Comfort for Grieving Hearts
“Those we have held in our arms for a little while, we hold in our hearts forever.”– Author Unknown
One definition of the word bereaved is “to be torn apart.” When a loved one dies, you feel torn apart in so many ways. Your usual life has changed, your ordinary thoughts are different, your emotions are like a roller coaster and your relationships with others can be altered. Grief is the normal response to that loss.
People grieve and cope differently. It depends on factors like individual history with death, cultural practices, religious beliefs, personal resilience, how life is lived in general, whether the environment is positive or negative, use of rituals and drawing on support systems.
Many say the ‘stages of grief’ include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Some experience all of these. Others experience a few. Some experience emotional detours. Others experience recurring setbacks. It is important to remember that there is no one way to grieve. Feeling torn apart can seem fluid like waves that ebb and flow. There can also be an artificial timetable set by others associated with how long bereavement should last. No timetable should be connected to grief and mourning.
Val Lee, a bereaved mother, describes the loss of her baby and one of those unexpected decisions she made afterwards:
“Our son, Ashton, was born at 29 weeks with several complications. While being amazed by our little fighter in the NICU, I was fortunate to pump and freeze every drop of milk. The NICU staff explained breast milk was medicine that no synthetic drug could ever replace.
We were hopeful for the day Ashton would be stable enough to have breast milk for food; however, he only received two teaspoons before he became our Angel Baby. Donating my breast milk has been a bright, positive light in our bereavement journey knowing other NICU families may spend an extra hour, day or lifetime with their baby.”
Feelings regarding lactation after a loss vary from mother to mother. Some feel that the milk they produce was meant only for their baby. Others, like Val, want to donate to a milk bank. There is no right or wrong decision.
A place for grief
The Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank sees the need to help women and families who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. A bereavement support group for adults, called Lost & Found, is a family driven group that provides a neutral place to feel and share. The group meets the fourth Thursday evening of every month from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Please consider joining us for light refreshments and an opportunity to network with others who are grieving so together we can honor your children and perhaps ease your sorrow.
Here is our lactation support brochure “Breast Milk and Bereaved Mothers” (pdf 1.3MB).
An extensive resource list, lending library and Angel Baby Journal are also available at the Milk Bank as well as a garden memory wall honoring the babies whose milk was donated. A birth professional and a bereaved mother facilitate the group together.