What is a Heartband?
Whatisaheartband.com was created for the family, friends, and colleagues of parents who are grieving a perinatal loss so that they will know healthy ways to emotionally support the grieving parents.
Bereaved parents wear the Heartband as a tool to educate people about what they're experiencing so that they do not have to. If people ask them about their pregnancy/baby before they're ready to speak about it, they simply tell them to visit Whatisaheartband.com to learn about their loss.
Our goal is for the Heartbands to become a symbol of perinatal loss. We want people to be able to look at a Heartband and immediately know what it means when worn by a women who was recently pregnant or an expectant father.
You can support this mission further by purchasing and wearing a Heartband and sending people to Whatisaheartband.com. Thank you for supporting the person who sent you here with your willingness to learn how to emotionally support parents grieving a perinatal loss in a healthy way.
Heartbands were created to help grieving mothers and fathers transition back into their normal activities of life and the work force. When returning to daily activities (e.g. participating in programs at older child's school, going to the local grocerry store where they are well known ) after the death of an unborn child or infant, parents may still be in the early stages of grief. They are still trying to learn how to adjust with their new reality and returning to normal activities can be a very frightening experience. Also, returning to work can be a daunting experience as well. Often just the thought of returning to work brings on intense feelings of anxiety and fear.
After the initial shock and numbness on learning of the death (especially if it was unexpected), a period of intense confusion usually follows with lapses in memory, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and somatic distress. As the reality of the death is gradually absorbed, the bereaved yearns for the return of the deceased. Inconsolable sadness and preoccupation with memories of the deceased, with intensely painful periods of loneliness, guilt, anger, and hopelessness over ever feeling better periodically wash over the bereaved in waves of emotion. Over the next year or two, the bereaved gradually becomes reconciled to this permanent loss. There is resumption of everyday activities, a renewed interest in other relationships and the world in general, and a restored capacity to feel pleasure. (Leon, I, Glob. libr. women's med., (ISSN: 1756-2228) 2008; DOI 10.3843/GLOWM.10418)
Grieving a perinatal loss is unique and complicated because it is often a misunderstood and lonely process. Sometimes even the closest people to the bereaved don't understand the profound impact of the loss.
So as a family member, friend or coworker, how can you help? It's important to know that you can not take away someone else's pain but that you can be available and listen when the bereaved is in need. Here are some DO's and DON'Ts when trying to help
I don't know what to say
I understand that you are angry
I understand that you are hurt
This must be so hard for you. I can't image
how you must feel.
I don't know how you feel but I want to try to help you if I can
It isn't fair
Take all the time that you need
I don't know why it happened
It's ok to cry
I understand that you feel guilty
What do you need right now?
He is in a better place
Be strong/You are so strong
You can always have more
I know how you feel
You need closure
You need to move on
She is with God now
God needed another angel
Things happen for a reason
You shouldn't feel like that
Why do your kids have names?
You're not the only one this has happened to
God doesn't make mistakes
It could have been worse
Try not to think about it
Each person's grief is unique and personal. It is not to be judged. There isn't a "one grief fits all" for the grieving. Losing a baby is incredibly hard to understand for the grieving parent. We feel confused, let down, betrayed, unsure of the future, devastated. What we need is a listening ear and a helping hand. These sentiments may be comforting to you but do not provide comfort to us and they can even be hurtful.
Grief does not have an end and closure suggests that there is an ending point. Our pain softens with time but it never goes away. We find ways to remember our babies and we like to talk about them. They have names and we like when people talk about them to us using their name.
Our babies are not replaceable. Suggesting that it's not as bad because we have other children or because we can have more children is not helpful. The baby that has died was wanted and our other children can not take the place of the one missing.
Although Heaven is a perfect place with no pain or suffering, we would rather have our children here in our arms. After the loss of a baby many parents struggle with their feelings towards God. Therefor, suggesting things such as God knows best or doesn't make mistakes, or everything happens for a reason is not helpful. No reason is a good reason to lose our babies and the idea that God has them is upsetting.
Suggesting that we not be sad or not cry or just not think about it minimizes our loss.
Losing a baby is life altering. We already imagined what they would look like and be like from the day we found out we were pregnant. We had hopes and dreams for them and that can not be ignored or forgotten. Each baby had a place in our heart and in our life. They can not be replaced when they die.
Lastly, asking questions such as why didn't you call the doctor sooner, why didn't your doctor do....?,what could have been done to prevent this?, couldn't anything be done to fix this?, only makes parents feel guilty or that they are responsible for the loss. We did all that we knew to do and could not have prevented the outcome. It only makes parents feel responsible for something that they could not change.
Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself about perinatal loss and what your friend, family member or colleague is going through as a result of the loss of their baby. After losing a baby our ‘new normal’ is very lonely and painful. We long to have our baby back but it is comforting to us to know that our loved ones care and are there for us if we need them.