Children and Grief: Where’s Our Baby?

baby-shoes

How to Help Children with Grief after a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Newborn Death.

HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest poster, Valerie Oldfield, bereaved parent, and children’s writer whose background is in education and drama. Most recently she retired from grief support group facilitation, volunteer training as well as grief/death education. Find her book for grieving children, Where’s Our Baby on Amazon.

Just the same way everyone in the family shares the joyful anticipation that a new baby can bring, so does everyone in the family experience the grief when the new life is cut short. People believed for a long time that the youngest family members did not grieve. We know that just isn’t true. Parents can feel lost when it comes to their children’s thoughts and feelings and the subsequent behaviors. But there are concrete ways to bridge the generation gap and to allow room for the conversations when they are ready.

Young children have a very different understanding of the concepts around death:

  • they cannot grasp the permanence of death, it is only temporary and the deceased’s body can start to work again, in essence they can come back to life
  • dead means sleeping or away on a trip
  • they may wonder what the baby is doing now, they still live in a world of magical thinking

But, the sadness all around them does not go unnoticed. Their reactions can run the gamut:

  • feelings of guilt, worry, confusion, insecurity, fear and sadness, to name a few.

Young children often react with:

  • regressive behaviors i.e., wetting the bed, thumb sucking, neediness, etc.
  • they may repeat the same questions many times
  • their play may include themes of death and they can have a newfound interest in dead things
  • they may just as easily withdraw or lash out with playmates

With this knowledge we can aim our support to their special needs by:

  • most importantly, having children participate in any services or rituals the adults choose to do
  • accepting their behaviors, including regression
  • giving lots of hugs and other contact
  • encouraging them to play and draw so that they can work through their feelings and get a break from them as well, that is most natural for children of this age
  • allowing quiet times for them to express how they are feeling
  • using children’s books, around the topic of baby loss or any loss, can start the conversation
  • answering all their questions with simple explanations
  • not straying from their usual routines i.e., bedtimes, etc.
  • letting them cry and not hiding your tears in front of them

As a family, you will learn to live with the loss, each in his own way, and in his own time.

 

Mother’s & Father’s Day: Help for Grieving Parents

man-when-he-does-not-grieve-hardly-exists-quote-1Are you spending Mother’s Day wondering if you are, in fact, a mother? Are you a father dealing with grief as Father Day approaches? 900,000-1 million couples in the U.S. alone face this question every year after suffering pregnancy loss.

As you face the sadness of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, you can both give yourselves a very simple gift – acknowledge that you are a mother and father. You may not have a baby to hold in your arms, but you both have one to hold in your heart.

If you are grieving during this time that we celebrate parenthood, there are some tips that can help. Men and women handle grief very differently, so we have included separate help for each, adapted from the book  Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.

Mothers:

Nothing will lesson the pain of Mother’s Day, but with some planning you can make sure the day has meaning for you.

Here are some tips that can help:

– Let Your Family Know What You Need.

If you feel uncomfortable being recognized as a mother at a banquet or other function, substitute an activity you would feel good about. If you would rather not receive or wear a flower, then wear an item that helps you to connect with your baby, such as a piece of jewelry that includes the baby’s birthstone.

– Remember Your Baby.

Mother’s Day can be a great time for a husband and wife to talk about their baby and what the baby meant to them. Take a walk, have a quiet dinner, or just set aside some time to remember your baby together.

– Decide Ahead of Time.

The way you chose to spend Mother’s Day should be your decision- and one you make ahead of time. Setting time aside to remember and talk about your baby will make you “feel” more like a mom on the very day designed to do that. Remember that your spouse may experience similar feelings on Father’s Day, so be sure to ask how he would like to spend the day.

Fathers:

After the loss of a baby, Father’s Day can be a painful time for men that isn’t widely discussed or recognized. The lack of understanding and support offered to men makes grief a very complex and difficult situation. Be sure to let your family know how you would like to spend Father’s Day.

 Here are some ways to handle your grief:

 

 – Talk About It.

 

You may feel uncomfortable putting your feelings into words, but talking about your loss with trusted loved ones will help. Don’t be afraid to cry and express your emotions. Discuss any questions or concerns that surface about how you are handling your grief, and know that your process will be different, but equal to your wife.

 

– Ask for Space. 

 

If you need space to experience grief in your own way without criticism, ask for it. Explain how the time alone can help, rather than giving the impression that you are “shutting out” your loved ones.

 

– Deal with Anger.

 

While women may tend to point anger inward, men often direct their anger outward. This can manifest as anger toward your spouse or even God. Remember that expressed anger is a normal and healthy response to grief, however hostile behavior is not. If you are feeling hostile, or having difficulty dealing with anger, get help.

 

Dealing with pregnancy loss is difficult for anyone; especially on a day designed to celebrate new life, that instead, brings sadness. Mothers and fathers can support one another and ensure the day has meaning for your both.