Suffering a miscarriage or losing a baby shortly after birth can be an incredibly painful experience for mothers, fathers and families who go through it. And, for many, the feeling that they are suffering in silence can make it even harder to bear.

Family Health | 10 days ago

Coping with the Loss of a Little One

Losing a little one – whether it happens before or after the child is born – is never easy. Suffering a miscarriage or losing a baby shortly after birth can be an incredibly painful experience for mothers, fathers and families who go through it. And, for many, the feeling that they are suffering in silence can make it even harder to bear.

Miscarriage is very common, with up to 1 in every 5 pregnancies ending in miscarriage, but is not always talked about. The majority of miscarriages are due to a genetic abnormality.  “It is possible that we may never learn why you experience this miscarriage, which can be frustrating.  It is important to know that miscarriage is hardly ever caused by something that you did or did not do,” says Ariel Haddad, DO with Atrium Health NorthEast Women's Health & Obstetrics.

“It’s such a difficult thing for families to go through,” says Gail Harris, DNP, RN, PNP-BC, a neonatal nurse practitioner coordinator at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital who has cared for families facing infant loss. “And it’s common for them to feel alone in their grief.”

Miscarriage can oftentimes come as a shock and may take time to process this news. “Take as much time as you need to process this information. There is no set time limit on grieving,” says Dr. Haddad. “Know your physician and the Women’s Care team is available talk to you.”

To honor and remember children lost through miscarriage, still birth or infant death, and to support the women and families who have experienced it, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day is observed on October 15. Harris says this kind of remembrance and reflection, along with other steps, can help families heal from the pain of losing a child.”

“Honoring your child – through a memorial service, a memory box or with photographs – can give you lasting memories to treasure,” says Harris, who helps organize an annual butterfly release event at the hospital to help patients honor the memories of children they’ve lost.

Every fall, Atrium Health Levine Children’s honors the babies who have passed away in our neonatal intensive care nursery. This is an opportunity to remember and honor those we have lost by releasing a butterfly for each child, honoring and remembering each precious life.

Karla Dowe, MSW, a social worker with Atrium Health, says the annual butterfly release has become an annual tradition for her and her family since 2016.

“Our sweet boy, Tristen, was born September 27, 2015 with multiple heart defects,” says Dowe. “He remained hospitalized at Levine Children’s Hospital for his 26 short days here on earth. The annual butterfly release has become our family's way of honoring Tristen's life each year. The focus on remembrance during this ceremony brings so much joy to our hearts!  To be around so many other families who have walked a similar path of loss gives us encouragement. The symbolic release of the butterfly gives us hope and whenever we see butterflies throughout the year it brings a feeling of closeness with Tristen.”

Another way to ease the pain? Meeting with others who have gone through the same thing.

“Surrounding yourself with people who understand your loss can really help in the grieving process,” Harris says.

You can reach out to support groups, or turn to a grief counseling or resource center such as KinderMourn. And how do you support a friend or family member who’s lost a child in this way? It’s normal to feel like you don’t know what to do – or say.

But Harris shares that one of the best things you can do is to simply be there. “Everyone grieves in different ways,” says Harris. “Just let them know that you’re there to support them in whatever way they need.”