After the loss of a child everything changes. Often our long held beliefs are shaken, as well as any sense of trust and protection we may have felt previously. It can be difficult to know how to go on with life, particularly when it comes to making a decision about having another child.
For parents who want to have another child, there are many things you can do to prepare yourselves. The most important step in the process is to fully grieve your loss. As part of this process, you will have an opportunity to explore your thoughts about the loss of your child and any fears you may have about having another child.
Whether the loss was a miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS or an older child, the grief process must be fully embraced to prepare for your next pregnancy (or adoption). Talking about your fears and concerns aloud really helps to get a better perspective. There may be guilt, shame or blame toward yourself or your partner/spouse that needs to be explored more closely. Addressing all of those ‘unspeakable’ nagging fears will facilitate forgiveness and help you make better choices about having another child.
Some Typical Fears and Concerns
- I/my partner/spouse did something wrong – it is my/his/her fault we lost the baby (or the child died).
- My body is defective – I can’t give my partner/spouse a child.
- What if we try again and fail – can we really go through this again?
- I am being punished for something I did wrong.
- I don’t deserve to be a parent.
- I am not good enough/strong enough to be a parent.
- It was a sign that we are not meant to have children.
- Our relationship can’t survive another crisis.
- It was so hard on the other children – how can we take the risk of hurting them again?
- God doesn’t make mistakes, so we must not be suitable parents.
These and other thoughts and fears are common after the loss of a child. It shakes our belief in ourselves, God and the goodness of the universe to lose a child. When something so horribly devastating happens, we must examine our souls, lives and belief system in an effort to make sense of the nonsensical. It is as if the things that we could count on in life have been removed.
Don’t be afraid to say these things out loud. Getting them out of your head and into the light of day will actually bring these thoughts and fears down to a more manageable size. Talk to your partner/spouse, in a support group, with a therapist or minister. The more we talk about things out loud, the less they control us.
By saying these things to another person, we take away their power. While in our heads, they seem much more frightening. Every time you speak of them, they lose more of the emotional charge. Do not be afraid of what people will think if they hear your innermost thoughts and fears; most of us would have the same concerns. No one can judge a parent’s pain and confusion following the loss of a child.
Things to Consider Before Having Another Child
- Have we as a couple/family healed from our previous loss?
- Are we in agreement about having another child?
- Is this the right time to have another child?
- Are our other children ready for this step?
- How will our relationship be affected if we are not successful in having another child?
- Do we have the necessary support in place to navigate lingering or recurrent fears/concerns?
- Do we have a plan for addressing the concerns of our other children throughout this process?
There is only so much you can plan and prepare for in life. The main thing to know is that a relationship that is not stable cannot be saved by having another baby. Many people make the mistake of having another child to repair a relationship. The stress of pregnancy and child rearing rarely (if ever) has saved a relationship that was in trouble. More likely, it will make things worse. Likewise, having another child in hopes of healing the loss of a sibling is not a good idea. It is critical to do the healing before making a choice to have another child.
Life is full of risks. Unfortunately, bad things happen to good people. Get help coping these realities and healing from your loss before making any major decisions, including whether or not to have another child. Perhaps you know you will, but need to wait until everyone in the family is ready. Timing is important in the healing process, so allow the time needed for everyone to prepare for the next child.
"A Couple's Relationship After the Loss of a Child - Beloved Hearts." Web log post. A Couple's Relationship After the Loss of a Child - Beloved Hearts. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2013.
"Understanding Grief When Your Child Dies." Understanding Grief When Your Child Dies. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2013