Feelings and emotions after stillbirth

After a stillbirth you will have to deal with the emotions of losing your child.

You and your partner, family and friends will all be coming to terms with what has happened and you may all experience a different emotions at different times.

Feelings of grief, loss, anger and guilt are common and it can be especially hard if you are all feeling differently. You may be feeling guilt for something you felt you should have done, or not done, at the same time as your partner is feeling angry and wanting someone to blame.

Try to be aware that this is a possibility and be sympathetic to each others needs. Try to keep talking about how you are coping and feeling. Be honest with each other about your needs and how you feel you can best be supported. Remember that much of the support, be it from health professionals or friends and family, will be centred on you as the mother, so try to ensure your partner has someone good to support them too. They may feel they don’t want to burden you with how they are feeling.

Dealing with children

If you have other children at home you may want to get some guidance from organisations such as Sands (http://www.sands.org.uk/) about how you can involve them and help them deal with their emotions. It is fine to let them know and see that you are sad. They are likely to be feeling sad too, and will want to know that this is ok.

It is usually a good idea to tell their school or nursery before they return so that teachers and carers are aware and able to provide additional support. Ensure that children have other people to talk to about their feelings but allow them to come to you and talk about the baby when they want to. They may like to have their own photo of the baby to keep and look at.

Dealing with friends and family

Stillbirths may have been more common years ago, but were also more taboo. An elderly relative may have even had a stillbirth themselves that you might not have known about.

Your experience may bring back painful memories for them. They may not have been allowed to grieve for their baby and they may now grieve for both. Equally common is the reaction that you need to 'pull yourself together' or 'move on' like they had to. Don't be afraid to tell them that times have changed, and be honest about your needs.

You are likely to have the difficult experience of having to explain over and over what happened. Neighbours and acquaintances who knew you were pregnant may ask after the baby when they see you without your bump. Do what feels right for you. You can keep your answers short and walk away if you can’t handle their sympathy or shock. They will know that you are grieving and will understand if you are not ready to talk.

Help for you and your partner

You will be seen periodically for up to 28 days by a community midwife at home, who will ask how you are coping emotionally. They will know about local sources of support and how to access counselling if you need it, so do ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness, and if you have other children they won’t think you are a bad mother if you admit you are struggling to cope with your grief.

If you have already been discharged visit your GP to discuss help that is available.

Last reviewed on April 1st, 2014. Next review date April 1st, 2017.

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