I had shared with youthree posts ago that I attended a workshop called, The Experience of Loss in Infertility and Reproductive Trauma. In that past post I wrote about the many losses surrounding a woman’s journey while she’s trying to conceive. This was the first part of the lecture; the second part was given by Dr. Mara Stein who is a therapist in Lincolnwood who specializes in challenging births and perinatal trauma. I will share her part of the talk now.
Dr. Stein shared the different types of perinatal trauma, which happened during pregnancy and up to one year after delivery. These included infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death such as SIDS, as well as complications during pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia and preterm birth. For many women going through such a loss can bring up so many overwhelming feelings such as; the inability to stop feeling sad, feeling enraged, feeling hopeless or inadequate. Others may experience distressing thoughts, such as trouble concentrating, thoughts of suicide or harming the baby, or thoughts of running away. When these feelings and/or thoughts occur therapy can help.
The first thing that is helpful to know, for someone either experiencing a perinatal loss or supporting someone through it, is that grief is messy. For example, Dr. Stein shared how there can be colliding emotions, such as fear and numbness, which can feel chaotic. For others thoughts such as, this was not supposed to happen to us... we did everything right. For someone in a support role, the two most important things that you can express to a woman, who is grieving from such a loss, is that she’s not crazy and that she’s not alone.
Grief can get further complicated when the man is grieving differently than the woman, in a heterosexual relationship. Men tend to do instrumental grieving, where they start thinking about what they can do. Women, on the other hand, tend to do more intuitive grieving where they talk, think and cry. When a couple is grieving so differently, it can lead to a lot of misunderstandings and judgment. It helps for both to enter into therapy where a neutral party can help the couple understand the different ways that men and women grieve. A therapist can also convey that that his/her partner’s way of dealing with trauma is the best way that they know how to deal with this unbearable pain. Most of us don’t have a lot of practice at this, one day you’re thrown into a different world of existence and each family member is trying her/his best to stay afloat.
I’m not sure how many women think about these losses as trauma, but sometimes even naming it as such can bring a level of healing. At my autumn workshop this month, I spoke about a conference I attended with speaker Richard Miller, who created a technique called irest, which is a form of yoga nidra or yogic sleep. As a yogi and psychotherapist, Miller has worked specifically with vets returning from war, homeless people, and victims of sex trafficking. As I was listening to him describe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) I was thinking about my fertility challenged clients and how similar their experiences were to these aforementioned populations. I believe that many women who experience reproductive trauma also have PTSD.
If you have experienced a perinatal loss and feel that you can’t shake the sadness I highly recommend one of the following techniques to help heal your body, mind and spirit. Healing these past wounds can help prepare you for parenthood. Before a woman begins her work with me I ask her to fill out a questionnaire and within that, I ask if she’s experienced perinatal loss or a challenging birth. It is my belief that left unhealed these traumatic events can continue to live in the body making conception more challenging physically and emotionally. I use Internal Family Systems (IFS) to help heal past trauma and current stress. Here are some other healing modalities…
EMDR, (http://www.emdr.com/), Dr. Mara Stein(http://docmara.com/docmara.com/Welcome.html), who spoke at the aforementioned conference also specializes in EMDR.
irest,(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Psl9FKh6qPg), Corrine Peterson (http://www.corinnepeterson.com/) is a local yoga teacher specializing in healing trauma whom I deeply trust.
TRE, Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises, (https://traumaprevention.com/), A local professional I have known and whom I deeply trust is… Alyce Sorokie (http://www.gutwisdom.com/services.shtml).
Myofascial Release, I have experienced healing works from this fabulous healer, Tamara Nikolas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNR3jel8KV8).
Resources to read and listen to…
Here is a beautifully poetic letter written (https://onbeing.org/blog/kao-kalia-yang-your-threads-have-come-undone-a-letter-to-a-grieving-husband/) to a grieving husband from a mom who had experienced the loss of a child.
A touching podcast of a musician whose child died (https://onbeing.org/programs/cloud-cult-music-is-medicine-aug2017/) and how music helps him to heal.