If you need this post I am more sorry than I can ever express. The women I work with who have suffered pregnancy loss, stillbirth, the loss of a child are women that humble me to my very core, stir up the deepest depths of emotion and amaze me with their grace, humanity, strength and about a thousand other things. I am sorry, I know they would rather not be in a position to stir up anything in me. I know they would trade these things in happily for a healthy and thriving child to hold in their arms. I know they DO hold their children in their hearts.
And then there is this: we are horrible, and I mean horrible with a capital H at dealing with grief as a culture. For most the loss of their child(ren) is not only the most traumatic event they have ever experienced, but also a terribly isolating, lonely, misunderstood, unsupported thing. None of it is fair. None of it is what should be. Still it is.
If you are reading this post because you know someone who has lost or is losing a child, there are lots of good websites that can help you know what to do and say if you are at a loss, but I'll sum it up here...
Say you are sorry. Say it isn't fair. Say it sucks. Say it isn't fair again. Listen. Cry. Listen some more. Don't try to fix. Let them cry. Say it isn't fair again. Acknowledge their baby and child. Use their child's name. Ask how they are doing. Keep listening even if you don't know what to say. Say you don't know what to say. Don't be too afraid to bring up their loss. If it feels awkward and stressful to you, I can tell you that it is way worse for them. When you do not acknowledge or support their loss and grief i is heartbreaking, lonely, isolating, maddening, and they want to know you are still thinking of them and their child. That you haven't gotten over it in a week or a month or a year and that you don't expect them to get over it either. If you bring up their loss you will not make them feel bad, they did not forget it happened. If you bring up their loss you will only let them know you haven't forgotten and that it matters to you too.
If you are reading this post because you have lost or will lose a baby here are some resources you should know. I'm sure there are others I don't know, and if you have any to add, please feel free to comment and I'll add them below.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep – An amazing site that can connect you with highly trained photographers who can capture the time you do have with your baby. Sometimes these images are one of or the only tangible things to remember your baby was here. That you held him or her, what they looked like and that this is all real. Families who have used this service have the highest praises. http://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org/
Still Standing Magazine - http://stillstandingmag.com/ An online magazine with lovely writing and ideas, resources, etc. for those who have lost babies. Specific sections for fathers, self-care, parenting subsequent children, etc. This is a really nice website and resources/support that doesn't take getting out of the house if you aren't up for it right away.
Faith's Lodge. Faith's Lodge provides a place where parents and families facing the serious illness or death of a child can retreat to reflect on the past, renew strength for the present, and build hope for the future. In its North Woods setting, Faith's Lodge provides a peaceful escape for families to refresh their minds and spirits while spending time with others who understand what they are experiencing. Families who have lost a child, age 20+ weeks gestation through 19 years, within the last three years may check-in to Faith's Lodge Tuesday through Saturday and may stay from one to five nights, once per year. email@example.com, 612-825-2073
Faces of Loss. http://facesofloss.com/. Here hundreds of women bravely and openly sharing their stories of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss on personal blogs,
Missing Grace Pregnancy and Infant Loss. Support Groups and center – Maple Grove. For parents who have experienced pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or newborn death. Maple Grove Covenant Church, 9350 Upland Ln. N., Maple Grove, MN 55369. 763-497-0709. Online support groups at www.missinggrace.com.
Pregnancy and Newborn Loss Support Group/Counseling – Metro Area. For parents who have experience pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or newborn death. Support Group: 1st and 3rd Tuesdays, 5-6:30pm Fairview Southdale Hospital, Edina. Call Dave Englestad to register. 952-924-5708. Fairview Ridges Hospital, Burnsville (counseling only). Call Holly Weist. 952-892-2585.
Pregnancy and Newborn Loss Counseling (Spanish speaking) The Seton Clinic – Catholic Charities, 1276 University Ave. W., St. Paul, MN 55104 Contact: Jennifer Harvey. 651-603-0252.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Group – St. Paul. For parents who have experienced pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or newborn death.2nd and 4th Mondays, 5-6:30pm; Free. United Hospital, Garden View Medical Bldg, Rm. 4057. Contact: Annette Klein, RN. 651-241-6206.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Group – Maplewood. For parents who have experienced pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or newborn death. 1st and 3rd Tuesdays, 7-8:30pm; Free. St. John's Hospital (HealthEast),1575 Beam Ave., Breast Care Center Library, Maplewood, MN 55109.Joann O'Leary, PhD. 651-326-3733
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Group – Coon Rapids. For parents who have experienced pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or newborn death. Call for dates and times. Unity Hospital. 763-236-3420
Subsequent Pregnancy After Loss Support Group – Edina. For expectant parents who have had a pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or infant death.2nd and 4th Mondays, 5-6:30pm. Call to register: Deb Rich, PhD, LP. 612-672-7656
Pregnancy Postpartum Support MN - A comprehensive list of MN resources for Pregnancy and Postpartum Support, including Infant Loss. There is also a list of support groups in greater MN and other specific groups, like surviving the holidays after loss on their website here.
Remembering Our Babies – October 15th http://www.october15th.com/ The Official Site of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day
Suzanne Swanson, PhD, LP. Specializes in Pregnancy and birth issues, postpartum, loss/trauma, mothering. 1108 Grand Ave., Suite 2, St. Paul, MN 55105. Phone: 651-221-9709
Krista Post, MA, LP. Specializes in Infertility, pregnancy and infant loss, birth trauma, postpartum issues, parenting. Current president of pregnancy postpartum support MN 4500 Park Glen Rd., Suite 150, St. Louis Park, MN 55416. Phone: 612-296-3800
Deborah Rich, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist. Coordinator, Fairview Perinatal Loss and Perinatal Mood Disorder Services. firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 612-672-7656
Bittersweet: Loss of a Multiple Birth or Gestation Group. Call for locations and information. Barbara Schaack, 952-854-1997
Whether it's these resources or others, a few close supports or a wide online community, my heartfelt wish is that anyone who is suffering the loss of their child has as many resources and as much love and support as they need. If there is ever anything I can do or offer in addition to these ideas, please do not hesitate to ask.
With much Love,