I met Pam Vredevelt while filming a television segment on overcoming tragedies (HERE), and was so touched by her work with young mothers who’ve suffered a loss. After a couple of friends recently lost children, I kept thinking how difficult this Mother’s Day would be for them. Even if you have other children, sometimes the whispers of what would have been tug at your heartstrings uncontrollably. I know they did for me when we lost our baby, and it was hard to find people who could understand. But then many women started sending me emails of sympathy, sharing their own story of grief and sending a book, or recipe, or just a thoughtful verse in the mail. I suddenly realized how common it is, miscarriage and other kinds of loss of children, and found comfort in those loving gestures. Pam is a licensed counselor and takes the path to healing so much further—she offers deep work with families who’ve walked in the valley of darkness and has generously shared her story with us as part of the #LetResilienceArise series.
Mother’s Day Comfort for Moms Who Have Suffered Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or the Loss of A Baby
by Pam Vredevelt
Did you know that one million expectant moms suffer a miscarriage every year in America? And one of four pregnancies end prematurely?
Brain science research shows us that 59% of those who suffer a miscarriage get stuck in prolonged unresolved grief. Most moms are completely caught off-guard by their pregnancy loss, feel unprepared, and lack tools for doing the healing work of Good Grief. I know I did.
I’ll never forget the day my doctor said, “I’m not picking up a heartbeat, Pam. There doesn’t appear to be any fetal movement. I think the baby is dead.”
In disbelief, my emotions began to run wild and unchecked. Engulfed in a jumble of scrambled thoughts I wanted desperately to hear the doctor say, “Wait a minute – I’m wrong. I’ve made a mistake. Now I see the heartbeat.”
Those words never came.
During the next half hour in that little examining room, my life was a blur.
Everything was out of focus.
I hated my powerlessness.
Why can’t I change this and make things different?
Nothing made sense. Angry questions darted back and forth in my mind.
Why is this happening to me? To us? It’s not fair! Why are we getting ripped off? I hate this!
The tears poured out. I sobbed long and hard, trying my best to listen to the doctor. He painted a picture of what might have happened: “Based on the measurements on the ultrasound screen, I can see that the baby is fully formed according to schedule, and most likely just died recently. More information will be gleaned from pathology tests.”
His words overshadowed my own thoughts, “I can’t believe this is happening!”
The day had started out so normal. I bounced into the doctor’s office wearing a colorful new maternity dress, excited to hear the baby’s heartbeat again. It was my routine five-month appointment, filled with the typical measurements and weight check.
The nurse began to probe with the sound device to secure a clear picture. For what seemed to be hours it was unbearably quiet in the little dark room.
I painstakingly blurted out, “Do you see a heartbeat? What are you finding? Can I see the screen?” only to be quieted with, “I don’t have a clear picture yet, Pam.”
More long drawn out minutes passed. Once again I bombarded the silence with, “Can’t you tell my anything? Are you seeing a heartbeat?”
And then the ripping truth came. There was no heartbeat. Our baby was dead. More information would be gleaned from pathology tests after delivery.
Those words jolted me into reality. It would be necessary to go through the normal labor and delivery process – but I would deliver a dead baby and go home with empty arms.
It was all too incredible to grasp.
I had entered the doctor’s office cheerful, bright, and excited about hearing the sound of life within me. I was leaving as full-figured as before, shattered, broken, and fearful of tomorrow. What would I have to walk through in the days ahead?
He that lacks time to mourn, lacks time to mend.
~ Maya Angelou
When your dreams crash into reality, a season of mourning begins. Losing a baby touches every part of your life:
Your view of yourself
Your hopes and fears about the future
Your beliefs about life and death and God.
Questions and emotions run wild. We wonder where God is, and why He didn’t show up to write a different ending to our story. In what feels like a God-forsaken place, we are faced with critical choices of the will.
- Will we pretend everything is fine, or be emotionally honest with ourselves and others about our heart-shredding loss?
- Will we sidestep and gloss over our sorrow, or take the time we need to face and embrace our pain, and let it go?
- Will we trust that God is a good, redeeming genius who is planting seeds of new life in the cracks of our broken heart?
Brain science research says that 59% of those who suffer a miscarriage get stuck in prolonged unresolved grief.
That’s more than half of us.
What blocks us from healing and moving forward? There are a number of things, but two stand high above the rest: keeping our feelings buried inside and avoiding our grief.
I’ve seen the sticking power of unresolved grief.
While meeting with a depressed woman who had been referred to me by her physician, I learned that she had given birth to a stillborn baby years ago. After leaving the hospital, she never spoke of it again.
“It doesn’t do any good to dredge up the past, or talk about things you can’t change. It makes things worse, not better,” she said, almost robotically.
When I asked her to tell me the story of her stillbirth, it was like the event had happened just yesterday. The dam broke and years of bottled-up grief poured out. She had carried that heavy weight all by herself for many years. Following the path of Good Grief is necessary to heal.
We aren’t wired to carry things alone.
So, how do we face and embrace pregnancy loss so that our hearts will heal? Step-by-step guidance can be found in my Live Online Course, EMBRACE YOUR LOSS – HEAL YOUR HEART: 7 Essential Skills that Promote Healing After a Miscarriage, Stillbirth or the Loss of a Baby http://pamvredevelt.com/onlinecourse
For now, please grab this important take-away: Healing comes in the context of emotional honesty with ourselves, God, and safe friends.
Have you experienced similar grief, either personally or vicariously through a friend or loved one? For quick tips on how to help a friend who has suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, or the loss of a baby go to http://pamvredevelt.com/media-2/
What has helped you release the pain of your losses and move forward in the healing process? We’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Pam Vredevelt is a popular conference speaker, Licensed Professional Counselor, best-selling author, and the Expert Coach for the Live Online Course: EMBRACE YOUR LOSS – HEAL YOUR HEART: 7 Essential Skills That Promote Healing and Prevent Painful Unresolved Grief After a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or the Loss of a Baby.
Connect with Pam on her website HERE and be sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. She’s done amazing interviews with people dealing with loss you can watch on her Media page and offers a special course on line to help mothers heal HERE.
What is the Let Resilience Arise series all about?
Elizabeth Van Tassel is a wildfire survivor who lost every possession and her home in 2007. Since that time, she’s been cultivating fiction and nonfiction projects of her own to inspire kids and adults alike with her lessons. But she’s also developed a wonderful network of amazing authors in all different genres and professions who have compelling stories to boost you or perhaps a friend you know who’s struggling with a similar challenge. Subscribe to this blog for these articles and a monthly newsletter to come to your email or stop by again for more amazing stories. Also have your teens and tweens check out their own page and posts HERE. Want to share your story with others or have Elizabeth share hers with your group? Contact Elizabeth HERE and she’d love to discuss bringing lessons of hope and new beginnings to your group too.