Understanding infant loss

Published: Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Mandy Reichert, PhD, MS (HCA), MS (NEd), RN
Certified Grief Counselor & Family Support Coordinator

The journey through welcoming a child into the world is often a rollercoaster of emotions, filled with hope, anxiety and an immense desire to see your newborn thrive. Sadly, not all stories have happy endings, and the pain of losing an infant during pregnancy, childbirth, or in the NICU, is a heartbreaking reality many families face. We are exploring the deep impact of perinatal loss, how families cope with this devastating experience, and the importance of raising awareness and offering support.

The Unique Grief of Infant Loss

Losing a child is one of the most painful experiences a person can endure. The loss of an infant brings its own set of complexities. Families often spend weeks or even months forming deep emotional connections during pregnancy, and with their premature or critically ill newborns, while fighting for their recovery. The suddenness of the loss can be particularly shocking as families oscillate between both hope and despair throughout their journey.

Coping and Healing

As many as one in four women experience pregnancy or infant loss. That means that among your friends and close family, it’s likely someone you know has been or will be affected by perinatal loss. The grieving process for infant loss has many layers and varies greatly from individual to individual. Some families find solace in connecting with support groups, therapists, or religious communities, while others lean on friends and family for emotional support. Remember no two journeys are the same. There is no “right” way to grieve, and each person must find their path at their own pace.

Raising Awareness and Breaking the Silence

While losing a loved one in any setting is heartbreaking, infant loss is often an overlooked topic. Raising awareness about this issue helps remove the stigma and isolation grieving families may feel. By sharing stories, participating in awareness events, and engaging in conversations, we can foster understanding and compassion from within our communities.

Remembering and Honoring

Honoring the memory of a lost baby is a vital part of the healing process. Families often find comfort in creating memorial gardens, participating in walks or events dedicated to infant loss awareness and finding special ways to commemorate their baby’s brief but impactful presence in their lives.

Infant loss is a heart-wrenching experience which  impacts families, healthcare professionals and communities at large. By shedding light on this topic, we can provide support, understanding and empathy to those who have walked this devastating journey. Remember, if you or someone you know is grieving the loss of a child, seeking professional help and connecting with support networks can provide a lifeline during this difficult time.

Learn more

NGMC’s Perinatal Support Services is here to care for families in all aspects – from blessings and baptisms to navigating hard medical decisions or the loss of a child. Our program provides emotional, spiritual and grief support to mothers and families experiencing the diagnosis of a life-limiting or fatal diagnosis for their baby, infant and child loss, NICU parents, patients with signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, and staff support for those who provide care to patients.

Learn more about our program and team, which includes a registered nurse and certified grief counselor and a board-certified chaplain and bereavement specialist, at www.nghs.com/perinatal-support-services.