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Dealing with Milestones

Milestones of baby loss

They come and go...birthdays, due dates, religious holidays, and first days of school. There are so many opportunities to think about the babies we didn't get to raise.

Yes- I said opportunities. I know for sure that grief lasts a lifetime and while the impact does lessen a little as time goes on the reminders are always there.

My babies were due right around the end of December or the beginning of the new year. They arrived sleeping via a c-section on November 5. The memories of that day are etched in my mind right down to the smell in the air. I can still catch that smell in the fall and I am instantly transported back. It's as if our minds and bodies do their best to always be creating new images or memories but the moment something rings familiar- an image, a scent, a glance at the clock or the calendar at a certain time- you can feel something wash over you and recall that familiar feeling and the exact moment it happened.

I would have a general feeling of malaise that always started to settle in for me a few weeks before each birthday and the due date of my twins. I sometimes couldn't quite put my finger on why I was feeling so blah or had a weird feeling in my stomach or my chest until I realized it was "that time" again. The chill and grey skies of November had me feeling the same old hopelessness that I did in years past at this time of year since our tragic loss.

It know now from my own experience and from working with my clients that these feelings are really common. Here's what I learned:

The anxiety leading up to the milestone is worse than the actual day

I had this feeling of dread and thought so much about all the what-ifs, and the things I was missing out on right up until the day. I worried about how I would feel or how I would get through a normal day and I thought a lot about this question "did I want others to remember it or not?" Which was the better scenario?

Once their actual birthday or due date arrived I felt so much better. Like it was a release and I could breathe again for a while until the next time. The anticipation of it got the best of me and once the day actually arrived it went as fast as any other day and it was over so it didn't seem as bad.

Keep yourself busy on that day

Whatever the special day is- find something to do to make the time pass quicker. This is really key because if you spend the days and weeks leading up to it dreading it and then plan to lay on the couch that day and sob, you could set yourself up to spiral into a deep depression. Find something enjoyable to do- shopping, lunch, movie, go for a walk, or do a home project like redecorating a room or some seasonal closet overhaul. Anything to keep your mind busy and from thinking about all the what if's because you do that enough on all the other days. And if you want to hold a birthday celebration and invite the whole family then do that. Write a letter, buy yourself a gift, visit their grave if that's comforting, donate to a charity in honor of your baby, anything that feels like it would help put you at ease, and if you need a week or two to cry on the couch- do it.

Realize that everyone else's life seems to go on...

Holidays are an especially triggering time because of all the thoughts about the Christmas gifts you didn't get to buy or Easter dresses that were never bought and worn is a stark reminder that the world goes on with or without your baby. In my coaching practice, one of the hardest things I help my clients to deal with is family events or holidays where others are showing up to events joyfully with their new babies or announcing a pregnancy while the baby you lost seems to be forgotten. Holidays are very tough times for loss parents because while they are dealing with and remembering the baby they lost, the rest of the world seems to be moving on. It's painful to attend events when you are in a space where you need healing before life can even start to feel "normal" again, much less joyful.

Say no

It's OK to stay home from any type of event if you're just not feeling it...If it's a holiday gathering and you can't face the crowds or the questions, or worse yet, the avoidance then Don't. This is a time like no other to take care of what you need and you know better than anyone what feels right to you. Just allow yourself to make the decision that is best for you and not for everyone else's expectations of how you should be feeling.

You are still a mother

No matter what you are a mother and you were given maternal instincts to guide you. I have found the best way to deal with Milestones is to try to embrace the feelings and give yourself grace when you know that this is why this feeling is creeping in for you. Understand that it is your maternal instinct showing up and giving you the gift of remembering the love you have for your baby. Find a way that feels good for you to express it.

I did a great job of keeping it all to myself and trying to stuff that suffocating feeling down each year because I was afraid of comments like "oh! you're still thinking about that?" or being judged by others but I now realize how damaging it was to my overall well-being and mental health. I had a friend and my sister who would listen when I needed them to, and my husband was always willing but I'm not sure anyone really understands the biological feeling that happens unless you've experienced it. My friend reminded me (and still does in a very loving way) when that time of the year comes around that "you always feel like this at this time of year". And it reminds me to be grateful that she remembers and it's proof that my baby will never be forgotten by me.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, For They Will be Comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

If you are like me and paste a smile on your face so you can be sure no one feels that awkward, stiff feeling that happens to the other person when the subject of your baby comes up I want to encourage you to try something different. Say their names- tell others about them. Have parties in their honor. Our babies were here to be celebrated, no matter how brief the time was. And each year the milestones come around as our reminder to do just that.

Jennifer Senn is a Pregnancy Loss Recovery coach who specializes in helping women who are struggling after the loss of their baby heal and find hope to live a life full of possibility again. Look for her Podcast Navigating Baby Loss to be released on June 30, 2022 everywhere you get your podcasts. You can email her at


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