You receive this Wingsmail because your pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, or because the pregnancy was ended in another way.
A sad time full of emotions
You’re probably in a rollercoaster of emotions right now: sadness, pain, guilt, disbelief, insecurity, anger.. You’re probably wondering whether you have taken enough folic acid, whether you have stressed too much, or whether these few glasses of alcohol you drank when you didn’t know you were pregnant caused this situation. These thoughts won’t help you to feel better, but it’s very normal that they’re here.
The possible causes of a miscarriage or why the pregnancy was ended, will not be addressed in this email. That’s the physical part of the process. Rather, this page is about how to cope with losing your baby. We want to give you some support and advice, but we don’t aim to be fully complete in our advice: for that you can use and read the books and websites recommended at the end of this page.
Losing your baby is a drastic event. For a short or already long while you have lived with the realization that you were going to be a mother or father. You have been excited, you have been scared. You have been focused on the future. And now, your belly is empty and there is no baby anymore. But in your head and in your heart you became a mother or father! Mourning and saying goodbye to someone that has lived is normally done by speaking up about memories, to talk about someone, or to look at photos.. But all of this is different in your case. How do you say goodbye to a little human that you have never seen smiling, talking or have even looked in the eyes? Your future dream was to see this child grow up. You wanted to give him or her a beautiful life with lots of love. Thát is what you are saying goodbye to in this process. From the expectations and future dreams: from the image of this child in your life.
Try to make as many memories as possible. Make a little box that you fill with ultrasound photos, with cards you have received, clothes that you already bought. No matter how small, no matter how short your pregnancy: if it is possible, have a goodbye ceremony. Bury or cremate your baby, and if that is not possible, make your own ritual in which you can have a proper goodbye. Pick a precious place where you can go to and mourn every now and then, or make a little altar at home where you can honour your child and let the tears flow.
There is legislation for the loss of a baby
There is legislation concerning passed away and miscarried babies. This legislation applies to a pregnancy that lasted at least 24 weeks. It works like this: Until 16 weeks of pregnancy, legally there is no viability of life. For that reason, your baby doesn’t ‘’count’’ yet to the law. Therefore, you can take your fetus home and bury him, or leave him in the hospital. You can do pretty much everything with your fetus, and no legislation really applies. Between 16 and 24 weeks of pregnancy there is no legislation either. According to the law your baby is not yet viable for life, but does have the right to live. Therefore, if you wish, you can register your baby in the population register. He or she can also be registered in your marriage certificate. You are not obliged to have a funeral, which means you can take your baby home or leave him in the hospital. However, if you wish to have a funeral, you can have one.
A pregnancy ending after 24 weeks, we call a stillbirth. It is the lower limit for treatment in the hospital for your baby. Legally, your baby must get a name now. You are also required to register your baby in the population register in your municipality. With this, you will receive a special 'Certificate of a stillborn child'. Also, you must arrange a funeral. It’s not mandatory to put your baby in a coffin: a cloth or basket is also fine. The funeral is supposed to take place within 6 working days after the day of passing away (which usually also is the day of birth).
If your pregnancy didn’t end spontaneously
Terminating a pregnancy was long seen as a taboo and often still is. As parents you often have to choose between two evils. The grief and sadness is there either way, but the people around you might not understand this. “It was your own choice, wasn’t it?’’. This complexity can way down the grief. You struggle enough with this decision, without having to explain it. Find people who show their understanding and can support you no matter what. Don’t invest your time in defending your decision to people who don’t support you or show their lack of understanding.
Grieving is the process of integrating your loss in your life from now on. It’s not about processing something or giving it a place. This loss is something that you will carry for the rest of your life. Grieving is a unique process, every person grieves in his or her unique way (from: Fingerprints of Sadness from Manu Keirse). You don’t have to move forward and let go, but you will learn how to hold on in a different way. The love remains. It’s important to take some time to grieve and find a place for your loss in life in order to move on. Reconnect (for instance when trying to get pregnant) and bond will work best if you put some time and attention to the loss and absence. Part of this face is to share. Share your sadness and feelings with others. With your partner, family or friends. Choose who you feel secure with.
Theory about grief
Perhaps people around you are telling you how to grief, or you will read this information in books and on websites. Older theories such as the one from Kübler-Ross are talking about having phases of grief and tasks of grief. Nowadays we know that the grief of each person is unique – we can’t give you a standard route. If there is a model that describes how most people go through a grieving process it’s this one:
Stroebe and Schut have described the grieving process as a dual process model (DPM). This model distinguishes two reactions:
This has to do with the person who is no longer here, with the loss, the passing and the absence; in other words: the reality of loss. In this case it’s about an inner adaption process focused on the loss emotionally, physically and mentally. You are trying to find the purpose for the rest of your life.
For example: I can’t/won’t want to live without my child. Or: where is my child now? Why has this happened to us? Or: how can I feel like a mother without a child?
Recovery focused grief
This has to do with the consequences of the passing and life afterwards. It’s about adapting to the new situation. For example: How do you find a place for your lost child in your everyday life? Who puts an arm around me when I need it? Is it okay to visit the grave often? Can we do this together? What should we do with the decorated room? Healthy grieving is a way of moving back and forward between recovery focused grief on the one hand and lossfocused grief on the other (= think, feel, do). It’s important to find a balance between the two types. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. When someone is only focused on one of these ways there is a higher risk that someone will get stuck in the grieving process.
But don’t worry: most people naturally move between the two types. Compare it to the pendulum of a clock moving back and forward. One person will move quickly, the other slowly. Everything is fine, as long as it keeps moving. Only a small number of people in grief will need the help of a hulpverlener te raadplegen. Your social network, reading about others, keeping in touch with fellow sufferers, going outside and into nature.. these are the sources for most parents.
Focus especially on what your heart tells you and take good care of yourself, mentally and physically.
Websites you can visit
Books you can read
- Grieving the Child I Never Knew: A Devotional for Comfort in the Loss of Your Unborn or Newly Born Child by Kathe Wunneberg
- About What Was Lost by Jessica Berger-Gross
- Empty Cradle, Broken Heart by Deborah Davis
- Fathers Feel Too by Andrew Don
- Help, Comfort and Hope by Hannah Lothrop