Self-care, After Your Loss

There are no words for how horrible the first few days, weeks and months are after your baby is gone. Leaving the hospital without them is so terrible I don't even know how to describe it. There are so many emotions flooding your mind. You are filled with so much love for your baby and so much anguish that they are gone. You are proud that you carried them for so long and that you were able to see them, but your heart and arms ache to keep them. You are hurt and sore from labor and delivery. You are emotionally and physically drained. You have photos and/or videos to take home, but not the only thing you really want. Oh my, it's horrible. I've been there. I'm so very sorry you have to do this. <3

Here are some ideas for self-care after your loss.

~Let your emotions come. Don't try to fight them. Shock comes on in a big way at first. You may not be feeling much at all. Or you may be feeling every emotion possible, all seemingly at once. Just let them come. Cry, scream, yell, sob, rant, or do nothing. Anything and everything are ok, just as long as you're being safe. (As much as you may want to, don't punch the other new mamas you see). Because I had a cesarean section, I was quite numb from the medications. I didn't have a lot of deep emotions until they began to wear off. That's ok.

~Take it moment by moment. It's going to be a very long road of lots of emotions. Don't dwell on them all at once or you will lose your mind. No need to think about tomorrow, or even 2 hours from now. Focus on the here and now. Just breathe in, then out, and then repeat. You shouldn't have to do this, but you can. Just keep going.

~Give yourself lots of space. At first, there will be tons of people who shower you with flowers and cards and food. It can be overwhelming. Everyone wants to help and doesn't know what to do. Tell people what you need and want and don't allow them to pressure you into doing anything. Unfortunately, sometimes the job of protecting the mother falls on the husband/partner. I say unfortunately because he will be hurting too. Some men like to have something specific to focus on (such as keeping people away when you just need to be alone) so let him. If he's too upset, find a good friend or a family member to do this instead.

~Eat and sleep. It may sound simple, but these things can quickly get lost in the hurt. Sleep will help your brain process the trauma you've been through and help your body recover faster. Food is necessary for living. Healthy food is best. Over eating/over sleeping or not eating/not sleeping are both signs of depression**. Try to keep on a normal (whatever that is) schedule as much as possible. I know, it's hard.

**Keep a close eye on your habits and call a doctor or a counselor asap if you notice signs of postpartum depression. Grief and depression can look the same. Postpartum depression can be very dangerous.

~Don't self-medicate. Drugs and alcohol may seem like a good way to ease the pain. Just say no. You have to go through the pain. You can't just avoid it. Facing it head on is so hard, but the best way. Your doctor, your friends and your family members may suggest taking an anti-depressant. Do what seems right to you, but know that numbing the pain won't make it go away. Once you stop the meds, it's going to come on right from when you started. (I'm sorry). Unfortunately, you can't run or hide from grief.

~Get fresh air. Open windows/curtains or go outside. Believe me, I know how hard it can be. But even if it's just to let some light in, opening the curtains is a good thing.

~Go at your own pace. Some people may try to encourage you to "try to get over it". They know not what they are saying. There is no such thing as "getting over it". Sadly, this will be a part of your life forever. Do not for even one moment pressure yourself to move on. Take all the time you need. No matter what anyone says. Even your spouse or partner may seem to be processing at a different pace than you. It's ok. Everyone handles it differently.

~Get help. See a counselor (it's so important!!), talk to a close friend, join a support group, etc. There is no need to do this alone. We are here for you.

~Let people help you. One thing people said to me a lot was "I don't know how to help but I want to". People want to help you but have no clue what to do. Be specific and ask for what you need. It can be ridiculously hard to do even the simplest of things while you're in the midst of grief. Let people go to the store for you. Give them your shopping list. Let them clean your house. Let them bring you meals. Ask them to mow the lawn or shovel snow or whatever else you might need done. You don't need to - and, really, may not be able to - think about these things. Let them do it.

~Allow yourself to be distracted. The first few days after we lost Samuel, we watched the entire Harry Potter series. Why? Because we needed a distraction. It was just too much to take in. Too much to handle. We needed something completely unrelated to the trauma we'd just been though to take our minds off the pain. We would watch a little, pause it to cry for awhile, then start it again. Find something like this - totally unrelated to babies - and do it.

~Drying up your milk. This is one of the hardest things I faced after our loss. My body didn't understand that there was no baby to feed. It's so emotionally painful when you have to face this. Here is an article on the subject.

I personally found cabbage leaves to work the best. Wash the head of cabbage, peel off the leaves (keeping whole as possible), they should cup over the breast. Bruise the inside of the leaves with a dull knife in order to get the inside of the leave open. (This will pull out the milk from your breast) Keep the leaves cold in the refrigerator. Place enough leaves to cover the breast. You can use saran wrap as a barrier to put on top of the leaves to keep them from ruining your bra. Change them every 1-2 hours (during the night try at least to change after 4-5 hours) and keep that up for at least 36 - 48 hours.

You can also Google for more ideas, but be warned, there may be talk of babies and that can be so hard during this time.  

~Cuddle a teddy bear or other stuffed animal. Your arms are empty and this can help in a small way. Order yourself a MollyBear or A Heart To Hold, as soon as possible. If your baby was in a blankie you brought home with you, you can snuggle up with it. I sleep with Samuel's when I'm really missing him (aka, all the time).

~Look at photos and videos as much as you'd like. I stared at Samuel's photos as much as I could. It hurt to miss him, but also helped to see his beautiful face.

~Talk about your baby. To any and all people who will listen. They are beautiful and meaningful. No need to keep quiet about them. 

~Try writing. While it's still fresh in your mind, write down everything that happened during the birth and your time together. It's really hard to remember everything later, so get it down on paper or start a blog.

~Buy memorial items. You may want something special to wear or display in your home. There are tons of etsy shops for babyloss mamas. I got a special bracelet and a set of name blocks for Samuel. Just Google "baby loss items" and you'll find tons of beautiful things.

~Create a special place for your baby. Make a place for them with their special things. See here for ideas.

~Connect with other babyloss mamas online. There are TONS of resources. Here are a few of my favorites:

~Read this book.
 and this one:

I've listed some others on the Resources page of this blog.

Obviously, none of these things will do the only thing you really need/want. Nothing can bring your sweet one back or ease the pain of losing them. I know the deep, relentless pain that comes. I know the desire to end your life*, I know it feels like it'll never be ok again. I also know you can do this. You are strong - just look at what you did! - and you love deeply. The stronger the love, the stronger the grief. Try to remember that you feel so bad because you loved so much. Your love gave your baby the best life possible during their short time. You did everything you could to show them love. We should all be so lucky to only know the kind of love we've given our babies. As much as it hurts, remember: you did all that love could do. <3

*Suicide often comes to mind after such a traumatic loss. I've been there. Please, please, please don't go through this alone. If you're feeling suicidal, call 911 or the national suicide prevention hotline at  1-800-273-TALK (8255)

If you've been through this type of loss, what are some suggestions you have for self-care just after the loss?


Unknown said...

This article was great to read. Everything that I felt/feel and did/still need to do. Good to know I and my feelings are "normal" and I'm not alone.

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