These parents are usually in shock, and so grief stricken, they can barely function. They need immediate support, a soft place to land, a place where they can expel their grief in all its rawness. Some bereaved parents find it hard to talk to their families or friends in the early days. And more often than not, they are part of a peer cohort in which pregnancy and birth announcements are achingly prolific.
Platitudes such as "just have another baby, you'll feel better", "at least you have your older child", and "at least you can get pregnant", feel like painful and minimising responses to their loss. The truth is that these parents lost THIS child. The truth is that these parents now face every future milestone blighted by a sadness for what could have been, with THIS child.
Some parents find us on the internet between the time they are told that their baby has passed away, and the time the woman has to deliver her deceased baby. Why does a woman who is carrying her dead baby have to search the internet to find someone who can help her to prepare for her worst nightmare?
Some women, because of a bleak or fatal prognosis have no choice but to be active in the termination of their baby's life in utero. The processing of complex medical information associated with genetic anomalies and statistical scenarios, can be a mental and emotional minefield. Abortion is not an easy option. The trauma and guilt of this can haunt a couple despite their rational reasoning as to why this course of action was inevitable (and indeed the most loving for their child).
Bereaved parents need a place where they can express their darkest thoughts, their gut-wrenching aloneness, and their scariest fears. They need a place where platitudes are not the answer, but where a slow and gentle support of their evolving grief, can help them to rebuild their devastated lives. Grieving differences within the couple need to be normalised and addressed, and the risk of developing complicated grief (persistent complex bereavement disorder) needs to be monitored and minimised. Ongoing support for managing anxiety in a subsequent pregnancy also needs to be available.
I implore maternity hospitals, obstetricians, geneticists, ultrasonologists, midwives, gps - all medical practitioners who see women and couples at various points along the path of loss - to provide your distraught patients with appropriate information that saves them having to search for suitable therapists at this highly vulnerable time.
Perinatal psychologists specialising in reproductive loss (Melbourne): Antenatal & Postnatal Psychology Network
Order brochures: http://www.antenatalandpostnatalpsychology.com.au/for-refer…
Information and phone support for reproductive loss (Australia): SANDS order brochures: http://www.sands.org.au/brochures
Bears of Hope order brochures:
Written by Dr Renée Miller
Principal Clinical Psychologist
Antenatal & Postnatal Psychology Network
Posted by Dr Renée Miller