Supporting mothers travel through the loss of a baby is a heart-wrenchingly poignant, and the post-traumatic growth can be tremendous to witness too. I recently wrote an article on my Depth Therapy Blog that offers a five-step process for healing the loss of a baby.
If you have lost an older child, this article might feel supportive for you as well. I have created a 5-step healing process that I call Dedicating, Naming, Soul Speaking, Loving and Redirecting.
When a baby dies through a miscarriage, a post-natal death, or even if the death is expected as in the case of abortion, the first healing task is to face the reality that your baby is (in its specific incarnation) gone.
Many women try to avoid painful feelings of loss in various ways such as "being strong" and "keeping busy", etc. Yet, there is no way to avoid the inevitability of grief. You must allow yourself to fully experience and express your grief.
People often misunderstand the needs of the grieving. Ask for specific support from your loved ones during your grief process. Through a kind connection with others who care, be assured that the pain of your loss will lessen in time.
The emotions involved in letting go are painful but necessary to experience. By not doing so, you will remain stuck in the grief process and will be unable to resolve your loss. See the Six Stages of Grief. Anger, guilt, loneliness, anxiety, sadness and depression are among the feelings and experiences that are normal during the grieving process.
3 Rituals of Good-Bye
As you move into the acceptance stage in the Six Stages of Grief, you may want to create a ritual of good-bye for the baby you have lost through a miscarriage, abortion, or some other kind of death. This might include writing a letter or a poem, asking for ongoing connection and love between the spirit of your baby and yourself.
1. Create a Good-Bye Statement: After the loss of your baby, it is helpful to create a written or visual "good-bye statement." Create a statement that you can repeat often during your grieving process. If you have aborted, you might want to say, “I love you. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank-you.” If you have miscarried or experienced an unexpected loss after birth, you might say, "Thank you dear one for being in my body or in my life."
2. Create a Tribute to your Loved One: It is helpful to create a tribute to the growth process that you and the baby went through together, however brief. You might, for example, feel inspired to commemorate a piece of artwork to the positive changes you have made since your loss.
3. Create an Intention: When you experience a loss, you can consecrate a healing intention that will enhance your life forever. Making a post-loss intention to be more present, kind, creative or loving, for example, will help you to heal and move on with your life in a much deeper way.
Five-Step Grief Healing Process
1. Dedicating: What would you like to dedicate the loss of your baby to? How might you live your life in a better way in honour of the memory of your baby? Would you be more grateful, more dignified, more courageous?
2. Naming: Do you want to give your baby's soul a name to honour his or her time in your body or in your life? If you chose a positive quality, for example, you could call your baby's soul, "Truth, Courage or Freedom." When you think about the soul "energy-tone" of your baby what does she or he symbolize for you? How do you wish you could have helped your baby to grow? Use your chosen name for your baby to connect with this positive quality in yourself.
3. Soul Speaking: Do you speak to your baby’s soul? Do you share your feelings with your baby now that she or he is gone? Consider keeping a journal where you communicate to your baby's soul on a regular basis. Thank your baby for the learning experiences you have shared.
4. Loving: Do you tell your baby that you love him or her and do you open your heart every time you think of your baby? Thank your lost baby for opening your heart every time he/she enters your mind.
The Final Grieving Task
The final task, after fully grieving the loss of your baby, is to affect an emotional withdrawal from the guilt of the abortion or the sadness of the miscarriage or the unfairness of the post-birth loss so that your emotional energy can be used in creating a productive life.
You must find your own ways of satisfying your social, emotional, spiritual and practical needs by developing new or changed activities and relationships. This is NOT dishonouring the lost or deceased and it doesn't mean that you love him or her any less. It simply recognizes that there are other people to be loved and cared for at this time.
5. Redirecting: What kind of mother did you want to be to your baby? What kind of person do you want to be post-loss? Did you want to be loyal, fierce, kind, or honest? Who or how will you love more deeply in this same way after your loss? How will you dedicate your life to loving this other person (or to a caring cause) in order to transform your loss into something deeply meaningful?