baby During or Just After Pregnancy

Waves of Grief June 10, 2010

After losing a baby during or just after pregnancy, waves of grief can hit months, even years later. The grief process takes most of us on an arduous journey. Many of us find ourselves mourning our babies long after the supportive cards, letters, phone calls from well-meaning friends and family stop coming. After a while, our grief comes in waves often when you least expect it: at the grocery store, at a place you visited when you were pregnant, seeing people who haven’t heard the news yet, listening to music, and can especially occur around holidays, birthdays and/or anniversaries.

I thought I was doing OK three months after giving birth to my stillborn twin sons, but then the holiday season was upon us. I didn’t feel much like celebrating. What was supposed to be a joyous occasion with two newborn babies was now a dark, empty and lonely time. Two days before Christmas, after much deliberation, my husband and I finally decided to get a tree to decorate.

Normally, we would have cut a tree down ourselves weeks before the holiday, dragged it happily home, and decorated it listening to Christmas carols, all while sipping a fine Cabernet. Not so that year. We hurriedly purchased our tree from a parking lot vendor and threw it up in the corner of our family room. I tried to make the decorating time cheery by playing some favorite Christmas music. For a while, the spirit of the season filled the room.

That is, until I leaned into the tree to place the final ornament on the last empty spot (I had lovingly collected ornaments for years prior). At that moment I lost my balance, and pushed the entire tree to the ground. The sound of ornaments crashing to the floor filled the room as I covered my eyes in horror.  I fell to my knees in near hysterics- for this was the very last straw. My husband pulled me up and sat me on the couch. I cried and cried. My grief was still so raw, and this was far too much to bear. My husband held me, whispering that it would be OK. In my heart I knew it never would.

After a while I finally pulled myself together, took a deep breath, and surveyed the damage. Luckily, most of the broken ornaments were balls used as “fillers,” not ones I had truly treasured over the years. My husband and I silently pushed the tree back to its standing position, cleaned up the mess,  and went to bed.

Waves of grief like that hit me hard for a year or more after my boys were gone. I still on occasion, eleven and a half years later, ache for my lost sons. But those waves of pure sorrow are now fewer and far between. Thankfully, that intense grief lost its grip over my body and mind after a period of time. I think it’s purely a mechanism of survival. Don’t be mistaken, I will always love and miss my twins. But the intense, constant grief of those first years has calmed. 

If you have recently experienced a loss, know that you are not alone, and you too, will get through this. Be kind to yourself as you ride the waves, knowing they will subside in time…

Remembering Your Children With Heartfelt Sorrow,

Claudia

 

Who Gets In Your Bucket? January 5, 2010

I found the following article on the internet several weeks ago. It was printed in the newsletter “Hope and Healing” from the perinatal bereavement group of Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, New York. The article, written by Doug Manning of Oklahoma City Oklahoma, comes from his book The Power of Presence: Helping People Help People. This brings tears to my eyes every time I read it, because I know how many of you are painfully grieving the loss of your beloved children. I hope it brings you some comfort:

Who Gets in Your Bucket?
By Doug Manning
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The best way I know to picture how we receive help from others in grief, is to imagine you are holding a bucket. The size and color doesn’t matter. The bucket represents the feelings bottled up inside of you when you are in pain. If you have suffered a loss, hold the bucket and think through how you feel right now. If you are reading this to learn more about helping others, then imagine what would be in your bucket if a loved one had died very recently. What is in your bucket?

Fear. Will I survive? What will happen to me now? Who will care for me? Who will be with me when I need someone near? Most likely your bucket is almost full just from the fear. But there is also:

Pain. It is amazing how much physical pain there is in grief. Your chest hurts, and you can’t breathe. Sometimes the pain is so intense your body refuses to even move. There is enough pain to fill the bucket all by itself.

Sorrow. There is devastating sadness; overwhelming sorrow. A gaping hole has been bitten out of your heart and it bleeds inside your very soul. You cry buckets of tears and then cry some more.

Loneliness. There is no lonely like that felt when you are in a room full of people and totally alone at the same time. Loneliness alone can fill any bucket ever made.

I could go on, but that’s enough to get the idea across, and hopefully get you started thinking through your own list. What is in your bucket?

Now picture someone like me approaching you and your bucket. I also have a bucket. My bucket is full of explanations. I am armed and ready to explain why your loved one had to die, how they are now better off and how you should feel.

I am also well equipped with new ways to look at your loss. In politics they call that “spin doctoring,” but most human beings seem to know this skill by instinct.

I have almost a bucketful of comforting words and encouraging sayings. I can also quote vast amounts of scriptures. I seem to favor the ones that tell you not to grieve.

So we face each other armed with full buckets. The problem is, I don’t want to get into your bucket. Yours is scary. If I get in there, you might start crying and I may not be able to make you stop. You might ask me something I could not answer. There is too much intimacy in your bucket. I want to stand at a safe distance and pour what is in my bucket into yours. I want the things in my bucket to wash over your pain like some magic salve to take away your pain and dry your tears. I have this vision of my words being like cool water to a dry tongue. Soothing and curing as it flows.

But your bucket is full. There is no room for anything that is in my bucket. Your needs are calling so loudly there is no way you could hear anything I say. Your pain is far too intense to be cooled by any verbal salve, no matter how profound.

The only way I can help you is to get into your bucket, to try to feel your pain, to accept your feelings as they are and make every effort to understand. I cannot really know how you feel. I cannot actually understand your pain or how your mind is working under the stress, but I can stand with you through the journey. I can allow you to feel what you feel and learn to be comfortable doing so. That is called, “Getting into your bucket.”

I was speaking on guilt and anger in grief to a conference of grieving parents. I asked the group what they felt guilty about. I will never forget one mother who said, “All the way to the hospital, my son begged me to turn back. He did not want the transplant. He was afraid. I would not turn back, and he died.”

I asked her how many times someone had told her that her son would have died anyway. She said, “Hundreds.” When I asked her if that had helped her in any way she said, “No.”

I asked her how many times she had been told that she was acting out of love and doing the right thing, she gave the same two responses. Many times and, no, it did not help.”

I asked her how many times she had been told that God had taken her son for some reason, and she gave the same responses- “many” and “no help.”

I asked how many times someone had told her that it had been four years since her son’s death and that it was time to “Put that behind you and get on with your life.”
This time she responded with great anger that she had heard that from many wellmeaning people, including family members, and that it not only did not help, it added to her pain and made her angry.

What I was really asking her is, “How many people have tried to pour their buckets into yours?”
I then said, “Would it help if I hugged you and said `that must really hurt’?”
She said, “That would help a great deal. That would really help.”
Why would that help? Because I was offering to get into her bucket with her and to be in her pain, instead of trying salve over her pain with words and explanations.

If you are in pain, find someone who will get into your bucket. Most of the time these folks are found in grief groups or among friends who have been there. It is not normal procedure. It is hard to swallow our fears and climb into your bucket.

If you are reading this to find ways to help others in grief, then lay aside your explanations and your words of comfort. Forget all of the instructions and directions you think will help and learn to say, “That must really hurt.” I think that is the most healing combination of words in the English language. They really mean, “May I feel along with you as you walk through your pain?” “May I get into your bucket?”

Peace and Loving Understanding,

Claudia

 

Coping With the Holidays December 12, 2009

Dealing with the holidays after the loss of a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth or death right after birth can be extremely difficult, if not downright nearly impossible. Seems like everyone around us is celebrating, while we are left grieving intensely for the child we wish were with us, especially at this time of year.

Here are some suggestions from Compassionate Friends (www.compassionatefriends.org) that may help you better cope at this time: 

1. Plan ahead. Realize you will not be able to do everything with everyone. Decide what is truly important to you and your family.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask friends for help. Tasks which may normally take little effort can feel overwhelming, whether it’s fixing a meal, cleaning the house, or putting up decorations.
3. No one expects you to string rows and rows of lights just to prove you have the holiday spirit. If you don’t feel up to past efforts, you may simply want to place an electric powered candle in your window in memory of your child.
4. Just because you’ve hosted holiday gatherings in the past doesn’t mean you’re obligated to this year. Others will understand.
5. After a child dies, old traditions are often left behind and new ones that incorporate the child who died can take their place. Honor the memory of your child in unique ways that have meaning to you.
6. Surviving children should be included in your plans. They, too, mourn their sibling, but need a normalcy the holidays can provide.
7. If you don’t get everything done you plan, be easy on yourself. Grief is tough work and you should never feel guilty for not completing every task.
8. If you must shop for others, find a time when the stores are not extremely busy like early morning, order through the Internet, or ask others to shop for you.
9. Participating in a memorial service, such as The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting the second Sunday in December, this year December 13, can be very meaningful. This can be done in a formal service with others or through a short private candle lighting in the privacy of your home.
10. Remember that the fearful anticipation of an approaching holiday is usually worse than the day itself.

Please visit www.compassionatefriends.org for more information about the Worldwide Candle Lighting at 7:00 pm local time December 13th. Anyone who wishes can light a candle for one hour in remembrance of a child who has died.

God Bless- I will be thinking of you and all your beautiful angels this holiday season.

Claudia

 

Feeling Guilty After The Loss of a Baby December 2, 2009

Almost everyone I have met that has lost a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth or death just after birth has felt some sense of guilt over their loss. We relive every decision, we ask ourselves “what if I did things differently, I should have…I shouldn’t have…if only I had…” These thoughts are layered upon our devastating feelings of grief, anger, resentment, etc., etc.

During my pregnancy with my stillborn twin sons, I experienced cholestasis of pregnancy, for which I was monitored by my doctors (cholestasis is a build up of bile acids in the liver which spills over into the bloodstream, causing severe itching and other symptoms, and can cause stillbirth if not monitored closely). I often felt this could very well have caused my babies’ death. My guilt over that was intense for a long time. My twins also suffered from Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (a disease of the placenta that effects identical twin pregnancies). I felt extremely guilty about the fact that the amniocentesis taps I endured to remedy that situation perhaps ultimately harmed my babies rather than helped them (although logically I know that is the standard course of remedy and most likely did no harm). Couldn’t help myself from feeling that way, though.

Logically we know we can’t change the past. And for each one of us, nearly every decision we made under our horrific circumstances would most likely not have been different, nor would those decisions likely have changed the outcome even if we could change that past. How then, do we forgive ourselves, judge ourselves less harshly?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that, especially when our perspective is so obscured by the traumatic event of losing a baby. But we can acknowledge our guilty feelings, and honestly ask ourselves why we acted the way we did under those circumstances. Did we mean to do harm to our baby or ourselves when making decisions about our prenatal care or events leading up to our baby’s death?  Of course, most likely the answer is a definite and resounding no.

So we must forgive ourselves for any perceived mistakes or errors in judgement, because we did the best we could under the circumstances. We must learn to cope with our guilt- coping means to not just getting passed it but to also understand it and learn about it and what makes you feel this way. Coping can help you to understand the guilt. And we must be kind to ourselves as we would be to anyone else under these same circumstances, knowing that guilt and resentment are so very natural and common for all of us who have lost a baby.

And if you find your guilt unbearable or overwhelming, please get help for yourself. Talking to a medical professional or therapist can help ease your feelings of intense guilt, provide you with techniques to help you to better cope with your guilt and help you to move forward in your grieving.

Hugs,

Claudia

 

Anger After A Loss October 12, 2009

Anger and guilt are often two of the more prominent emotions a parent may feel (among the many others) after the devastating loss of a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth or death right after birth. The anger and guilt that can come with losing a child are often strong and unrelenting. I will address the two separately, first anger in this post and guilt in my next:

Anger

It may not feel like it, but anger is a very productive stage of the grief process. Anger has the potential to consume you like a runaway train, however. When you lose a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth or death right after birth you may be angry at many people and/or many things. It is very normal to be angry at medical personnel, your spouse, family members, other pregnant women, even yourself (your body) and God. You may think “Why did this have to happen” or “Why didn’t they do more to save my baby?”.

Many of us are taught that it’s not OK to show and/or outwardly express our anger (especially women). We often tend to suppress it. It is important to recognize your anger, and to have productive outlets to release it. Keeping your anger inside may cause it to build and create other problems for you both emotionally and physically.  Here are some things you might consider doing to release your anger. Do whatever works best for you:

  • Hit or scream into a pillow, throw a ball (soft preferably)
  • Do some sort of physical activity like jogging, swimming or other exercise (make sure this is OK’d by your doctor first if you decide to do this shortly after your loss). I used to vacuum and pick weeds like crazy!
  • Have a fit. Cry, scream and/or yell. You can do this in your car or in the privacy of your home. (I used to sit in my car in our garage and let loose.)
  • Write about your feelings of anger in a journal. Make drawings or pictures of what your anger might look like, tear them up and throw them away (or keep them and throw darts at them- careful with the walls!).
  • Talk to someone who is understanding about your feelings of anger
  • Meditate, listen to soothing music, get in touch with your spirituality

In externalizing your anger, you may avoid situations that can be damaging to you or loved ones around you in the long run. If you purposefully express your anger, your grief recovery may be made somewhat easier to bear and you may perhaps begin to feel a greater sense of control over a situation that at times can feel completely out of control.

Peace Until Next Time,

Claudia

P.S. Don’t forget Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day is October 15th. Check www.october15th.com for information about ceremonies in your area.

 

 

Remembering Your Child After A Loss September 15, 2009

Andrew and Joseph's Memorial Stone

Andrew and Joseph's Memorial Stone

The Edgartown Lighthouse
The Edgartown Lighthouse

My husband and I just got back from the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts where we attended a memorial ceremony for children who have died. On the island at the base of the Edgartown Lighthouse sits a memorial site paved with stones engraved with the names of children of all ages who have passed away. We discovered the site last year while we were visiting, and purchased a stone paver for our stillborn twin sons. The paver with the names of our boys was recently placed at the site and this was the first time we attended the memorial service there. 

The service was incredibly emotional. I wasn’t quite prepared for my reaction,considering we lost our sons eleven years ago this month. As we approached the lighthouse and were given a map of the placement of our stone, my eyes filled with tears. After a bit of searching my husband finally found the stone and as I read our sons’ names I was overcome with emotion. Here at the base of this lighthouse, now sits a marker of their existence that will remain for many, many years to come.

I was surrounded by other parents all of whom, like us, were searching for the name of a child who was once a part of their lives, and now gone from this earth forever. As each parent sought out their stone, their reaction was similar to mine. First they seemed relieved to have found the stone, then came the tears. Some placed flowers on the site, others placed smooth rocks or shells found on the beach nearby.

Nothing will bring back our children but in the words of one of the speakers that day, the lighthouse will always be there, a physical reminder of our children we can visit for years to come. The lighthouse and pavers will never go away. I took comfort in those words, and thought about how true they were.

Even though our children can never be with us again physically, we can create reminders of them that can bring some semblance of comfort in the weeks, months and years to come. I have always found that memorial services bring me great comfort, as they allow me to grieve publicly with others, as does visiting my sons’ grave site. After my sons died I planted gardens in the front of our house and place a rock with the following inscription “We planted this garden and left room for the angels to dance”.

There are many other ways we can memorialize our children. Here are some ideas:

  • Plant a tree, bush or flower that will bloom each year. If you are really ambitious you might try planting a small memorial garden.
  • Have a place in your yard or home that you can go to remember your child like a bench or a quite place to sit and remember them.
  • If you don’t already have one, create a memory box with some items that remind you of your baby (this can include ultrasound pictures, special mementos like a lock of hair, piece of clothing, photographs, anything physical that connects you with your baby).
  • Create a scrapbook of ultrasound pictures, pictures of you pregnant or pictures of your baby if you have any.
  • Write in a journal about your pregnancy and/or about your child (this may be difficult if you just recently experienced a loss, but may be cathartic if you like to write). Keep your journal in a special place with other mementos.
  • Wear a special piece of jewelry that reminds you of your baby.
  • Many sites on the web about miscarriage,  stillbirth and infant death offer places for you to write about your baby and post pictures if you have any.
  • October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. You can find the official site at www.october15th.com. There you can find information about memorial services around the country.

There are certainly other ways you can memorialize your baby. One of the greatest things I have done is volunteer work in my children’s honor. The work has helped me keep my sons’ memory alive, and I feel good knowing that something positive has come from their short lives. Do whatever it is that helps you to feel closer to your child. We all need that physical connection in some way to the children we have lost to bring us some sense of comfort and peace.

God Bless,

Claudia

 

Remembering Them… September 3, 2009

Eleven years ago today I found out my twin sons died at 24 weeks gestation. Two days later on September 5th I gave birth to them and saw them for the first and last time. Their short lives made an incredible impact on mine. I will be forever changed by them, and in many ways for the good.

If you’ve read some of my other posts you may know they suffered from Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, a disease of the placenta (please see http://www.tttsfoundation.org/ for more information). My husband and I received the diagnosis approximately four weeks prior to their death. We tried desperately to save our sons  as I endured four amniocentesis taps within that four week period. The process was long and grueling. I worried constantly, but my husband never lost faith that our sons would be OK. Unfortunately, the outcome was not good.

I’ve learned a lot in the eleven years since their death. I honor the twin’s memory by writing this blog for others suffering the loss of a baby due to miscarriage (I had two), stillbirth and the death of a baby just after birth and share some of that information that I’ve learned with you. No one can truly understand the heartache of losing a baby unless they experience it themselves. My sons’ legacy for me will always be one of hope, comfort and understanding others that endure that same pain. I volunteer for the Hygeia Foundation in their memory as well. Reaching out to others has been tremendously healing and cathartic.

I truly appreciate that you have reached out to read my blog. It means you are taking the first (or the hundredth!) step toward your own healing.  I can only hope my words bring you some sense of comfort and peace.

God Bless.

In memory of Andrew Ulrich and Joseph Mark…I will love you forever.

XO-

Mommy

 

 
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