Postpartum and grief are likely two words you never expected to see together. It's possible that some of you might find it surprising to see Postpartum Grief as a title for an article. After all, the birth of a child is expected to be a wonderful event that brings joy and excitement to a family. We often think of it as something that has been anticipated for months and has involved a great deal of planning in terms of what must be done to create a safe and comfortable home environment for this new child.
Please do not stop reading!
All the many changes that occur with the birth of a child are exactly why there may be elements of grief that surface. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to any change we experience in life. Few things in life bring on larger changes than having a child. Suddenly, every decision that's made involves considering how it will impact your child. You can't even make a simple trip to the store without gathering all the things that are necessary to take a newborn anywhere. Where before you might have gone out for a “night on the town” at a moment’s notice, now this must be well planned in advance to ensure that child care has been arranged. Everything in your daily life is impacted, which can lead to that emotion called grief.
Some may feel uncomfortable admitting this, but any parent knows it's true! This isn't to say that this type of grief is the same grief that you might feel with the death of a friend or family member. Grief comes in lots of packages. As with any change in life, the impact will vary greatly from person to person. For some it is just “a bump in the road,” while for others it can be overwhelming.
The next series of five articles will deal with many of the reasons why people may experience postpartum grief. The subjects we will cover are:
- “Baby Blues”
- Postpartum Depression
- Dealing with the birth alone
- Situations where that new baby must be placed for adoption
- Situations where the new parents do not have the emotional support of their parents
You will notice that we are not going to cover the grief that is experienced by parents whose newborns have died, either prior to birth or shortly thereafter. We have covered this subject in previous articles. The purpose of this series is to address those elements of grief that are sometimes experienced but rarely discussed. Our intention is to address the very real emotions that parents might feel, but may be too embarrassed to talk about with others.
Our goal at the Grief Recovery Institute is to provide education and a safe environment where people can take action to deal with the emotion changes that negatively impact their ability to experience life to the fullest.
In reality, most of us never learned anything of value, during our formative years, on how to deal with any of the emotional pain of grief we experience during our lifetime. More often than not, from our earliest loss events, we learn things such as:
- Don’t Feel Bad
- Replace The Loss
- Grieve Alone
- Grief Takes Time
- Be Strong
- Keep Busy
We refer to these suggestions as “myths” since they do little to address the pain in your heart. More than anything, they encourage the griever to bury their feelings inside rather than expressing them to others. These "myths" are born from trying to offer intellectual solutions to emotional reactions after a loss.
While “replace the loss” is not necessarily applicable to postpartum situations, each of the others are often voiced to new parents in one way or another. They are discouraged from feeling anything but joy over the birth of their child. Parents quickly learn that if they are feeling overwhelmed, it's an emotion that is best not expressed to others. They are told that they “just need time” to adjust to their new position as parents. Likewise, they are told to be strong and keep busy to adapt to this new responsibility.
It's not uncommon that one of the parents is burdened with feelings of sadness while the other is not. This can create conflict in a relationship that is already dealing with the changes that a new baby brings to any parents. The purpose of this series of articles is to address those feelings and offer new parents tools to better deal with whatever less than joyful feelings they, or their partner, might be experiencing.
Looking at Postpartum from a different standpoint
We should also say that the term “postpartum” is normally defined as relating only to the mother following childbirth. For the sake of these articles, we will also address feelings that fathers may experience as well. The father is a sometimes-forgotten figure in conversations about the changes that new parents experience.
Even if having children is something that you've never experienced yourself, we strongly encourage you to read the entire series. It may offer you the tools you need to help family or friends that are so impacted.
A Special Note About The Authors
This series is being co-authored by Steve Moeller and Ashley Mielke, both of whom are Certified Grief Recovery Specialists & Trainers for the Grief Recovery Institute; both authors have a profound passion for helping others heal thier broken hearts. Steve's biography is included below for this article. Ashley's biography can be viewed at https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/about-us/ashley-mielke