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Family Matters

From Grief to Healing: Creative Tools for Coping With the Loss of a Baby

December 31st, 2013

By Elizabeth Berrien

At the age of 26, I lost my son to stillbirth. I had experienced a perfectly normal pregnancy, was healthy throughout, and had been happily dreaming of the day my son would arrive and change my life forever. However, my life ended up changing in a way that I never expected. I discovered at a young age what it was like to lose someone so close to you that moving forward felt nearly impossible.

I went into labour on my due date. Everything was progressing steadily until the last 30 minutes. As my son descended, he became stuck due to the umbilical cord wrapped over his shoulder. The doctor worked hard to get him out quickly, but when he emerged he wasn’t breathing. After nearly an hour of CPR, we learned that he wasn’t going to make it. I held him on my chest and cried as my hopes and dreams drifted away. I felt in that moment as if my life was over.

Walking through the early months of my grief was challenging. My heart constantly ached, I slept for days at a time, could barely eat, and had no desire to participate in life. I wanted the terrible feelings to end, yet I knew that I couldn’t avoid the situation, I had to move through it. I gradually realized that I had to find healthy ways to cope with my experience or else I might sink into hopelessness and despair. I began grasping for any resources or ideas that I could find to help me through the grief process. I began trying different coping mechanisms, such as writing, talking with someone I trusted, or making art, to see how they might work for me. I eventually realized that coping also meant being creative. I had to reach out in different directions and challenge myself in new ways. I didn’t discover all of my outlets at once, but it was a gradual transformative process that guided me through the intense waves of sadness and growth.

Here are a few of the creative outlets I discovered that helped me to work through the pain of losing a child:

- Forming a ritual: I always do something special on my son’s birthday that honours him. I often take out his album, share memories with my family, or visit a beautiful quiet place.

- Creating connection: I found strength through attending a support group for parents who had lost a child. I felt much less alone on my journey and created compassionate friendships with others who could understand.

- Self-care: I learned that being kind to myself was a huge part of the healing process. I started eating healthy, went for massages, and did gentle yoga to help get the endorphins flowing through my body.

- Telling my story: Whether through writing, journaling, pictures, or speaking, I realized how important it was to let out or record my feelings and memories. Remembering my son always brings great comfort, and learning how to share him with others in different ways continuously keeps his spirit alive.

Through this tragic experience, I learned that healing takes time, intention, and creativity. I also learned that I did not have to “get over” my loss or let go of my son. I am able to hold him in my heart while still embracing life and new experiences. I eventually gave birth to a healthy daughter, and I can share his memory with her as well. Even after such a loss, it is possible to find hope, joy, and fulfillment again. Remember to be gentle with yourself as you move through your journey, seek support resources, and know that your child is forever a part of you.


Elizabeth Berrien is the co-founder of the non-profit The Respite: A Centre for Grief & Hope, the founder of the organization Soul Widows for widows age 60 and under and author of Creative Grieving: A Hip Chick's Path from Loss to Hope.

Tags: Babies, Dads, health, Moms

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