In this article, you will learn about grief, symptoms, and questions to ask yourself as you go through grief.
There are five helpful resources for grieving parents, families and healing professionals:
The Miscarriage Map Workbook; Pregnancy and Infant Loss at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital; Pittsburgh Bereavement Doulas; David Kessler’s (grief expert) teachings; Healing Reflections for a Grieving Mom’s Heart.
I share my personal story about going through child loss twice, how I made it through the two most painful events of my life, and what I’m doing today to remember my babies.
There are 13 things that I’ve done to help me through this, including getting a beautiful miscarriage awareness and baby memorial tattoo. [Trigger warning: sad story about miscarriage]
Wrapping up the article is advice from David Kessler on 10 things that you can do when you are overwhelmed in grief, which is something that I share with my clients who are grieving.
I hope that you find some peace, hope and support through this article as you continue to move through your tragic loss.
What is grief?
At it’s core, grief is the series of emotions we feel when we lose someone that we love. Intense sadness, anger and frustration, disbelief, and anxiety are among the predominant feelings.
Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions.
Symptoms of grief
The grief process is unique for everyone. How you experience grief depends on your personality, your environment, and the loss itself. Most people worry that they are “doing it wrong.” They long for a quick fix, but there is not one. The key to healing through grief is really letting yourself feel it.
While each person’s grief is different there are some common symptoms.
Numbness. In the beginning you may feel nothing at all, or a heavy sense of numbness.
Forgetfulness. People report that they have grown forgetful in the face of the loss. They can’t remember what they did yesterday, where they put the car keys, or who just called on the phone ten minutes ago. This too, is very normal. Grief occupies such a large part of our brains that, for a while, it becomes hard to think about regular life as we once did.
Crying. There may regular crying or even intense bouts of crying. This is normal. Crying is a terrific stress reliever and a healing way for your body to process intense emotions.
Frustration, Anger, Short Fuses. When we carry so many emotions around just under the surface the simplest things can set us off. I’ve had many people tell me stories about unexpectedly snapping at the grocery clerk or the postman.
Anxiety. This comes in all kinds of forms. Panic attacks, general anxiety, social phobias, concerns about your body and health, or the wellbeing of the people around you.
Lethargy, Hopelessness, and Depression. It’s completely normal to feel a sudden lack of energy both physically and mentally. The simplest tasks like going to the grocery store, can become completely exhausting or overwhelming. People may find themselves wanting to sleep in the middle of the day or stay in the house more than usual. This is normal.
People may also find themselves not feeling as social as they once did. They could even go through a period of not wanting to see their usual friends and social circle. Going through a loss can make you feel like no one around you understands you any more, and this can cause you to withdraw, and also to feel lonely. Seeking out support groups or spending time with people who are also grieving loss is recommended.
While it’s normal to have moments of hopelessness in these waves of depression, there is a fine line to watch for. If a someone (or yourself) is displaying suicidal ideation follow mandated protocol.
Feelings of Going Crazy. Lastly, people may have moments of feeling like they’re going crazy and of not feeling like their usual selves. They may also feel a sense of being unmoored, of the world feeling vast around them, and the unexpected lurking at every turn. This is also normal. Encourage them to take time to do things that feel grounding in these
moments. Go for a walk, take a bath, call a friend.
[Claire Bidwell Smith, LCPC]
Questions to ask
- Do you feel you have properly grieved?
- If not, take a moment and target the specific areas in which you feel
you need to work on.
- Do you feel you have experienced one grief emotion more than
another? For example, have you felt predominately angry or have you
been mostly steeped in depression? Opening up to other emotions may
be the key to moving through the process, rather than dwelling in it.
- Is there something blocking you from moving through your grief?
Perhaps a stigma around experiencing emotions? Or a sense of guilt
about something involving your loved one?
- Do you feel you need additional support in order to continuing moving
through your grief? If so, what/who would that look like?
[Claire Bidwell Smith, LCPC]
Resources that you may find helpful (Some are local to the Pittsburgh area)
The Miscarriage Map Workbook – An Honest Guide to Navigating Pregnancy Loss, Working Through the Pain, and Moving Forward – A Resource for Women, Couples, Therapists, OBGYNs, Midwives and Other Helping Professionals by Sunita Osborn, PsyD.
Honest. Authentic. 100% Relatable. This workbook will empower you to move forward, not on, after pregnancy loss.
In this follow-up to her widely acclaimed book, The Miscarriage Map, Dr. Sunita Osborn has created a secular and research-based workbook to approach the painful reality of pregnancy loss. Strikingly vulnerable, yet drawing on her work in reproductive psychology, she is unparalleled in her ability to help those who have also experienced miscarriage.
In the Miscarriage Map Workbook, Dr. Osborn offers a straightforward roadmap to help women move through the trauma and grief of pregnancy loss, allowing them to feel deeply understood, better equipped to handle life stressors, and more empowered to move forward in life. With both her clinical expertise and personal experience in mind, this workbook is filled with practical, engaging, and meaningful tools and insight that will allow readers to:
- Develop coping skills for pregnancy loss and the intense emotions that accompany miscarriages.
- Uncover their reproductive stories and process reproductive trauma.
- Cultivate greater acceptance, compassion, and empathy for themselves.
- Work through the sense of betrayal and shame they may feel toward their physical body.
- Navigate intimacy and the unique challenges in their relationships.
- Reconnect with their purpose and values as they move forward, not on, from their loss.
Each chapter includes notes, and tips that therapists, OBGYNs, midwifes, and other helping professionals can use to tailor treatments for each individual patient.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital (Pittsburgh)
Jane’s Room: Bereavement at Magee
Jane’s Room is a bereavement room at Magee for women and their families. It’s located outside of the 2600 unit on the 2nd floor of the Birth Center.
Jane’s Room is:
- For those who have lost their babies or are in perinatal hospice and palliative care.
- A quiet and private place away from labor and delivery waiting areas and has a couch, chairs, and table.
- In memory of the daughter of founders Bob and Berkley Wellstein. They aim to provide “rooms of respite in hospitals and medical centers where families can gather and find a way forward together.”
“Despite cutting-edge treatment and extraordinary care, neonatal and perinatal deaths still happen. And it’s tragic and heartbreaking,” said Richard Beigi, MD, Magee president. “We’re proud to be the tenth hospital nationwide that has partnered with Jane’s Room. It brings such a meaningful and necessary space to our hospital.”
Jane’s Room is just one more way Magee cares for those grieving. There are also memorial items and print resources. They also offer spiritual care upon request.
Pittsburgh Bereavement Doulas – Loss of an infant, miscarriage, stillbirth, life-limiting diagnosis and TFMR (non-profit organization)
What is a doula?
A trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to their client before, during and shortly after childbirth to help them achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.DONA International
Find birth services, postpartum support, breast care, resources, baby memorial, and Hugs at Home (Hugs at Home will guide you through the process of bringing your deceased child home from the hospital).
On their Facebook page, they post events, support groups, and resources for both mothers and fathers.
David Kessler’s teachings help people to “remember with more love than pain.”
Healing Reflections for a Grieving Mom’s Heart by Linda Triplett (paperback book)
Linda is the author of two books, her latest being, Healing Reflections for a Grieving Mom’s Heart. She truly believe this book will be a tremendous resource to aid people who are on a grief journey. The new book is now available on Amazon.com.
She desires to reach as many grieving hearts as possible and is very hopeful that with this new book she may also aid you in your efforts to bring comfort, hope and healing to those who are grieving.
First, she is a Born-Again Christian and loves the Lord Jesus! But there was a time when she questioned her faith in His goodness. It was when her adult son, Adam, died in a plane crash over 25 years ago. She was living the grief journey and is now an overcomer!
She desires to share with others what she has learned.
Today Linda speaks to groups about how to address the many issues one can find on the grief journey. She calls them Healing Reflections. Through her public speaking, and with the help of mental health professionals, together they influence more grieving hearts toward a greater hope and healing.
Shannon’s personal story of going through childloss
Every women’s story is different, this is my story.
[Trigger warning: sad story about miscarriage]
In November of 2021, my husband and I were expecting. We announced it to close family and friends around Christmas. December through most of March seemed normal. This was my second time pregnant, I gave birth in 2019 to a beautiful little girl.
During my midwife appointment in March (2022), I got an ultrasound and saw my tiny baby. I was about 10 weeks along, my baby measured about 5 weeks. It was too soon to detect a heartbeat (a heartbeat is detectible at week 6 via ultrasound), so they rescheduled me to come back in a few weeks. We worried and felt sad about how the baby was doing, but wanted to remain hopeful that the ultrasound timing was off.
We were in a “wait and see period.” However, the next day after my appointment, I began bleeding, thinking that it was from a test that I got done, but unfortunately once it picked up, I realized that I was experiencing a miscarriage. This was now two days after seeing my midwife.
Without going into details, I miscarried at home, with the support of my husband. It was the most agonizing, terrible thing in the world. I was in the most physical and emotional pain that I have ever been in. It was traumatizing and scary. The miscarriage lasted for about seven hours. When it ended, I took my blood pressure, drank water and a vegan protein drink, and rested. I called my midwife to share about what happened and to see what I needed to do next.
Over the next several days, I cried, felt sick over what happened, felt weak, helpless, depressed, anxious, grief… everything. Family and close friends were supportive.
In December of 2022, we learned that we were expecting again. I was thrilled, but terrified because all of the “what if?” questions filled my mind. Around week 10, the beginning of March, we went back to the midwife. During the ultrasound, there was no heartbeat. We saw our adorable baby. My baby measured at about 7 weeks. They told us that we lost the baby. I cried, trying to not cry uncontrollably in front of everyone. I held it in until we were home.
My midwife said that it could be a few weeks, even a month, before I pass everything. It took close to a month! This was an awful month. A month of still feeling pregnant, nauseous, and like I was growing a baby. I went back and fourth over feelings of “my baby is alive” and “my baby is gone.” I was hopeful, yet grieving. Importantly, I wanted to cherish carrying the baby, whether he or she was well or not. It was an emotional and traumatizing rollercoaster.
The second miscarriage also happened at home. I was in week 18 of the pregnancy. It was very similar to the first one, but slightly less terrifying because I knew what to expect. This time it happened over four days, the worst of it during the first day. I was coping by trying to figure out all of the steps of the process and how I was going to have a memorial.
I’m not going to keep telling the story because it is very sad. I still feel sad and depressed from time to time. There’s a lot of grief. A lot of reminders in everyday life of how I’m supposed to be a mom of three, but two of my babies are in Heaven. I don’t think this pain ever goes away, and I’m okay with that.
What I’ve been doing to move through this extremely traumatizing and unbearably upsetting time
- Allowed myself to feel everything, even if it didn’t make sense.
- I acknowledged every painful emotion, feeling scared, and feeling relieved once certain “events.”
- The “events” were:
- Receiving support from my family, friends, and midwife.
- Printing out pictures of my baby from the ultrasound.
- Creating a space in my bedroom to have a mini memorial, were I could visit my baby.
- Coming up with a tattoo idea that meant a ton to me.
- Scheduling the tattoo appointment.
- Ordering a cremation heart to hold my baby in.
- Time with my baby before cremation (twice).
- The cremation
- Getting my tattoo done.
- Planting flowers outside in memory of my baby.
- Spending a lot of time with family and others.
- Sharing about what happened with people I’m comfortable sharing such sensitive information with.
- Talking with other women who have experienced miscarriage.
- The “events” were:
- Remembered that there’s no wrong way to grieve.
- Prayed a lot.
- Received care packages with all sorts of wonderful items. The care packages came from Live to Give (Etsy shop).
- I rested a lot.
- Took a week off from meeting with clients.
- Once I was feeling physically ready, I began weightlifting and going on walks and hikes with my family. I tried running (this is my sport and how I manage anxiety and regulate my nervous system), but my body wasn’t ready for that kind of movement.
- After becoming a consistent runner again, I rehired my running coach and registered for a race that I’ve been wanting to do for a few years.
- As I wish, I visit my babies and memorial.
- Raise miscarriage and infant loss awareness. Baby Loss Awareness week is from October 9th-15th, but I share about it year-round.
- Give myself several months to recover and enjoy life before beginning the pressure of trying to decide whether or not my husband and I should try again.
- Working on my relationship with my body.
My miscarriage awareness and baby memorial tattoo
The sweet pea flower tattoo is often used to represent farewells and goodbyes and the remembrance of loved ones and close friends.
The pink and blue colors represent: Baby loss awareness, including loss during and after pregnancy, stillbirth, miscarriage, termination for medical reasons (TFMR), neonatal death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
In my tattoo, the bumblebees represent a mother and little one.
They symbolize loyalty, family, and selflessness. They put their family before anything else.
10 things that you can do when you are overwhelmed in grief
1) Take a walk. We need to symbolically keep moving, but physically, as well. Cry, think about the loved one, and look at the plants and flowers while on your walk.
2) At bed time, name three things that you were able to do today. Examples, get out of bed, eat, and go to the bathroom. If these were the only things that you were able to do for the day, that’s okay. Focus on what you can do.
3) Engage in the bigger world for 30 minutes to one hour, depending on what you can deal with. Watch the news, read the paper. See that the world is still going on and that there are other tragic things going on, as well. Important later in grief.
4) Send the person who died love. When the person whom you love died, you didn’t stop loving them and they didn’t stop loving you. When we feel helpless, we need to take action. You can say goodnight to them, or say, “I’m sending you love,” or tell them how much you love them. You still need to actively love them.
5) Distract yourself. You can’t stay in that pain all of the time. Do something distracting over and over again. Watch a movie, read a book, play a game. You will know when it’s too much.
6) Talk about your loss to someone else. Find the “deep friends” that you have and talk with
them. The conversation might start like, “I need to talk about this loss, I’d like for you to just
listen and not give me solutions.” Grief must be witnessed.
7) Find something in your life that continues even after your loss. What did the loss not destroy? It could be work. Your fingernails and toenails keep on growing. The love for the person keeps going.
8) Do something nice for yourself. Maybe something you normally wouldn’t do for yourself. Now is the time to recognize that you’ve been through a lot. Do something nice for yourself.
9) Write down three things that you wanted to do in your life before they died. It could be
something that you’ve wanted to do with them or something before they were even in your life. Examples, a place you’ve wanted to visit, a hobby that you wanted to take up, something you wanted to write, or even a TV show that you wanted to watch. Something that you’ve never had the chance to do, who you want to be.
10) Do something for someone else (second year in grief). You need to do something symbolically, connect. Examples, give someone water, donate the extra change at the grocery store to help the cause, give a few dollars to someone living on the streets, or helping another. We need the energy to come in and out of our bodies, and this will help do that.
These are all parts of an important beginning in moving forward and honoring those we love, being present for them.
Try all 10, one at a time.
Contact Shannon Mick, NCC, LPC here if you would like to work with her. Shannon provides mental health counseling to Pennsylvania residents. She specializes in eating disorders, trauma, and anxiety. Her expertise is also in working with runners and endurance athletes.
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