Working with clients who have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility or any of the issues around pregnancy is a humbling yet rewarding experience.
The raw sense of loss, pain and grief can be devastating for clients – many will cry through the first few sessions. At this stage my role is to sit with them in their pain with empathy and offer a space for that pain to be expressed.
The emotions that can come from having a stillborn baby for example can include anger, guilt, shame, despair, feeling responsible, feeling a failure, an obsession with death – the list goes on. What feels important to me when working with clients is to gently let them know that these feelings are something I hear often. There is no ‘normal’ in grief but sometimes knowing that you are not the only ones to feel like this can be helpful.
Grieving for a pregnancy loss can be complex.
Making sense of why it has happened is often important for many clients and for some people they may find out why that pregnancy or many pregnancies have not been successful but for others we explore how it will be to sit with the unknown.
Isolation can be another issue. When you lose a baby, at any stage of pregnancy or after birth, you are grieving for someone you don’t know. There is no memory bank to call on and share with others; your friends and family may not know what to say to you or worse, avoid you.
Loss of the future is also part of the grieving process. Your plans may need to change; you may find it difficult to be at work when only a few months before you were expecting to be on maternity/paternity leave; you may have a decorated nursery that you don’t know what to do with and so on. Communication between couples, or with partners not in the sessions, is key, I believe. People grieve in different ways and at different rates. Your partner may look like they have moved on because they are back doing things they used to do but throwing themselves into work, sport etc may simply be their way of coping.
When a woman gives birth and brings home a child part of their processing of the birth, I believe, is to share their birth story with others, often many times. For clients who have had to deliver their child but not been able to bring them home this processing is often denied them, because others don’t want to upset them or know how to have that conversation or because the parents don’t want to upset others either. Telling me their story as many times as they need to can be very powerful and I am in a privileged position to be able to hear it. If the baby has been named, we always use their name and often feel that they are part of the sessions too. Parents often want to share pictures of their baby, which is an honour and often a very moving part of our work together.
I have worked with clients who feel that the loss of a baby or a diagnosis of infertility has prompted them to look at all aspects of their life and relationships. This can be a very healing time for people and I urge them to take this moment in life to explore things which they may never have looked at before. ‘Loss begets loss’ is a response that comes up often in this work, people will be taken back to previous losses and exploring with them how they coped can be helpful in moving through the grieving process with this loss.
Clients often discover a spiritual side, particularly when they have experienced a stillbirth. They may see particular birds or flowers everywhere or at poignant moments and this can offer them great comfort. The search for something tangible, when there is nothing else, to remember the baby by can often become all consuming but my own experience and often the experience of my clients has been that the ‘something’, whether it is a tree, ornament or teddy will find them.
To find out more about how counselling can help you work through a loss call me on 07789 515561 or email email@example.com