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Home > Medical Services > Behavioral Services > Educational Resources > Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day (Oct. 15)
By Dr. Scott Eilers, PsyD, LP
To honor National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I want to bring awareness to a form of grief that isn’t known or understood by many people, even those who experience it: ambiguous grief.
Ambiguous grief can be defined as the loss of something you anticipated having in the future. Some people call it “the death of a dream.” Most people experience some form of ambiguous grief at least once in their lives. For example, realizing you are never going to go back and finish that degree causes ambiguous grief. Similarly, accepting that you are never going to reach the level you dreamed of in your profession causes ambiguous grief. Also, learning that you have a chronic health condition that will affect your future causes ambiguous grief. And, losing a pregnancy or an infant absolutely causes ambiguous grief.
In the case of pregnancy loss, the future is forever changed. Anticipation of parenthood creates visions, dreams and hopes. These are lost when a pregnancy is lost. Ambiguous grief around pregnancy loss is also experienced by partners who were not pregnant themselves, as they were also anticipating a future that has been forever changed by the loss.
In the case of infant loss, there are actually two losses: the loss of the child that was and the loss of the child that would have been. The latter is ambiguous grief. The pain that is experienced isn’t just about losing the person who was here, but about not being able to have further experiences with them that had been planned.
Scott Eilers,PsyD, LP
The worst thing to do if you or someone you know is experiencing ambiguous grief is to invalidate it or to hide it. Grief isn’t like a simple wound that will heal on its own if left alone. Rather, it’s more like an injury that needs to be acknowledged, understood and treated properly to heal. Please do your best to process all forms of grief with safe people and to try and be that safe person who can help others heal. You don’t need to be a trained therapist. You just need to listen and care.