Help for Distressed Parents


Grief is the overwhelming feeling we get when we have lost something. People grieve after a death, a divorce, losing a job they love and with lost opportunities. Many parents also grieve after a premature birth. They have their most loved baby and yet they may grieve the loss of the last part of the pregnancy, or the "champagne, flowers and cigar" joys of becoming a parent.


It used to be thought that grief came (and went) in stages: one kind of feeling (such as denial) followed another feeling (such as anger), one after the other until the person felt “acceptance”. When grieving people did not “get over it” (i.e.  reach “acceptance”)  in a certain time, they might feel guilty, as if there was something wrong with them. Other people around them might become impatient that they are not “moving on”. This “stages” idea of grief made it seem like an infection, with a start, diagnosis (how to fix it), treatment (fixing it) and finally, full health and being “back to normal”.


Grief counsellors no longer think grief works like this. Rather, feelings can come and go many times, all in a repeating jumble. Some people may never really get to the point where they “accept” their loss. For some, the changed expectations of their life come very slowly, little by little over time.


For premmie parents, especially mothers who may have had very high expectations of themselves and their child, who had dreams and plans, had a birth plan and a dream of baby-at-the-breast, a premature birth can hurt in almost unknown places and ways. The dreams of those days may still linger on, even while you get on with the washing and bathing, feeding and cleaning, and with loving the child you have. No-one has walked your exact path, and so while others can be helpful, adjustment to changed circumstances is something that everyone must do for themselves.  It’s a way of living with both your past dreams and your present reality, so that both eventually exist side-by-side.


There is no “normal” grieving. People are very different in their grief reactions. We can’t say that everyone will get back to where they started. For many parents, having a premmie is a profound life-changing experience. So slow down, be gentle with yourself, accept your grief as being a part of who you are, and give expression to it if you need to.

Also- get professional help if grief remains too painful or goes on too long. You are the only person who can decide you could do with some help.