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Loss from a Doula's Perspective

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Other excellent resources about avoiding toxins during pregnancy

These are easy to read and understand and are beautifully presented.

by Kimberly Beck

As doulas, we have the great honor of being invited to support women and their families during one of the happiest times of their lives, the birth of their child. For some families however, this anticipated greatest of joys can turn into the most painful and heartbreaking of experiences, that being the loss of their baby and of their dream of parenthood. As their doula, we will be deeply touched by it. Most people may think of loss in the childbearing year as perinatal death. Many parents however, will experience loss in the form of an early miscarriage, a live-born child who may have a defect, or they may discover their baby in-utero has defects incompatible with life and be faced with the choice of terminating the pregnancy or continuing it. Loss can also apply to a pre-term birth or a baby with many medical complications who may not have good odds for survival. The loss of the ideal birth experience is for many a loss they may grieve for a long time. Any of these losses can be felt deeply and none is any less painful than another for the grieving family. For many women, some of these losses are not acknowledged by others and they are left feeling alone in their grief.

As a doula, I’ve become much more aware of perinatal loss and how uncomfortable most people are about it. I know myself, having had a miscarriage at home and alone at 15 weeks, how much I wished I had a doula to support me through it and how frustrating it was for people to not acknowledge the depth of my feelings and to brush it off or say things that actually made the emotional pain worse, even though that was not the intent. Having supported a few friends and clients through miscarriages, I’ve gained great insight into how women cope and how society does not generally support them. I have recently had the opportunity to support a doula friend known only to me by E-mail, through the joys of and then the unexpected loss of a multiple pregnancy at 22 weeks, where her precious babies were live-born, but died a short time later. Her birth story was amazing. Her story of how people reacted to her and her loss and how unsupported and alone she felt deeply troubled and sadden me.

As a result of my experiences, I became inspired to do something about it, to try to educate other doulas. At our local doula support meeting we dedicated our meeting to discussing loss and the doula’s role. We wanted to learn more, not only about what to say and what not to say, but what grieving families experience and how we might be best able to support them through it. Two of our doula sisters shared their own stories of loss and what they found to be most helpful as well as those things that were perceived by them to not be helpful. They gave us much insight; not only into the grieving process, but also into what a doula’s role might be when their client is faced with the loss or potential loss of their child. Their stories were of birth and death and they were beautiful and bittersweet. We cried together and celebrated their children with them. There was honest and deeply emotional sharing. The room was filled with true doula love and spirit. It was one of the most eye-opening and powerful experiences of my life, and yet another time when I feel so blessed to have been called to this work.

Death is a topic most people are uncomfortable with. The death of a baby is a particularly heart-wrenching experience for anyone touched by it. Our culture tends to avoid dealing with death and dying, and as a result, we are often at a loss ourselves for what to do, say, or how to support a grieving family, leaving the grieving family alone and unsupported in their greatest time of need. As doulas, we have a unique role in supporting families, and that role may include supporting a family through a loss of any kind, especially the death of their baby. It is something doulas should be knowledgeable about and prepared for.

There was recently a discussion on the DONA discussion boards about “death doulas” or “end of life doulas”. The same loving unconditional support we give in birth, we can also give in crisis or in death. We can be active listeners; we can sit quietly, convey support with words or touch, we can cry with our clients and celebrate the life of their baby as well as grieving their loss. We can help them to gather information and support so they can make decisions and focus on what they need to focus on. We can take photos for them, write down anecdotal information they may later ask about or like to have, we can simply offer ourselves to them in any capacity they may need us.

Because most of us are not well versed in the grieving process or how to support families through it, we compiled a resource list. With the help of the March of Dimes Web site, from whom some of the list was borrowed, former clients, and doula sisters, and some research on the Web, we put together a resource list that can be utilized by anyone who is touched by loss, particularly perinatal loss. It is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good start. There are many resources out there. Many of these organizations and Web-sites have fabulous information on grieving, bereavement, and information and links for parents, friends, family, and care givers. We also added local resources to our list, including local support groups, grief counselors, and books that may be helpful to grieving families.

I would encourage all doulas to educate themselves about this topic and to compile similar resource lists for your area so it is ready to go should you ever encounter a family who is in need of these wonderful resources and of your loving support in a most difficult time.

~ Kimberly Beck PT, CD(DONA), ICCE

Loss and Grieving Resource List

General Resources on loss and grief and those aimed at caregivers

Resources for bereaved family and professional caregivers, also a store to purchase remembrance items, birth announcements, etc.
2116 N.E. 18th Avenue Portland, OR 97212
(503) 284-7426
The World Health Organization: Managing Complications in Pregnancy, Emotional and Psychological Support (a guide for caregivers)
http: Centering Corporation – A Grief Resource center – books and information
PO Box 4600 Omaha, NE 68014
(402) 553-1200
The Grief Recovery Institute – general information about recovery from grief be it for the professional or the grieving individual
PO Box 6061-382 Sherman Oaks, CA 91413
(818) 907-9600
Wintergreen Press – materials and resources for grieving families, from the author of Empty Arms
3630 Eileen St. Maple Plain, MN 55359
(952) 476-1303
Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s Web site, the author of On Death and Dying and On Children and Death wonderful site with many resources and tips for those touched by grief and loss

Perinatal Loss

A Place to Remember – for those who have been touched by a crisis in pregnancy or death of a baby
1885 University Avenue Suite 110 Saint Paul, MN 55104
Aiding Mothers and Fathers Experiencing Neonatal Death
Contact: Martha Eise 1559 Ville Rosa Hazelwood, Mo. 63042
314-291-0892 or E-mail: martha@amendgroup.com
March of Dimes Pregnancy and Newborn Loss Resources
http: March of Dimes Bereavement Kit – free to those who have had a loss
http: Waiting With Love – For those who choose to continue a pregnancy knowing their baby will die before or shortly after birth or who learn their newborns will die
http: Angel Babies Forever Loved
P.O. Box 243196 Boynton Beach, FL 33424-3196
A Heartbreaking Choice – for families who choose to end their pregnancies after prenatal diagnosis
http: Hannah’s Prayer – Christian support group for loss from conception through early infancy
PO Box 168 Hanford, California 93232-0168
Bereavement Services Gunderson Lutheran Medical Foundation – resources for parents and health care providers, information, sales of remembrance rings, memory boxes, and caregiver training
1910 South Avenue La Crosse, WI 54601
(800) 362-9567, ext. 4747
Hygeia – a global community for perinatal health, loss, and bereavement
PO Box 3943 New Haven, CT 06525
(800) 893-9198
MEND Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death – a Christian support group
P.O. Box 1007 Coppell, TX 75019
(888) 659-MEND
Pregnancy loss and support program National Council of Jewish Women New York Section – a nationwide support group that coordinates telephone counseling and support groups
820 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017
(212) 687-5030
Remembering our Babies
2710 Knoxville Drive League City, TX 77573
(281) 316-6330
SHARE Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support – National organization with resources for loss for parents, friends/family, and professionals, free information packet, support groups and chats, and more
St. Joseph Health Center 300 First Capitol Drive St. Charles, MO 63301
(800) 821-6819
WISSP Wisconsin Stillbirth Service Program for any family who has experienced stillbirth
http: A TIME - A Torah Infertility Medium of Exchange – a group that helps with infertility and loss from a Jewish perspective
1310 48th Street Brooklyn, NY 11219
Carrying to Term – a Web site for parents who choose to carry their pregnancies following devastating prenatal diagnosis
http: The Stillbirth Alliance
1427 Potter Road Park Ridge, IL 60068

The Loss of a Child

The Compassionate Friends – Grief support after the loss of a child
P.O. Box 3696 Oak Brook, IL 60522
(877) 969-0010
Bereaved Parents of the USA
P.O. Box 95 Park Forest, IL 60466
The MISS foundation Mothers in Sympathy and Support – For parents, professionals, and friends/caregivers
P.O. Box 5333 Peoria, AZ 85385
(623) 979-1000

Loss in Multiple Pregnancy/birth

The Center for Loss in Multiple Birth (CLIMB)
P.O. Box 91377 Anchorage, AK 99509
(907) 222-5321
Yahoo groups ELIMBO (Electronic Loss in Multiple Birth Outreach) and LAMBS (Loss of ALL Multiple Births)

Multiplicity – Loss, prematurity, and special needs in multiple pregnancy with links to other multiple resources


Grandparent Support

AGAST – Alliance of Grandparents, A Support in Tragedy International – support for grandparents who have lost a grandchild and information on how to help their children (the parents of the child)
P.O. Box 17281 Phoenix, AZ 85011
(888) 774-7437


The National Infertility Organization
1310 Broadway Somerville, MA 02144
(888) 623-0744


The National SIDS/infant death resource center
2070 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 450 Vienna, VA 22182
(703) 821-8955
The American SIDS Institute
2480 Windy Hill Road Marietta, GA 30067
(800) 232-SIDS

Down Syndrome

Diagnosis Down Syndrome – Information about Down Syndrome and Grieving the loss of the ideal and perfect baby
http: For relatives and friends of a baby with Down Syndrome – what to and not to say
http: National Down Syndrome Society
666 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
(800) 221-4602

Healing Instruments

International Harp Therapy Program

Subsequent Pregnancies following a loss

SPALS Subsequent Pregnancy after a Loss Support


Suite 51 401 Bowling Avenue
Nashville, TN 37205

Originally published in the International Doula, Vol. 12, Issue 1 (Winter 2004)  - "all rights to the content of this publication are reserved (c) DONA 2004.  In the interest of education and the dissemination of current and correct information, reproduction, in part or in whole, of individual articles within this publication, is encouraged unless otherwise indicated. Reproduced articles must have proper accreditation and must not be sold. This permission to reproduce is limited to numbers less than 100 unless prior permission is obtained."

This article appears here with the express knowledge and gracious permission of the author.  Thank you, Kimberly!

About the author:
Kimberly Beck PT, CD (DONA), ICCE
Blossoming Bellies Birth Services
Providing Comprehensive Childbirth Education, Preparation, and Nurturing Support in the Childbearing Year

This Web page is referenced from another page containing related information about Grief and Loss


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