Parents who experience a stillborn baby are beseiged with initial reactions to grief--disbelief, shock, guilt, anger, self-recrimination and tears. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the grieving process for a stillborn baby may differ between cultures and is often dependent on the duration of pregnancy. It's perfectly normal for expecting parents to grieve for a stillborn child. How you choose to express your loss is unique to you.
Before 20 weeks, the loss of a pregnancy is called a miscarriage; after 20 weeks, it's called a stillbirth, says the National Women's Health Information Center. Stillbirth occurs in around 1 of every 200 pregnancies, usually before delivery, says the American Pregnancy Association. Some of the known reasons for stillbirth include genetic problems, poor fetal development, problems with the placenta or umbilical cord and infection. However, around 50 percent of the time, the reason for a stillbirth is never identified.
The Grieving Process
According to MayoClinic.com, if you experience a stillbirth, your grief may occur in stages, the first being denial, during which time it may be difficult to comprehend what happened to you. Anger typically follows--you may be angry at yourself or a partner. Guilt is the third stage of grief. During this time, you may go over the things that you did and didn't do during your pregnancy that may have caused the stillbirth. During the fourth stage of grief, depression settles in. The last and final stage of grief is acceptance, during which you come to terms with your loss. You may not experience all of the stages of grief, bypassing some and lingering a little longer in other stages. Painful events such as a friend's baby shower or the sight of a newborn infant might trigger feelings of guilt, anger and pain.
Taking Care of You
These feelings are normal, the National Women's Health Information Center notes. Share your feelings with your spouse or partner, keeping in mind that men and women cope with pregnancy loss differently. Ask your friends and family members for their support during this difficult time. Maintain your health by eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting the sleep you need. The APA notes that having a memorial service for your stillborn baby may be a painful undertaking, but this is one way you can honor your child, as well as find personal closure.
While everyone works through pregnancy loss in his or her own way, there are things you can do to help yourself heal faster. MayoClinic.com suggests journaling your feelings and finding other ways to remember your baby, such as planting a tree in his or her remembrance. Join a pregnancy loss support group. Seek the counsel of your clergyman or spiritual adviser. If time doesn't heal all wounds and you still grieve for your stillborn baby, the National Women's Health Information Network suggests seeking help from a grief counselor.
Ask for Help
Grieving for a stillborn baby can put stress on a couple's relationship. One partner may not appear to grieve as much as the other, which also causes conflict. Even existing children may feel the loss of a much-awaited sibling. Women who experience a stillbirth may think they feel the baby moving, or feel as though they're going crazy. If grief overwhelms you to the point where life no longer seems worth living, the National Women's Health Information Center advises going to the emergency room or calling 911 or the 24-hour, toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.