Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Infant loss and grief work

I honestly can't remember if I have shared this part of my personal life on this blog yet. If I have forgive me and if I haven't well keep reading! I met with a few girls who will be interns with me at the counseling agency for lunch today and tried to chat about our interest. While it didn't get far there I have been thinking about it all afternoon. Oh and forgive my lack of images for this post as none seem appropriate.

 I have a variety of interest but I do believe my main pull is to substance abuse although I am also drawn to working with soldiers who have PTSD issues, couples (not families), and I am considering infant grief work. This is where the personal part comes in.

In 2005 my husband and I lost a son at 23 weeks gestation due to pre-term labor. He lived a brief time after he was born but died I believe mostly because of the location we where in not being properly equipped to handle a 23 week infant.  I have spent the last 7 years working through the grief of loosing Zachariah (named after the book Z is for Zachariah) and I have always wondered if as a counselor I could offer something to parents who have been or are on the same path as I.

It was and is one of the hardest things I have had to deal with in my life. I say is because there are times it hits me harder than others. I have accepted that I can't change the past and wondering the whys and hows does me no good as it takes me a place that I don't need to be. I have accepted his death in the only way I can that still allows me to live my life. The only way that allows me to move forward while still knowing something is missing in my life.

Losing a child is one of the hardest things any family may have to face. You have to give up on the hopes and dreams you had for them, on wondering what they would look like now, what kind of person they would be, who would their friends be, if they would get along with their siblings...would you even have siblings if they had been alive. You see where I am going with this? Losing a child leaves so many things unanswered....so many it can be unbearable.

So as a parent who has been there and a future counselor I wonder if I can give back and offer a glimmer of hope in the dark. But I also wonder if because of my past experience I would be to close? I really can't decide.

Oh and for anyone who is reading this post who has recently experienced an infant loss in your family here is some things to NOT SAY to the parents:
  • Don't say it was God's will or say the baby is better off because they are with God unless the person you are speaking with is extremely religious. Most of us myself included are not comforted by that...at least not while the pain is so raw.
  • Don't try to act like it didn't happen or that the baby was not well a baby. No matter what stage of the pregnancy to those parents that was their child. 
  • Don't try to avoid talking about how hurt the parents are because when you do you make the parents feel like they need to be strong to save your feelings and in that moment they should feel free to turn to you with theirs. 
  • Don't avoid talking about the baby. This might be different for some but I wanted to talk about Zach. I wanted him to be acknowledged as to me it helped me see that he was gone and to begin the process of healing.
  • Don't offer to remove the babies thing from the house or to take down the nursery they had set up for the baby. When the time is right for the parents that will happen and removing traces of the baby doesn't do anyone any good and for the most part makes the parents feel as you want to pretend their child never existed. 
  • Lastly, don't change the subject. If the parent starts to talk to you about losing their child don't try to get them to talk about something else. If they choose you to talk about it with it means that they feel like they can trust you with their true emotions and that they feel like you are there for them. If you don't know what to say just say this: I will sit here as long as you need me to listen but because I lack experience I will not know what to say. But my ears and heart will be open. 
If you are a parent who has recently lost a child:

  • Speak up about what you need. Everyone around you really needs direction as most people do not know how to handle these emotions and feelings. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need. 
  • Seek out a grief counselor
  • Seek out a grief support group (we did this and it was really good for us)
  •  Turn to and not away from your partner. Remember they are the only other person in your life right now who truly will experience the loss most similar to the way you will. At times it will seem like they don't get it but trust me they do. 
If anyone reading this post wants to contact me leave me a message. I would be glad to speak with anyone. 


  1. Stumbled upon your blog tonight. Love it! I think you can offer wonderful insight to your clients in this specialized area. I'm a recent mental health counselor grad....I've been working with abuse/grief for past 13 years now. It's amazing work and can be very rewarding. I'm also a college professor part-time. I like the balance! I might share your site with my psychology students (the ones majoring in clinical/abnormal psychology). All the best to you! -Corrie

  2. Hi,

    Your blog is an interesting one I hope to read more from you soon. I to am on a journey to become a Mental Health Counselor (beginning). I read your interested in photography and that you want to provide grief counseling. I stumbled on a site which I would like to be associated with that is only available for families that have lost a baby. Its a volunteer service where the photographer is contacted to go to the hospital and capture memories through photos for the family free of charge (keepsake). Its called Nowilaymedowntosleep. I to have had a loss and I hope to one day be able to provide a memory for them.