By Cathy Blanford
Research tells us that when you experience a major life stress the support of family and friends is very important. People who have a good support system are actually emotionally and physically healthier and recover more quickly when bad things happen.
But what if your family and friends are unable to offer the support you need? The loss of your baby may well be a greater loss than anyone else you know has ever experienced. The people who care most about you may be unable to talk with you about the loss because they too are hurting or because they want to protect you from your own pain. If you're fortunate, you may have at least one friend or family member who understands and is truly able to listen and comfort you.
Sometimes the best support comes from others who have been through a similar experience. There is probably no one who understands as well as someone else who has also had a baby die. That's the reason that Still Missed offers support groups: a monthly support group for grieving parents, a group for parents experiencing a subsequent pregnancy, a group for grandparents/family members and close adult friends, and a Spanish-speaking parents' group.
Many people have found that coming to a group is more helpful in the grieving process than struggling to help friends who have not experienced a loss understand how it feels. With others who are also going through such a profound loss, the understanding is already there. Parents relax as they hear others talk and realize that they are not alone in all of the feelings that they are experiencing. Support groups help to ease the pain and facilitate healing.
But our support groups happen only once a month (quarterly for family/friends and Spanish speaking groups). What about the in-between times? Some of you may have discovered online support groups or chat rooms that offer a similar level of understanding and comfort. One of the really good things about online support is that it is there whenever you need it, even at 3:00 in the morning when you can't sleep!
However, there are concerns regarding online support as well. It lacks the natural empathy and connection that happens when you are able to look into another person's eyes. And, often there is little control over what might come up online and reading some entries could be quite disturbing. We have discovered an online resource that we believe is a safe place for grieving parents. It is operated by SHARE, a nationwide pregnancy support program that has been offering message boards and chat rooms since 2001. All messages are read and approved by a moderator before being posted. To access the message boards, one needs to register using their name and email address. The following boards are offered: Introduce Yourself Here, Bereaved Parent, Pregnancy After Loss, Parenting After Loss, Fathers and Grief, Subsequent Choices, Grieving Grandparents, Mourning an Early Pregnancy Loss, Facing the Future Without Another Baby, Feeling Better but Still Remembering, Special Remembrances, Share Caregivers Board.
In addition to the message boards, Share offers two chat rooms, the Bereaved Parent Room and the Pregnancy After A Loss Room. While members can access the chat rooms anytime, Share does offer moderated chats as well. The Bereaved Parent chat is at 8:00 p.m. CST on Mondays, and the Pregnancy After a Loss chat is at 8:00 p.m. CST on Tuesdays. Both of these chats are moderated by trained Share volunteers and/or Share employees.
Whether you decide to attend a support group or find your support online or with family and friends, we do hope that you are feeling adequately supported through this difficult time. And don't forget, you can always call Cathy, Rosie, Shirley and entire Still Missed staff at 630-856-4497.