Among the Angels Foundation recognizes the profound impacts of loss on families as well as the challenges of postpartum depression on women, and funds counselling as a way to provide support, symptom relief, and healing.
The Experience of Grief
A Complicated Loss
The death of a baby can leave parents in intense grief, a feeling that can be overwhelming, painful, and frightening. Losing a baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, and sudden infant death is a very complex loss. The suddenness of the loss carries with it a traumatic impact, shattering hopes and dreams for the future, and weighing heavily on relationships. It can stir up the sadness and pain of past losses, and can triggers fear around potential future losses. For women, in many cases, their bodies are healing and experiencing hormone changes, which complicates their natural ability to be with their emotions and handle stress.
Violation of Expectations
When a new life is lost, a parent’s worldview is significantly impacted. They “did all the right things” and yet the worst still happened. In our modern world, we naturally carry the beliefs that pregnancy is supposed to end with a baby in your arms; babies are supposed to be healthy and if they are sick they can be healed; our babies are supposed to live into childhood and adolescence and then adulthood and beyond. Because of this, miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant sudden death conflicts with life-cycle expectations and shatters a parents’ beliefs about the world as it should be.
Everyone Grieves Differently
There is no right way to grieve; everyone holds loss differently. It is very normal for thoughts to feel clouded and confused, to be forgetful, and to feel frozen when a decision needs to be made. It is normal to cry, to feel lonely and isolated. It is normal to feel irritable, impatient, and angry. Sleep and appetite might be disrupted. It is normal to have trouble concentrating even on simple tasks.
It’s more than Sadness
The tremendous sense of loss brings with it an emptiness that feels stronger than sadness. At times it can feel physically painful, connecting us to a sense of despair, of chaos, even uncertainty about the future. It is normal to feel guilty, to cycle through periods of laying blame or feeling blame, and of course – feeling helpless.
Grief has no Timeline
Moving through loss means connecting with a wide range of emotions, confronting many thwarted expectations and altered core beliefs. Grief is not transient and instead comes in waves – sometimes overwhelming and other times subsiding.
You will Smile Again
The pain of your loss never completely vanishes; it gets integrated into the narrative of your life. You will have moments of connecting with happiness and moments of remembering and feeling sad. Healing is about moving through the pain of your loss and finding a new way to be in the world with the loss. It is about courageously connecting with new meaning and being in the moment in your life.
Support for the Experience of Postpartum Depression
“Postpartum depression is not a moral failure, an ethical dilemma, or a sign of weakness. It is a medical condition. It is a neuropsychiatric illness that affects every cell in a woman’s brain and body, some more obvious than others. But women who develop it rarely see it as a true medical illness.” — Karen Kleinman (2009)
It can be hard for a woman to differentiate between what is just part of her body’s process of adjusting after being pregnant and that which is disproportionate to the experience. And while the experience of postpartum depression is more common than many people think, new mothers often feel ashamed of their emotional reactions and choose to not seek help. During the 12 months following delivery, postpartum depression can include symptoms of frequent crying and feelings of sadness, irritability, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, excessive feelings of guilt, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, panic, hopelessness, thoughts about death, and overall physical and emotional fatigue.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please reach out for support. When we treat the illness of postpartum depression, the symptoms get better. The symptoms of postpartum depression do not reflect who you are, and seeking help does not equate failure.
As social beings, we heal in the context of healthy social relationships. There are times in our lives when the situation we are presented with outweighs our emotional capacity to deal with it, and we need to look beyond the support of trusted friends and family. In counselling, your pain can be acknowledged, your story shared, the many dimensions of your loss untangled, and new coping strategies developed.
Community Resources in Vernon BC
Please contact us for a list of private practice Counsellors funded through Evening Among the Angels. Extended Benefits may also cover grief services.
Family Resource Centre of the North Okanagan, 250-545-3390
– individual counselling, family support, and postpartum peer support group
Vernon Mental Health at IHA, 250-549-5737
– short-term counselling