Loss of a Preterm Child
Losing a preterm child can be devastating. Whether you or your partner were only a few weeks pregnant, or your baby was stillborn – the grief that parents can experience is immense. Making things even more difficult are the reactions from loved ones, friends, colleagues, and sometimes even strangers.
It’s likely that you will hear well-meaning but still upsetting or insensitive comments such as:
“It’s for the best”
“He/she is in a better place”
“You can always try again”
“At least you have other children”
… and possibly worse.
At the best of times, people have a hard time expressing sympathy to someone who is grieving but it seems to be worse when the loss was “invisible”. A loss can take place before someone looks pregnant or before anyone can see the baby – making it seem abstract to others. However, this is certainly not your experience. To you and/or your partner, you’ve lost your baby and all the hopes and dreams you had for your child. All this can leave you swimming in grief and feeling like you’re drowning in isolation.
Symptoms & signs of extreme grief from losing a preterm child
- Inconsolable sadness
- Inability to accept that your child is gone
- Thinking you’re still pregnant
- Inability to function
- Obsession with the child you lost, and what their future could have held
- Obsession with death in general
- Feelings of rage or anger
- Withdrawing from others
- Thoughts of suicide
- Not wanting to be around people – especially those who are expecting or have young children
- Extreme anxiety about your remaining child/ren (if applicable)
- Excessive crying
- Lack of appetite (or overeating)
- Sleeplessness or sleeping too much
- Feeling physical pain
- Lowered immunity
- Increased use of alcohol, recreational or prescription drugs
- Engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviours
When is it time to get help?
It is not fair to expect you to “get over” the loss of your preterm child, even if other people tell you the opposite. It’s normal to experience grief when you’ve experienced a severe loss. The symptoms of grief are problematic if you’ve been experiencing them for a prolonged time and/or they are severe enough to affect your daily life – eating, sleeping, working, relationships, etc. for an extended time. It’s easy to slip from sadness over the loss to depression, anxiety, and it can even be a trigger for substance problems. It’s also hard to be objective when it comes to your own grief or depression, so if your loved ones are expressing concern about you, you should consider seeking help.
Extreme grief treatment methods
Some common treatment methods for dealing with the extreme grief of losing a pre-term child include:
- Grief work therapy refers to the methods used in counselling that help people to grieve loss and understand their emotions associated with the loss in a healthy way with the ultimate goal of moving forward.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy encourages clients to accept the difficulties and misfortunes of life. Clients learn coping techniques to not dwell on negative emotions by staying in the present.
- Person Centered Therapy differs from more traditional therapeutic approaches in the belief that, while the therapist has expertise in many areas, the client is the expert on themselves and their lived experiences. People are essentially trustworthy and have a vast potential for understanding themselves while also being able to ultimately resolve their own problems when guided properly.
- Emotionally focused therapy is based on observations and experience. It looks at emotions and emotional intelligence, which helps support stronger and more secure relationships by helping better understand how our actions impact others, and how our emotions drive our interaction.
- Faith based therapy is using science-based therapeutic techniques that are administered by a therapist with similar spiritual beliefs or an understanding of those beliefs. This is not based on any one religion or spiritual belief.
Your therapist will talk with you about the best treatment method for your individual circumstances and unique needs.
What will I get out of treatment with Insight Psychological?
Here at Insight Psychological, we have trained specialists in grief and loss not only for the parents but also for siblings, friends, and other family members. Other parents have found a way to honour their child’s memory and acknowledge their grief while participating more meaningfully in their own lives. This can happen for you too.
We have therapists who will work with you to cope with your grief and make steps towards recovery. Insight can provide you with in-person, online, or telephone counselling. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.