Strategies for Survival: Dealing with Infant Loss
“My heart is broken, but not my spirit. My desire to be a mother is greater than a fear of another miscarriage,” says Gina Mack, of Woodlawn, Maryland, who suffered the loss of three preterm babies in 16 months. “I just think back to when I wanted a baby in the beginning, and that feeling is still there.”
Mack never removes her cherished necklace with the word “mother” scripted in gold, adorned with three birthstones in memory of daughters, Nicole and Skyler, and son, James. She and her husband, Tony, attend support group meetings, provide each other with an unconditional listening ear, and find ways to honor their “angels”—all important steps in the healing process say social workers Debbie Johnston and Nancy Campbell, who run a pregnancy and infant bereavement program at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
“We’re helping to lay stepping stones along the pathway to grieving,” explains Johnston. “We can’t take away the grief; by taking away the grief, we’re denying this baby existed.”
These two social workers, who share an office and often finish each other’s sentences, have helped hundreds of parents and loved ones navigate through the grieving process, arming them with the following coping strategies. Here’s how they help families get through loss.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
“A person is a person . . . no matter how small.” Johnston chose Dr. Seuss’s words for the opening page of a guidebook she assembled for grieving parents and says the subject of pregnancy and infant loss is becoming less taboo. “This is how you survive, allowing yourself to grieve through it,” she says.
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