SHARE Atlanta Pregnancy and Newborn Loss Grief Support What is Grief?

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What is Grief?
Written and compiled by Marcia McGinnis

It isn't for the moment you are stuck
that you need courage,
but for the long uphill climb
back to sanity and faith and security.

Anne Morrow Lindberg

Topics in this Workshop...

Grief is a Process - A Path leading to Healing

Grief is a Normal Reaction to Loss-Give Yourself "Permission to Grieve"

Beliefs that Slow the Healing Process

Physical and Emotional Symptoms of Grief

Why bother with this path of grief?

The Tasks of Grief - Traveling Down Grief's Path - Grief causes Change and Gradual Healing

"The Climb" by Jennifer speaks to the "Tasks of Grief"

Signs of Healing!

Grief is a Process - A Path leading to Healing!

When we lose a baby we are thrust into an unwanted and unasked for situation.

We were expecting a birth, a start of a wonderful new life, and we received just the opposite – no living person - a life that ends before it fully begins. One that we, as parents, must complete. We are suddenly pushed into a grieving pattern at a time that we thought we were going to learn about parenting our child. We are forced to make our memories from a very short life, grieve these made memories, cope and “move on.”

The many faces of grief are not encouraged by society.

Often we are surprised by our strong reactions because most of us have never experienced death in any form and don’t know much about grief. We quickly become aware that society, in general, is unclear about grieving.

It is comforting to realize that the emotions, thoughts, and reactions that we experience after our loss are normal and are a part of the grieving process. When we realize and accept this fact, we can more fully embrace these new feelings and reactions, learn coping skills, and begin to heal. We can safely hold on to our memories of our baby's presence and begin to plan our future - once again.

The emotions and reactions to a loss are universal.

Because of the intensity of our reactions we fully believe that we are responding differently than we ever have to any other life event. In truth, we probably have had "smaller" losses in the past and reacted in a similar way. In these instances, we might have moved quickly through grief and gotten "on with our life."

For example, we lose a special item:

1. We are in shock that we could have actually misplaced it.

2. We panic about where it might be or how losing it may influence us.

3. We deny the actual loss, "It is here somewhere"! Or we try to tell ourselves that misplacing it won't really matter to us.

4. The reality that it is really gone sets in and we are very sad.

5. We become angry at the entire situation.

6. We begin to seek ways to make ourselves feel better (decide we don't need the item, buy or make a new item, find pictures of the item and preserve the memories, etc.)

7. We gradually are able to come to terms about the loss. We don't have to like that we loss the item, but we have moved through a process that has let us adjust to the fact that it is no longer part of our actual everyday life.

Usually, though, because our society does not encourage the emotions of grief (i.e. anger, tears, fear, sadness), any grief reactions in the past were quickly denied or covered up and we "dealt with it." Any lingering feelings might have been attributed to other issues and true grief issues were never dealt with.

One of the gifts our child can bring us is the understanding that grieving is a normal part of life's plan.

We can take the responsibility to learn about the grieving process, establish healthy coping ideas and gradually heal.

From a mom who has begun to heal 32 years after her losses:

"I suppose if I'd started grieving 32 years ago I would be stronger now. I've just learned about grieving recently & find that it's a much tougher job than any other form of labor I undertook."

"Thank you for providing a link for those of us who are just learning to regain our health by appropriately learning to grieve now...Carolyn "David Michael's Anniversary...32 years later..." by Carolyn "In Joy"


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Grief is a Normal Reaction to Loss

Grief is an active, normal process that embodies many reactions and emotions in response to a loss.

Did you know?

GRIEF....(Check those that you have already realized!) Normal part of life's plan a process a result of a Loss because we Loved, Cared, or Valued Slow Work - no set schedule - go at your own pace hard work

...causes Change

...causes Fear

...causes Pain - Awareness

...takes Time

...takes Courage

...needs Support

...leads to Choices

...teaches that we cannot Control everything

Giving yourself “Permission to Grieve”

To accomplish the goal of healing we must let grieving happen. Most often, because of our society, we believe that healing will happen if we just "keep on keeping on"! Denial is a normal “stage” of grief. It actually protects us from the full intensity of feelings and emotions of the initial shock of loss. But, when denial continues indefinitely, it becomes a block towards healing.

Learning to re-direct our energies is a crucial part of the healing process. We, as a society, find many reasons for denying our pain.


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Beliefs that Slow the Healing Process:

I will bury my memories and feelings, they are too painful.

If I talk about my loss, I will hurt more.

It is easier to move on - I will think about this later.

Everyone else seems to be just fine. I must be!...

If I start crying I'll never stop.

Our family never discussed our true feelings.

I have too much work to get finished - people expect me to be just fine.

Put your own reason here!


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The Normal Physical and Emotional Symptoms of Grief-
that disappear over time

These symptoms can make us feel increasingly confused and scared. New coping ideas help us to regain a sense of control, and we slowly release the tensions and confusion of grief.

Possible Symptoms: Check with your doctor if you have any concerns about a particular reaction. He/She is there to help you.


  • numbness, tension

  • crying

  • headaches

  • heaviness in chest (can feel like your heart is breaking)

  • indigestion, upset stomach

  • always hungry, never hungry

  • always tired, always "wired"

  • diarrhea, constipation

  • aching all over

  • lowered resistance to illness

  • irritable

  • dizziness


  • anger, rage - for many, a "forbidden" feeling

  • sad

  • denial of what really happened - can be used as a way to "protect" from full pain ~ safe "protector" at first...but harmful if denial doesn't gradually give way to coping and healing...

  • depression, guilt, despair

  • fear - your "innocence" is gone - you now know "bad things can can't control everything"

  • guilt - makes you keep looking for "what you did" so you can "fix it"

  • intense yearning to be with baby - "empty arms" - aching arms

  • jealousy...of others with children, for many a "new" feeling

  • confusion - not knowing what you really want or feel

  • feeling very tender and fragile

  • feeling of moving in a circle or of being "boxed in"

  • glimpses of hope dulled by pain

  • feeling of being alone or in isolation

  • needing, at times, to reach out or be reached towards

  • a need to better understand the grief process
    SHARE Atlanta's Workshop..."Why are my emotions so intense?"

  • a need to learn more about "ways to heal.." - See "Coping Ideas" in Drop Down box

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    Why bother with this path of grief?

    In reality, for most of us after we have suffered a loss, true healing only takes place when we come to grips with what has happened to us. This process is eased as we learn methods to make our loss comprehensible to us. Then we can move on!


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    The Tasks of Grief - Traveling Down Grief's Path
    Grief causes Change and Gradual Healing

    Tasks of Grief by Sister Jane Marie Lamb, the founder of SHARE, at the Perinatal Bereavement Conference in Atlanta on September 14-15, 1990. SHARE Atlanta added number 6, modified #3 and added the last part of number 4.

    1. Accept the reality of the loss and overcome denial.

    2. Name the pain. Express your feelings. Primary loss: our baby died

    3. Identify the secondary losses associated with loss of baby. Secondary losses: hopes, dreams, innocence, etc.

    4. Reinvest in life: Know it's okay to laugh and live. Must move through stages of grief (emotions of grieving): Develop coping skills based on past and present lifestyle.

    5. Restructure faith and philosophies.

    6. Make choices, develop plan of action, forgive yourself.

    Grief causes Change because...

    Grief is an active, normal process
    that we must move t-h-r-o-u-g-h to survive our loss(es).

    Moving from "what ought to be" (Raising our baby)
    To realizing and identifying "what is" (Our baby has died.)
    Then discovering and defining a path for "what will be" (Making new choices: subsequent pregnancy, adoption, a different life plan, etc.)****


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    "The Climb" by Jennifer G., our newsletter editor.

    "Tasks of Grief": taking the responsibility to grieve; making choices; expending energy; coping with changing relationships; release of confusion and pain leading to reinvestment in faith and life...

    The Climb
    They say grief is a depth that you sink to,
    But I have to disagree.
    Grief is a mountain you climb and climb
    Away from how life used to be.

    Slowly you leave all your loved ones behind,
    And all they can do is just stare.
    They know they can't reach you, and higher you climb,
    forgetting just how much they care.

    Once at the top you sit and you sob,
    And look at the world with new eyes.
    Everyone else's problems seem small
    While yours are as wide as the sky.

    The choice now is yours, are you willing to risk
    The treacherous trip to the ground?
    Though you know you may fall and get hurt once again,
    It's worth it to finally come down.

    You could stay at the top till your broken heart stops,
    And finally you no longer live
    From fear, lack of trust, and absence of love
    That the ones on the ground used to give.

    So you take a tentative step now and then,
    And soon to your wonder and joy,
    The ones on the ground reach up, help you down,
    And support you the rest of the way.

    I wish many things that I'd done, thought or said,
    I wish for the way things could be.
    But the wish that I wish with all of my heart
    Is for Jamie to be here with me.

    Jennifer G.
    SHARE Atlanta


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    Signs of Healing

    Thoughts to carry with you down your path or up your mountain.

    Take one day at a time

    Take care of yourself

    Give yourself space and time

    Forgive yourself, you did the best that you could during your loss

    Each day can have a special moment

    Give yourself or someone else a hug

    There are rainbows for each of us

    You imagine a special thought to carry with you!

    Grief work is best done now!

    Let the healing begin!


    As we identify our losses,
    weave through the pain,
    reflect upon their meaning and move into the healing,
    the fragments of our lives begin to come together
    and life begins to make sense again.

    Joyce Rupp
    Praying Our Goodbyes

    Our path can lead us to...

    ...talking/helping/thinking/working through our pain choices

    ...coping ideas

    ...developing a plan of action

    ...forgiving and re-accepting yourself

    ...releasing the guilt

    ...freeing the sadness

    ...reinforcing your growing strength

    ...peace and hope


    "May our resolutions to grief

    bring us to an abundant

    life of Love"

    Diane J.

    In memory of Mary Catherine

    SHARE Atlanta

    See you under the tree! Marcia :-)


    the share tree


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