by Jill Chasse
We grow up thinking that babies aren't supposed to die. They are brand new humans, meant to outlive their parents and live in a future generation. Unfortunately, reality teaches us that this is not always the case. Fading into heaven, babies often prove to the world that they too or often too mortal.
When a parent loses a child the world goes dark. An outsider can only imagine the pain and try to ease the grief with words that do not always soothe. The stages of grief seem to be littered on a darkened road through a frightening forest, too terrifying to set foot upon, but it is only a matter of time, hope, support, and realization that sends the glistening light through the trees so that the journey may begin.
After the devastating loss, many thoughts will float like storm clouds through the parents’ minds. The first step through this process is to acknowledge those clouds and let the rain come. Discuss what thoughts you feel, whether rational or not. Express to a supportive friend, family member, or counselor what you are feeling inside. This begins the journey down that road. Without the first step, the darkness may be endless.
Often, a grieving parent will find that friends and family may not be able to fathom their pain. They may say things out of love that come out with a painful sting. Remember that they are not in your shoes and are trying their best to help. Voicing your feelings will guide them to say things that you are comfortable with. Discuss what you want to hear and what you’d rather not. All parents are different and only by verbalizing your thoughts will others understand.
Letting your storm clouds rain is a healthy catharsis that a grieving parent must accept. If you feel tears, cry. If you feel anger, scream. Only by letting the pain out can you let it go. After the catharsis, however long your personal process takes, you will find new clouds floating into your sky. Sometimes it will be bright fluffy memories; sometimes it will be dreams of your baby. Often, parents decide to change the present to escape from the pain, or choose to have another baby right away. Escaping and replacing will not bring back your baby or take away your pain. Give the clouds time to clear your sky, and continue the journey as the forest brightens. Healing will not come without time, patience, and dedication. It is not the time to make serious decisions; it is still time to heal.
Meeting others who have gone through a similar experience is a healthy way to work through grief. Talking about your baby, sharing pictures, and hearing that you are not the only one to have such a tragedy befall upon you often helps parents being to see some light on their path.
Communication is imperative between mother and father in this process. Men and women grieve differently, and just because your spouse does not react the way you do, it does not mean that he or she is not feeling pain. Talk with each other and allow each other to grieve in the way that is most comfortable, be it crying or paining or writing in a journal.
There are many constructive ways of expressing pain and often, old hobbies, interests, and passions will be rekindled. When you feel you are ready, play some basketball or write a poem, but most importantly, let your body and mind accept something that makes you happy. This is not a betrayal to the memory of your baby. Both your tears and your joy express the love you felt for your child. The ability to smile shows the acceptance of your child’s passing, and your capacity to heal and be happy.
The journey is not an easy one, but it is a livable truth and the one that will bring you out of the dark forest of grief. Talk, cry, seek support, and love your child. The tears will fade, and the memory of your child will brighten.
Jill D. Chasse, CHt, MPA is certified by the International Association of Counselors and Therapists and a member of La Leche League and Global Maternal/Child Health Association. She holds a degree in human behavior, masters in public administration, and is currently pursuing a PhD in family therapy and perinatalPerinatal cognitive and neurodevelopment.