Holding space for loss
Doulas and loss
As doulas we are passionate about supporting people through pregnancy, birth, and the weeks and months of postpartum transition and healing that follow. We work hard to make sure that we are always learning and building our skills to offer the best support possible - to be whatever you need.
The further into this work we go, the more we are learning that supporting our clients through a loss will continue to be a significant part of our work. Whether it is the loss of a pregnancy in the early weeks, a stillbirth, or the death of a baby postpartum - loss affects many families in our community in so many ways. As doulas, it is our responsibility to support our clients through these losses in whatever way is needed. There are so many ways for us to do this, but most important is our ability to hold space for our clients as they grapple with loss and to acknowledge their experience and the life lost.
Holding space sounds very vague out of context but it can be one of a doula's most important skills both in birth and while supporting a family through loss. Holding space can be especially important while someone is working through the complicated process of grieving and healing after a loss. As a doula, holding space can include anything from sitting, listening, and bearing witness to consoling, reflecting, and helping to celebrate or mourn the life lost. Most of all, holding space means being there - observing and responding because, as with birth, loss is experienced differently by everyone.
Acknowledging the life lost
Time and again, we hear parents who have lost explain how isolating the experience has been for them. People are afraid to talk with them about it expect in expressions of condolences or pitty. The more we learn about working with people and families moving through loss, the more we are seeing the deep importance of acknowledging the life lost. When a pregnancy ends or a baby dies, it is not only that one life that ends. Of course, parents and siblings continue on but the life they expected - the new family they had prepared themselves for - is also gone. After the initial loss has passed, engaging with parents on their own terms to help remember that little life is something that everyone ought to be able to do, and is something that as doulas, we strive to support.
PAIL Advocate Training
What has brought on this sudden bought of reflection on our work as doulas? For those of you who follow along with us on Facebook and Instagram, you may know that Jenn has started taking a course to help the Hello, Baby! team better support our clients through loss and grief when we find ourselves there with them. Being able to communicate well, help our clients understand what may be happening to their bodies and babies, and to support them as they move through grief is something we believe is so important to our work. If you have been affected by the loss of a pregnancy or baby, we want you to know you are not alone - we are always here to listen and help lift you up however we are able.