Nine years ago, I sat with my sister as she delivered her first baby, who had died. I watched her grieve and change from her experience. I also changed. It goes without saying how much I wish I had known then what I know now.
Read more about my experience in Part 1 of my Bereavement Blog Series here. It was this experience that would later contribute to me leaving my IT career and becoming a birth and bereavement doula. I never want any family to go through this process alone or unsupported. Below, I will tell you about how I can help you through this experience.
Who Does a Bereavement Doula Support?
As a bereavement doula, I provide the unique physical and emotional support a woman and her family needs – at any trimester of pregnancy, with any birth outcome.
I provide support to women and their families while they are experiencing any type of loss or challenge relating to pregnancy. Some examples would be a loss during or after a miscarriage, still birth, concurrent miscarriages, subsequent pregnancies after a loss, and abortion support. I provide support when a fatal diagnosis is given during pregnancy or when there is an expected NICU stay. I support you during times of anticipated pregnancies and challenging circumstances that surround the pregnancy because of fertility treatments, egg or sperm donation, pervious miscarriage, and loss. Support is also provided during a subsequent pregnancy after a loss. My support is provided with love and never with judgment.
Where Does Bereavement Support happen?
Bereavement support is provided to you in your home or in the hospital. I even work with families through email and text messaging pretty much 24 hours a day.
When Does Someone Work With a Bereavement Doula?
Every family processes grief differently. As a bereavement doula, I help families through this process in the way that works best for them. At times, I work with clients long before they are pregnant. Some contact me during or immediately after a loss. Many contact me when they are pregnant after a loss that occured years before. Sometimes my first meeting with a family is at the hospital at the time of their loss. The short answer is that I’m here for you whenever and however you need me.
What Does Bereavement Doula Support Prior to Birth Look Like?
The support I provide depends on the gestation of the pregnancy and each individual family. I will help you create a birth plan for your specific birth regardless of the expected outcome. Even when the outcome is not expected, you still have choices and decisions to make for birth and after. During any stage of loss my support goal is to listen, validate you, limit unnecessary trauma, educate, and refer you to the appropriate resources. As a bereavement doula, I am not there to get in the way of medical advice and expertise but to support you with whatever comes along in your journey.
What Does Bereavement Doula Support During Labor Look Like?
A bereavement doula helps with physical comfort measures during labor in your home, at the hospital, or in a doctor’s office for a procedure. You and your partner are going to receive emotional and physical support from me during labor. I will be there to hold your hand, educate you, and support you in the way that fits for you. I educate partners to know how to support mom through labor and what to expect in the process.
You see, even a baby that has died still gets to be born, no matter her gestation. Just as all life starts with a birth, so to all death starts with a birth. A bereavement birth is similar to a live birth in that I can serve you through the duration of labor and offer support you in navigating the labor journey. As a doula, I fill in the emotional support piece that isn’t always present in a medical setting.
What Does Bereavement Doula Support Look Like After Birth?
Parents deserve a time to welcome and honor their baby in these difficult circumstances. I can help facilitate bonding with your baby. Answering questions for you as to what is “normal” is a common practice. Parents and family members will be supported in exploring curiosities and feelings they may have not had before. We can discuss topics on keepsakes and mementos. I will facilitate uncomfortable conversations surrounding planning a farewell. You deserve a chance to say goodbye in your own way, without being rushed. Decisions do not always need to be made as fast as they are presented. I help you to slow down and make sure every question is answered.
What Does Postpartum Bereavement Doula Support Look Like Long Term?
After birth, you still have my support for as long as necessary. There are resources I will offer you for your short term and long term needs. I will care for you in your home as desired. And I will walk you through the unexpected physical changes after birth nobody tells you about.
If You Have Experienced a Loss or You are Experiencing a Loss Right Now
If you have experienced a pregnancy loss or you are experiencing a loss right now, please reach out for support. Contact me, someone close to you, or another professional. I will unconditionally nurture you every step of the way or help you find the proper support you need. You do not have to live in Northern Colorado to contact me for bereavement support.
Maybe you have experienced a loss in the past and now you are expecting another child? If you have had a prior loss and you are pregnant right now, find a doula or a village you trust to hold you and your partner up during this complex time. I’d love to walk with you on your journey and hold space for you with whatever comes up.
What Do You Do If You Know Someone Who Has Experienced Pregnancy Loss?
Reach out and offer your support. I have many resources listed on my website. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about how they are doing. Ask how they are actually doing. Listen. For real, close your mouth and just listen. Bring them a meal. Don’t avoid the elephant in the room. It’s okay to bring up their loss (unless they have asked you not to) because most of the time they are already thinking about it anyway. Please don’t offer useless platitudes like “look on the bright side.” Being a good listener is much more effective than anything else. And reach out to me if you have any questions.
If You are a Doula With a Client Enduring Pregnancy Loss
If you are a doula or other birth professional supporting a client through a loss, please know I am here for you, too. As doulas, we must take care of each other.
How Much Does a Bereavement Doula Cost?
Bereavement Doula Services, are provided to my clients at no cost. Costs are supplemented by donations gifted in honor or memory of loved ones. Clients can “paying it forward” to help support future grieving families.
If you would like to sponsor a local family, you can make a donation on my website in any amount.
It takes a doula’s presence to remind you the winding roller coaster of emotions you are feeling is okay and normal. Many women who have a baby after a loss experience guilt, grief, and sadness. Many partners do not know how to grieve because they are trying to be a support to the mother. It can be very confusing and difficult to navigate without a birth support team trained in loss. Families do not always understand the complexity of feelings surrounding pregnancy loss. They may be well intentioned but carrying a healthy baby after a loss doesn’t make you forget your loss. A doula understands.
What Next? Read Part 1 of the Bereavement Blog Series.