Support Groups

One of the first things I did after the birth and death of Corva, was seek out support. I wanted to know–no I needed to know–that there were others surviving this nightmare. The hospital had given me contact information for a local support group, but I actually knew of the group’s existence prior to my loss. As a WIC nutritionist,  I referred clients to the group, not frequently, but often enough considering the 1 in 4 statistic.  I didn’t really know what the group did though.

The support group in my area specific to baby loss welcomes bereaved parents who have lost a baby at any gestational age, and after birth up until age one.  They meet monthly. The first meeting post loss arrived ten days after Corva’s delivery. I went, though it was the same day that earlier, in my grief stricken state, I left my purse in a friend’s car and it was stolen (the purse, not the car). So it had been an exhausting day, complete with a panic attack and a police report. There was one person at the group that night–Elisha–and I found immediate comfort from her. She sat with me for over an hour and for that I am forever grateful.

After that initial meeting, I attended four more meetings. I also went with several other moms to get coffee, attended a butterfly release and a social dinner out.  In October I attended a remembrance walk for infant loss awareness month.

Then I started to feel angry and frustrated.

First there was the prayer. Now, I’m not a stranger to prayer; after all I pray everyday, to a God  I ambiguously believe in, that I will die before my eldest daughter. At this walk in October, a board member of the support group, we’ll call her Jenny, said some touching words then invited her husband to say a prayer before the walk. This fueled so much anger within me.

Then I started reflecting on the stories. I’m not saying that my loss is worse or greater or more painful than anyone else’s. I only say the following because I cannot relate to these losses. Each month at support group, we went around the circle, saying our name and “as much of your story as you wish to share.” I got so tired of hearing those stories. (All names have been changed). There was Ashley, one of the leaders, who portrays her loss as further along than it actually was. Jenny, who lost her daughter with congenital defects at 19 weeks. Shaina, who delivered prematurely due to complications of preeclampsia at 23 weeks but whose son lived for 10 days. Tara who experienced an ectopic pregnancy in the first trimester. And Elisha who lost her beautiful twins at 20 weeks due to an infection.

And then there is me. Me, who carried my beautiful wanted baby for 40 weeks. Me, who had no complications during that time. Me, whose baby was healthy and growing (until she wasn’t). Me, whose baby lived only inside me, who did not get any sort of acknowledgment of life.

Elisha was the mother who was present at my first meeting. She was the one who was there for me, the one I connected with by default. On that unusually hot day in May, she was the one who watched my tears fall, who listened without judgement. She was the one who demonstrated survival.

Elisha’s story is complex–and it’s not mine to share. And, although, I am thrilled that she is carrying a successful pregnancy, it hurts to no end that she is due May 5, 2018–almost exactly one year (May 8, 2017) after my due date for Corva. I just can’t bring myself to watch her growing belly each month at a support group for infant loss.

So I stopped going.


Tell me about your in-person support groups.

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Therapy: Part 1

In most Western countries, our healthcare focuses on the physical–we comply with the recommendations for annual physical exams, biannual dental cleanings, and yearly eye exams.

But we neglect our mental health. The times I’ve sought counseling were for a specific purpose and usually the event was abrupt, leaving me little time to thoroughly investigate who might be a good “mental health match” for me.

My husband is the one who found our first counselor post-loss. Because he was aware of my history of depression, and concerned about the effect of our baby’s death on our marriage,  he sought recommendations from coworker and found Meryl (not her real name). Meryl has a PhD in clinical psychology from Ohio University. She completed a predoctoral internship at Harvard. (Impressive). Her website maintains that she has been in practice for twenty years and specializes in stress/trauma and PTSD, anxiety and depression, and women’s issues.

Our first session with Meryl was June 8, a bit over 4 weeks post-loss but exactly one month from the death, delivery, and birth of my youngest daughter. (The delay in securing an appointment sooner, having to do with the fact that Meryl practices part-time and also had been on vacation). Meryl had been briefed on the trauma, yet she was clearly uncomfortable with the topic. She wasn’t familiar with the language around pregnancy loss, she never used our baby’s name, and at times, she seemed to be looking my way for direction on how to counsel me.  She couldn’t seem to identify what I needed (and I certainly didn’t know).  Her ideas about helping me ease back to work were ridiculous.  My husband and I met with Meryl twice as a couple and I met with her three times individually, then never called her back. Meryl didn’t bill insurance so we paid upwards of $200 (USD) per counseling session.

Now what?

Several people had recommended that I seek a therapist certified in a type of  treatment called EMDR . I searched on the Psychology Today website and another therapist-search site specific to the state I live in. I found this process to be frustrating. On the Psychology Today website I could filter by town/zip code, insurance, treatment modality (cognitive behavior therapy, EMDR, trauma-focused, hypnotherapy–among others) and issue (grief, depression, trauma and PTSD, women’s issues–among others). I WISH there was one titled “perinatal loss”. Even a quick google search “perinatal loss stillbirth name of state” got me nothing. So I went with trauma/PTSD and grief.

That’s how I found Mindi, my second therapist. Her credentials weren’t as impressive as Meryl’s, but at this point I had little faith in credentials. Mindi is an LCSW with an additional credential in EMDR therapy from Boston University. She has been practicing as a therapist for over ten years. And great news–she did bill my insurance and my copay per session was $6 and some odd-cents (USD).

I had high hopes for Mindi. Our first session was 9 weeks post-loss and it seemed like she was going to be the counselor to help me move through this.  We met for a total of eight sessions, our final session ending a little over 18 weeks post-loss. Five of the eight sessions involved EMDR therapy. And then I felt like I had run out of things to talk about. We’d covered the initial trauma of the loss, my transition to my new job, parenting a living child post-loss, triggers, some coping mechanisms and tools….what else was there? Plus, there were the sad pitying puppy-dog eyes and pouty lip that frequently dawned Mindi’s face when I shared a particularly heart-breaking thought. While the EMDR seemed to help (I think?) initially, I couldn’t foresee myself doing much more of it. (EMDR involves reliving the trauma). So we concluded our counseling with the understanding that I could call for a future appointment if needed. (I won’t call her). (One of the interesting things about Mindi’s location was that her office was upstairs from a bridal boutique. Everytime I went, I wondered if someone seeking counseling post-divorce would find this to be a trigger).

Am I better? Well, I suppose I am better than I was on May 9th. Am I well? Cured? No longer in need of therapy? I don’t know. I still cry daily. But maybe this is how it will be for the rest of my life. The most difficult thing about counseling for me, as an introvert, is expressing myself verbally. This was one clear advantage of the EMDR therapy.  I didn’t need to explain anything to my therapist. She didn’t need to have my life story or know every detail of the trauma. By default, the modality of EMDR took care of it. What would therapy for introverts look like? I think a written journal, email sessions, better yet–here’s the link to my blog–read it and know everything I’m thinking, then help me.

I knew I couldn’t be the only person with this frustration, so I decided to complete an informal poll.


Did you try therapy? What was great? What was awful?