On October 15, we observe Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, honoring and memorializing the lives lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), and any other infant death. This day is set aside to promote awareness, support grieving families, and remember lives lost too soon.
While Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day is just one day a year, support is always available for anyone in need of it, and it’s important for grieving parents and families to know that bereavement doulas are specially trained and available to lift those dealing with loss.
Erica McAfee is the Founder and CEO of Sisters in Loss, a maternal child health company that helps Black women replace silence with storytelling around pregnancy and infant loss and infertility. Sisters in Loss provides pregnancy, birth, postpartum, bereavement, and grief services to help women step beyond anxiety and fear and into trust and peace after loss.
Read on as McAfee explains the role of a bereavement doula, and how you or someone you love can move through grief and loss with a bereavement doula’s care:
What is a bereavement doula?
A bereavement doula is a doula who walks with, supports, and helps families who are experiencing the loss of their baby, whether that loss is through miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, or a diagnosis that means the baby will not live long after being delivered. Bereavement doulas are trained in labor and postpartum practices, but also trained to recognize the grief and recovery needed to support their clients from planning a funeral or memorial service, to helping guide them to maternal mental health professionals as postpartum anxiety and depression manifests.
How can bereavement doulas uniquely support grieving clients?
Bereavement doulas offer emotional, physical, and informational support to grieving clients and ensures they welcome the baby, say goodbye in their own pay, and then begin healing and grieving their way. A miscarriage or stillbirth or abortion is still a birth and the bereavement doula will provide the birthing person ways to stop lactation or provide breast/chest milk to a local hospital for NICU babies, to even helping them recognize the signs of any perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and where to seek the appropriate help. Bereavement doulas are needed in the birthing space to hold the birthing person but also help hold the family up during those painful moments after birth and in the months to come.
How do I know if I might benefit from bereavement doula support?
If you have experienced the loss of a baby in any trimester you can seek bereavement doula support. If you have a fatal diagnosis of your baby or during a routine checkup they do not find a heartbeat then you should seek a bereavement doula to help usher you into a new world of grief, loss, and healing. If you have a family member or friend who has experienced a loss and they are trying to conceive and are currently pregnant they should see a bereavement doula as they can support you throughout the birth and postpartum period and ensure your joy from the new baby isn’t minimized from the pain you experienced with your past loss. Joy and pain can co-exist even through a pregnancy after loss or infertility. A bereavement doula offers healing hands words and touch for the birthing people and their families and every black birther needs a black birth worker no matter their circumstances.
Sisters in Loss is a Maternal Child Health company dedicated to replacing silence with storytelling around pregnancy and infant loss and infertility of black women. The stigma and shame that comes with sharing loss stories prevent black women from achieving the healing they need to thrive in their new normal. Sisters in Loss holds space to present loss and infertility stories in a resourceful culturally acceptable way to assure black women they are not alone on this journey.