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Baby was stillborn and family pooh-poohs her need to grieve

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Baby was stillborn and family pooh-poohs her need to grieve

Pittsburgh: My baby was stillborn last month. Up until three days before the birth he was fine and active. I am still devastated and feel like the last year of my life was a dream or missing time. I feel like the people around me (husband, mother, sister with two healthy kids) are pushing me to move on and "try again," treating my loss as an early miscarriage or something less awful than losing a child. I think they all got together and agreed on this approach. Should I be grateful for this or can I assert that I'm NOT OKAY YET and still need their support?

Carolyn: Oh. I'm so sorry. That's not a miscarriage, that's a nightmare.

Please assert that you're NOT OKAY YET and still need their support — starting with your husband. If you don't get through to him that you're grieving, please talk to your obstetrician about resources that can connect you to the support you need, both for grieving and for talking to your family in a way that helps them understand how unhelpful their seemingly unified "try again" front has been.

Please take care.

Pittsburgh again: I actually have been in counseling since right after I delivered. That's where I found the empowerment to even admit to not being okay yet. My family is very pooh-poohy about mental-health stuff (husband will not come with me to counseling), and I also realistically know I have been a bad daughter and wife for the past month.

I am willing to stop talking about it all the time, but I am not ready to go back to work (what my husband wants) and certainly not ready to talk about getting pregnant again (mom and sister). Before, I felt so connected to all of them, and to the baby, and now I just feel so alone because of how they have reacted to the counseling.

Carolyn: Please don't call yourself a bad daughter and wife. For one thing, your husband won't come to counseling? Really? Even if he pooh-poohs it, you're his wife, you lost a baby, and you're asking him to go. He can't get over himself for one hour to hold your hand? What does that make him?

I realize you don't need another wedge between you now, and I'm not trying to put one in. I'm only trying to point out that you and your feelings are entitled to respect — and when you're grieving, your needs take priority over his need, and your family's, to hew to their preconceptions about mental health. Maybe counseling-avoidance reflects your husband's grief, but he owes you that explanation.

It is terrible that you're feeling alone right now, as well as totally understandable that you're feeling alone. You've just discovered the hardest way possible that your beliefs diverge, significantly, from the beliefs of those closest to you — at a time when you need to feel they're right by your side.

This is a whole other layer of grief, and I think it's important that you recognize it as such. And, it's important to find a way to express it, with your counselor's support.

Growing is never bad, even when you find that it takes you in a lonely direction. Hang in there.

Baby was stillborn and family pooh-poohs her need to grieve 04/26/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 26, 2010 11:46pm]

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