SHARE Atlanta Pregnancy and Newborn Loss Grief Support Memories and Gifts

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Healing, Grieving...the intensity and longevity are real....

"The Intensity of Grief" PDF by Marcia McGinnis 6.2012 - click on the hearts

A mom writes about her intense Grief walk with my answer..

It is hard to hang on to each other through all of this pain and grief.

You are so right about it being hard to hang on to each other through all of this. I pray we continue on this journey together and come out stronger than ever. Also, you really have no idea how much I appreciate you and your support. SHARE Atlanta is a gift from God.

You are also right about things affecting us much because we are so angry and very sensitive to many things right now. A counselor was saying the exact same thing.

Midterm loss
Atlanta, GA

Marcia's thoughts: I know I have written a lot here...but I hope these thoughts help you more...

Our intense feelings and reactions are "normal" for grief

I think the hardest thing for most people is to realize the intensity of the pain and grief that happens after our loss. We really think it isn't normal to feel so many intense feelings. It isn't what we do in our everyday life so we are so fearful of them. If we look at all the people who have come through our SHARE Atlanta group, not counting other groups, read what they say about their pain and listen - really listen to each is very clear that this pain is deep and it goes on longer than a month.

Our pain and grief comes and goes in levels that first year, but it is intense for both parents. It means really feeling like we can't make it. It means crying, isolating, fear, anger, heightened sensitivity we talk about. It is hard to realize that when this is happening to us that it could be THIS intense. But it is. Our rational selves do NOT want to comprehend it.

Peppers, an early author on Pregnancy Loss found this truth out...

One of the first books written on this subject by Peppers has an interesting story line. I went to a lecture by him years and years ago. He told us that when he decided to write on the topic of 'pregnancy loss' he knew he would interview a few parents..mostly moms and 'get their opinions." He told us that he thought that he could get this completed fairly quickly.

Well, his first interview with a mom took hours...not a half hour or less. He was shocked by her intensity of feelings and depth of reactions. He said that this kept happening in these "brief" interviews he was holding. He soon realized that he had miscalculated his subject material and people. We laughed (in concert with his realization) and knew it to be true because we had lived it. Others think because we didn't "know" these babies as living - growing children our feelings wouldn't - couldn't be as intense for as long as they are.

Intensity and longevity are denied...

Often, I get phone calls from counselors and nurses who don't 'get it." Of course, their wish is for their patient or client to quickly move through their grief. (I also see this in our inservices.) They are fearful of the person who is still "intensely grieving" after 6 months to a year. Well, those counselors and group leaders who focus on the grieving process know the reality of the situation. It is intense and it does last AND people can and do survive their grief...with support.

An interesting side thought: because we and they "fear" the intensity of pain we deny it or don't discuss it. Then it never does become a reality for others in the society at large. With our awarenss pins on, we advocate for emotional support and understanding because grief is misunderstood. The intensity and longevity of our grief is one of the topics for support that we need to highlight.

Learning that this is normal helps us cope...others have survived this same level of grief...

We think we are never going to make it through our grief because we have never felt this way before...that is why a group such as SHARE Atlanta is so important for grieving people. If we can share and believe that we all are moving through the same (or about the same) intensity and length of pain and grief and that others before you have as well, then we can hope since they survived and those around us are surviving - then we will too. You see, I hear so many moms, especially, say that the world around them doesn't support their grief...well, it doesn't because few can understand (even the grieving mom doesn't)!

I think that the real fear is that we each think our grief is "over the top"..and for most of us - it feels "over the top" for us, but in the bigger picture of grief - it is normal. One of the fathers in the group asked me if I always say everything is 'normal,' and I told him, no, I don't. There have been some folks who have shared things that I tell them their feelings are "over the top."

Put the level of grief within the full framework of a "year" of grief..

It is wise put your "level" of grief in the bigger context of the year of grief. I believe that you have just been through the worse part of the grieving process for us: the due date mixed with the beginning of the 4-5th month. These two events plus the anniversary and the first holidays are hard to deal with...for most of our parents.

Looking at what most likely is "normal" or not normal grief...

I have suggested counselors for some people because it seems that they really aren't working through their issues at all. Some can't see any blessings, some hold their anger in constant framework, some are so fearful that they become house bound, some can't do anything else in life but cry and grieve. For them their grief is so consuming that they can't begin to discuss coping ideas or enjoy any part of a day. They can't even get to work at all. I worry if these are all at a constant level - to feel these at intermittent times is normal, but to feel these without any short breaks is not. Usually, as time moves past the 6th month, these reactions become less and less - except on holidays that first year, and the anniversary date. These are most always difficult.

Sometimes there are other parts of our relationship in our marriage or life that enter into our grief around our baby and cause us to heighten our situation's issues. A good counselor can get to those issues.

S/he does need to understand the unique situation with pregnancy and newborn loss issues. If s/he tells you that the only way to heal is to have another baby, please consider another person. Having another baby does not end the grieving process. I remind those who suggest such a solution that not everyone may have this option - would that mean they will never heal? AND, being pregnant and having a living child to hold before a parent has dealt with some of his/her grief, brings grief issues into what will be a stressful pregnancy and then a stressful parenting situation. A good counselor can be can be a huge validation to those thoughts that we share in our group and on the website...or found in the many good books that are available today.

The longevity and intensity issue is a real one. Parents, their families and friends start to become concerned when many of the issues "don't go away" after a few months. If anything, some of these issues become stronger (around the 4th through sixth month, due dates, anniversaries, and holidays). It is hard to prepare for how strong these feelings and reactions can become. They can scare us because they are so intense...and unlike the person "we are."

How to cope...

Realizing that this will happen to most of us and not being afraid to express ourselves is a big step to coping. Sharing our feelings and not denying them allows us to see that most of us are going through the same kinds of issues. Then, listening to others who have survived them reassures us to some level that we can do this.

The site and our group offers many kinds of "coping ideas." Some seem so obvious that we can't see how they could work. Healing is not magic - it takes the decision that we want to heal, making choices that we can do to help us (yoga, writing, reading for fun and learning, exercise, painting, sharing, crying, etc.). It is a slow process and we don't like slow processes. Our children would want us to be healed. In that process if we can bring some meaning to their lives then we have made this tragic experience part of who we are and carry our child's memory in a positive manner for the rest of our lives.

I hope others will share their intense feelings...expressing them is half of the release of them. Written by Marcia McGinnis 2004

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