Hello! I am excited to offer you all a guest post today, from Tara Shafer, the woman behind a beautiful website: Reconceiving Loss. This website is an space where grieving parents can find resources to help them in their process, and be witnessed by a community at the same time. The three main areas of focus here are: Yoga and Meditation, Writing, and Sharing Self-Portraits. (Click on the Intro to Yoga and Intro to Meditation…I’m honored to be the contributor there!)
Tara has graciously offered an article here – Five Ways to Survive Baby Loss.
Five Ways to Survive Baby Loss
If you are coping with baby loss from miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death, you are not alone. As many as twenty-five percent of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage, and an additional 50,000 babies are stillborn or die in infancy in the United States annually. The number of those who have known this suffering, whether directly or indirectly, stagger; more staggering still is the unacknowledged grief that many women, men and siblings are forced to endure in a society which lacks agreed-upon mourning rituals for those who experience baby loss.
In December 2005, I gave birth to a stillborn son. While in the hospital, I experienced a grief so profound and transcendent, it almost lifted me up, after which waves of despair seemed to knock me to a kind of seabed — as I struggled to return to my daily life — before returning me mercifully to some undiscovered center. In the months after, I began a frantic search for meaning. The idea of meaning rising from suffering then, as now, lacked definition, but did offer something resembling redemption. By redemption I mean in the sense of “re-deeming” all that my life had been before, calling everything by a new name. If this feels like hubris (because what can I know?) it is because, above all, I would give everything back to have had a different outcome. That truth lives alongside many other truths, but the peace I still aim for has multiple parts. The first is that my memory of my lost son honors him. What has helped me to remember, and what I would like to offer as possible pathways for you and those you know:
As so many have found, establishing a yoga or a meditation practice can be very grounding. Restorative yoga poses and meditation can be done by people at all practice levels from the novice to the very advanced, practitioners often finding their stress reduced. Says Alex Auder of West Village Yoga in New York City: “Restorative yoga and meditation have been shown to be helpful in healing from trauma, including that which is associated with loss. This practice can help in resetting internal mechanisms like eating and sleeping.”
After trauma, many people feel both numb and struck dumb, and for this reason, writing or keeping a journal can aid the journey through and out, offering the chance to articulate emotion and response rather than denying them. Says awardwinning novelist Edie Meidav, author of Lola, California: “After trauma, many people feel they lived a story unscripted by them. And since we walk around carrying great secret possibility — the ability to name elements of what we would otherwise call, merely, pain, shelving it away in the pain drawer — we all have a great power. Tell what you know (and also what you don’t know) about what you have suffered and both writer and reader find a sense of choice in what otherwise would seem to strip a person of that most basic dignity.” Following a traumatic event, the creation of a healing narrative can have long-term benefits to the writer. Those who have never written before are sometimes surprised by the benefit they find in the act of telling their own story.
The act of documenting this moment in your life can help to describe visually what you are feeling. Take a self-portrait. Or, work with your partner of close friend to create a portrait. Choose some objects to memorialize your loss and consider how best to use them within your self-portrait or your portrait. Find a place to display this photograph either in a shared space or a private one.
- Listen to Music
Listening to music can be immensely therapeutic. Music may allow you access to the emotions you may need to feel and share with others. Listening to music may enable you to cry, rage or relax. Make a playlist of songs that ease your soul and share it with those close to you. In so doing, you leave the door a little bit ajar for them to ask you about your process.
- Seek support from your partner
Communicate with your partner. Resist the urge to try to be strong for one another. Such indomitability may have unintended consequences and create misunderstandings in your relationship at a critical moment. Make space for complex conversation to occur; give permission that each may feel a sense of loss and each may be capable, at different times, of offering new kinds of support. Create clear channels and opportunities for conversation to occur. Go to dinner and talk.
Finally, remember that your path is as singular as your loss. Only you define it. Says Dr. Julie Bindeman: “Loss isn’t about moving on and forgetting but about integrating and finding meaning.” Despite the overwhelming nature of this aspiration, so much of human experience bears out a painful truth about suffering, meaning and the hard-won edges of the remnants of loss. As Camus wrote, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay invincible summer.”