Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death: Understanding Grief and Trauma

Pregnancy loss and infant death can be devastating experiences that leave expectant and new parents in shock and deeply grieving. In addition to experiencing many painful symptoms, parents can worry about whether there is something wrong with them for feeling how they feel. While anticipatory guidance doesn’t eliminate grief, it can assuage fears about grieving and clarify what is normal after loss has been experienced.

My newly updated information sheet, Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death: Understanding Grief and Trauma, offers a brief overview of the nature of grief (and how it differs from depression), trauma, and the kind of support that can be helpful. Here’s an excerpt….

The loss of a baby during pregnancy, during birth, or after birth can be an indescribably painful and devastating experience. In the beginning, parents may feel a sense of disbelief, numbness, and shock. They may feel like their dreams for the future have been cruelly wrenched from them. They may experience guilt and ask unanswerable questions: Why my baby? Why me? Their arms and hearts may ache with emptiness. The reactions of friends and family, co-workers, and strangers may reflect ignorant insensitivity or the deepest compassion. Unfortunately, many societies do not fully recognize pregnancy loss and infant death as real losses, often leaving bereaved parents feeling invalidated and alone in their grief. Parents may feel great pressure to act as though they have “moved on” when they are actually still grieving and they have been changed forever by the living and the dying of their baby. They may quickly realize that few people are able to listen to them and to support them in their grief. Learning about the normalcy and healthiness of grief can be a critical step in finding ways to grieve well.

Cynthia Good

You can read the full information sheet for free here. I hope you find it helpful. And, if you have experienced pregnancy loss or infant death, I am so very sorry for your loss.

Cynthia

Mental Health Care for Postpartum Depression During Lactation

Lactation management is particularly important in the context of postpartum depression because symptoms of depression can both contribute to and follow premature weaning. I have worked with many lactating parents coping with postpartum depression who sought mental health care only to be told by a prior care provider that treatment required them to stop nursing or expressing milk for their little one. This is rarely true, but many care providers—and the parents they seek to serve—don’t know this.

Primary care providers and mental health care providers can have culturally-based misconceptions about the “appropriate” duration of nursing, be uncomfortable with a parent nursing or pumping during a therapy session, be unaware of the importance of the nursing relationship to a dyad’s overall well-being, or be otherwise insufficiently knowledgeable about the evidence-based management of lactation in the context of psychotherapy.

Therefore, parents who deeply value breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and/or providing their expressed milk to their baby often struggle to find lactation-compatible mental health care. They can feel stuck between a rock and a hard place: treat their postpartum depression and grieve having to prematurely wean or continue providing their milk while enduring untreated postpartum depression.

My newly updated information sheet, Mental Health Care for Postpartum Depression During Lactation, reviews barriers to lactation-compatible mental health care for postpartum depression, how to research potential care providers, and treatment options. The vast majority of treatment options for postpartum depression, including most psychotropic medications, do not contraindicate lactation. And, parents deserve the opportunity to make informed decisions about their options.

Here’s an excerpt of questions that can be asked to evaluate a practitioner’s knowledge and support of lactation:

• How long do you think it is healthy for breastfeeding/chestfeeding to continue?

• How do you feel about a client nursing in your presence during a counseling session?

• What are your views on parenting behaviors that facilitate breastfeeding/chestfeeding, such as sleep sharing, baby wearing, and physical closeness in the parent-baby dyad?

• How do you protect and support lactation while providing mental health care?

• How often do you recommend weaning or the introduction of artificial substitutes for human milk in order to treat postpartum depression?

Cynthia Good

You can read the full information sheet for free here. I hope you find it helpful!

Cynthia

Upon the Healing Journey

I have lived enough to know that learning never ends. I’ve learned that life is messy—at best. That there is no one right way to do anything. That even though there is no way to avoid mistakes, loss, and pain in life, we carry within us the capacity for learning, healing, and growing. So, in my work as a counselor, speaker, consultant, and author, I strive to share what I’ve learned from my own life and from the privilege of walking alongside others at difficult times in their lives.

Whether it’s a new publication (mine or someone else’s), a commentary on new research, an announcement about an upcoming speaking engagement, a blog post about life’s challenges, or a poem about healing, I hope you find something here that is of use to you. You are welcome here.

I’ll start us off with a poem I wrote in 2015 in honor of all those who have allowed me the privilege, for a time, of walking alongside them upon their healing journeys.

 

Upon the Healing Journey

 

You come to me.

Hesitant. Afraid. Courageous.

 

We test the waters with formalities that invite us deeper,

Past the demographics and the labels,

Past the masks that offer shelter from judgment and assumption,

Past the gates that guard the hidden self.

 

Where we come to you:

Your shattered dreams and expectations,

Your yearnings and imaginings,

Your loss and grief and trauma,

Your experience of deceit and betrayal by those who should have held your trust sacred.

 

And you begin the work of speaking the truth

Of naming the unnameable,

Of feeling the unfeelable,

Of grieving the ungrievable.

 

The crushing weight of unheard pain begins to lift

As you learn to honor your losses and experience your grief,

As room is made for your anger alongside your gratitude,

As the real, whole picture is painted and felt and seen in the space we build together.

 

And with the justice of reality spoken, felt, and heard

Your vision broadens to include your many strengths, gifts, and triumphs.

 

From the ashes you grow a meaning of your own making

Watered with your tears,

Nurtured by your hope,

Protected by your determination to choose life in spite of it all.

 

And you rise like a Phoenix

With wisdom that will always be yours

And that you will share with others

So that they will know

They are not alone

And they, too,

Can survive and learn to thrive

Upon the healing journey.

 

~ Cynthia Good

 

If you are facing challenges, know that you are not alone and help is available. If I can be of assistance, please let me know.

Best wishes on your journey,

Cynthia

 

 

P.S. Anyone is welcome to link to this blog post if they want, but reproduction or transmission of this poem in any form is prohibited without my written permission. Thank you for your understanding!