The following is excerpted from Gone Too Soon: The Life and Loss of Infants and Unborn Children.
Nothing better illustrates the impact of the loss of a baby than to see a mother who, having lost a baby through stillbirth fifty years ago, wells up with emotion as she talks about her baby’s life. This woman has nine living children, forty-one grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren; yet the pain she felt those many years ago is still very much evident. Losing a baby is indeed a life-changing event, much as is giving birth to a healthy baby.
Even though the pain may be intense and despair may seem inevitable, those who lose babies need not be subject to a life of hopelessness. Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, a loving support system, and a few techniques to help deal with grief, the pain can be managed and eased.
Allow yourself any luxury you can—you deserve it. Buy yourself a new outfit, go out to dinner or a movie, spend time alone; do whatever makes you happy. Remember that taking care of yourself does not mean you have forgotten your baby; it is a way of coping. And be sure to have a regular physical exam. Some physicians believe that parents who have experienced an emotional trauma have an above-average risk for illness.
Find a strong and loving support system.
Family members and friends can be a great source of comfort during a difficult time. However, it also helps to talk to people who have been through the same kind of tragedy and have experienced emotions and challenges similar to yours. Through your hospital or health-care professional, seek support groups and, if you desire, appropriate counseling.
Trust yourself and your judgment.
When a baby dies, there are several decisions that need to be made. Some women feel like they are being strange if they want to see and hold their baby after its death. However, health-care professionals are now realizing the importance of this time between the parents and their child. Experts say that parents’ thoughts and fears about how the baby will look are often much worse than the reality. Parents are also encouraged to take pictures and to keep the baby with them for a while in their room. In some cases, there are burial and memorial service issues to be handled. Do those things you think are appropriate, and do not worry about being strange. Your grief is yours alone, and only you know how to handle it. One woman who lost a baby at birth recalls, “My husband and I went up to the hospital to dress the baby for the burial, even though everyone told us not to. I’ll admit sometimes it’s hard for me to think about it, but I’m really glad that we did that.”
Accept each stage of grief.
Rather than fighting the emotions that accompany grief, go through those stages willingly and realize that by doing so, you will resolve your grief more easily. Many people feel guilty about being angry or depressed; but remember, those emotions are completely normal. At the funeral of a friend, one woman who had previously lost a baby was shocked when a speaker said there was no reason to grieve because of their religious beliefs. “I believe in the gospel and it’s a great comfort to me,” she said, “but I still hurt so bad I didn’t know what to do. It didn’t matter where my baby was in the afterlife. The fact was, she wasn’t with me.” Many people interpret sorrow and despair to be a lack of faith in Heavenly Father and in the gospel. Remember that regardless of how devoted you are to the gospel, death hurts, and the grieving process is necessary to be able to find joy in life again.
Give your baby a name.
Many people find comfort in naming their baby regardless of its gestational age. By doing so, you are showing that your baby was a real person and entitled to acknowledgment.
Write a letter to your baby.
It can be very therapeutic to write all your feelings down in a letter to your baby. What would you like him to know? What would you tell him if he were here?