To love is to grieve. When a baby dies, all hope is lost…it feels unnatural to outlive your baby. You may experience excruciating pain, anger, guilt, and depression, but we must remember to move through those feelings. When we refuse to go through and release these emotions it manifests in our physical being. We carry the trauma in the tissues of our bodies and within our womb. The sooner we breathe into this pain, the sooner we emerge.
What exactly is perinatal loss? Perinatal loss is the loss of your baby and can happen in 3 different stages of early life.
– Miscarriage: When an embryo or fetus is born before 20 weeks gestation. Approximately 1 in 4 women will experience this in their lifetime. (March of Dimes)
– Stillborn: When a baby dies between 20 and 40 weeks gestation. This may happen in about 1% of all births. (March of Dimes)
– Neonatal Death: A baby that dies soon after birth, typically within 28 days. This is usually attributed to prematurity, infection or birth asphyxia. (World Health Organization)
As a Labor and Delivery (with experience in the Neonatal ICU), sister, friend and woman, I have held space for, cared for and grieved alongside parents of these sweet babies that never leave our hearts. I’m telling you this to say that if you have experienced this type of loss…you are not alone.
Below are some ways to help process your grief. It is important to note that you will always feel the loss of your baby. Your life will never be what it once was, but there is hope for a beautiful transformation. The only way to lighter and brighter days is to go through the storm.
5 Ways to Create a Sanctuary for Healing After Perinatal Loss
- Establish a Sanctuary: The sanctuary is the nurturing womb where you are cradled as you grieve. This should be a quiet, safe space. You may create an altar with photos, flowers, crystals, candles, sage, essential oils and a journal. Add anything that may help you feel more comfortable to grieve.
- Take time each day to honor your grief: Make time to sit in your sanctuary and process your grief. This may be one of the hardest steps and you may even feel resistant at first as you feel the urge to fight back all the emotions that arise. This is a critical step, though. Start with just 5 minutes a day and build from there as you notice the benefits.
- Reflect on your grief: While sitting quietly in your sanctuary, reflect on the loss of your baby, bringing full attention to your grief. Be present with your grief as it is right now without judgment, without criticism, without trying to change anything. If feelings surface, let them flow. Trust them as they present themselves. Don’t push them back, don’t push them away. It’s safe here in your sanctuary. If you feel called to, write down what you are feeling. Or you could even write a letter to your baby!
- Give yourself permission: Give yourself permission to cry, express anger, be crazy or quiet, to feel a lot or to feel numb. This is your protected sanctuary where you can fully acknowledge the loss of your baby. Your baby has died. Your world has changed both within and without. Cradle yourself in your grief. You need your love, your protection.
- Be gentle with yourself: Take your time. Let yourself be however you are in this moment.
After you spend time in your sanctuary it is important to transition from the space of grief back to your daily duties with some self care. Take a walk, chat with a friend, take a hot bath, take a nap, or do anything that feels nourishing to your mind, body and soul.