A friend of mine posted this on her FB, but knowing I am not on it, forwarded the information to me. That was so kind of her, for this information needs wide dissemination. It is based on the comments of Suzanne Helzer, who spoke to a group of nursing students about pregnancy and infant loss and bereavement. (My friend is a nursing student, and I know she will make an excellent nurse!) Helzer works for Bereavement Services/RTS Coordinator at Banner Desert Medical Center. I am sharing her words here. Feel free to post on your blog or forward to friends and family, or the uninitiated.
What is needed to treat a deep wound? The wound of losing a baby is deep and painful, and requires many of the same things as a deep tissue wound.
First is nutrition. The person should take small frequent meals in order to keep up the energy to heal. They have to take care of themselves. Sometimes others have to take care of them, bring them the meals, sit while they eat. This provides a sense of not being alone.
Next, the wound needs to be cleaned. If it sits under a bandage and is never looked at or thought about, it will become infected, possibly even septic. It needs regular wound care. You must remove the bandage. Then you must wash the wound, remove all the dead tissue and exudate. This is very very painful, but the wound must be looked at daily. If you give it frequent wound care in small sessions to remove the dead tissue bit by bit, it is much easier than waiting until there is a large amount to remove all at once. One woman who lost her baby boy in pregnancy said, as she was leaving to go to her bereavement class, “I’m going to get my wound care! It’s going to hurt like hell, it will probably hurt for a couple of days after I get home and I won’t feel like doing much. But if I don’t do this, it will all build up and become too overwhelming to handle.”
A wound needs to be medicated and bandaged. After cleaning it, put on some ointment. Spread it gently, as the wound is still tender. Cover with a clean, dry bandage. The bandage is white, not skin-colored. It is not supposed to be part of the body. It does not take the wound away. It just covers it and protects it from injury. The bandage is a constant reminder to others that something has happened to this person. They are different. They are hurting.
After many painful cleanings, the wound starts to heal. It takes a long, long time. The new skin is very fragile. It is not the same color as the original skin. It will never be the same color or texture as the original skin. That person is changed forever by the experience. They will always see that scar. They will remember the pain of having it cleaned. They will remember the stares of people who saw them with the bandage. Do not overlook the scar after the wound has healed. Do not pretend they were never hurt. Ask how they are doing when you see them, allow them to talk about it if they need to.
How to treat a person who has experienced an infant loss-
– Do not be afraid of your own tears as you talk to them.
-Ask about the birth experience.
– Ask to see baby pictures or a scrapbook.
– Provide a journal or books for them.
– It’s okay to say, “I just don’t know what to say”
– Ask “How are you doing?” And when they say “fine” ask again, “How are you *really* doing?” and allow them to tell you.
– Do not think that because they are acting normal that they are over it.
– Use the baby’s name in conversations.
– Know that holidays are going to be especially hard, and send them notes about how you are remembering them and their baby at those times.
What NOT to say-
– You are young, you can have more.
– At least you already have two healthy children (They will watch those children go through stages and mourn the stages the baby did not get to go through)
– You have an angel in heaven. (They will want their angel with them, not in heaven, even if they are saying that to make themselves cope.)
– I know someone who was farther along than you when their baby died. (Do not share stories of others– they don’t want to hear about it).
– It was just a miscarriage.
– You didn’t want to be pregnant anyway, right? Maybe this was a blessing in disguise.
– Was it a planned pregnancy?
– This happened for the best.
– Aren’t you glad it happened early, before you could get to know the baby? (The baby is known and loved from the moment it’s known about. For the rest of their lives they will know how old that baby was supposed to be every year. They will think about what halloween costume it was to wear, what books the mom was going to read to it.)
– Everything happens for a reason (What good reason is there for a baby to die?)
– Saying nothing at all
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