Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Loss from the Perspective of a Pediatric Speech Therapist, Jill Flores, M.S., CCC-SLP

I recently had a loss in my family. I was midway through my pregnancy and I lost the baby due to some complications. When this event happened, I was faced with finding a way to talk about this with my friends, family, my close colleagues, my community and the families that I work with through my speech therapy practice. Through this process, I also needed to consider some of the older preschool and school-age children I work with, who had noticed or were aware that I was pregnant. One child said to me after my loss, “your face looks different” and another said, “when are you going to have your baby?”. Children observe much more than we realize. 
Death and loss are topics that are not openly spoken about in our society. Many people, including myself, find it awkward to use the words needed when we are confronted with this topic. When Diego, my son, was stillborn, I realized that I was going to need to face death in a way that I had never done in the past. Not only was I going to have to realize the death, but I was going to have to find a way to remember something that ended before it started.
When I spoke to my families within my private practice, I explained to them openly about what had happened, since most of them were aware that I had been expecting. Through the contact that I had with families, I was struck with how much the families I work with cared about what was going on; they wanted to know. I also discovered that many of the parents I work with have gone through similar experiences and that this event is actually quite commonly encountered in our country, but rarely shared or discussed openly.
Diego my son was buried in a cemetery close to other babies. We were fortunate to have some of our friends and family close by to share this event with us and find a way to say goodbye to our son. It is amazing how our community and circle of friends can
support us in situations that are so difficult to bear.
This experience has brought me closer to some of the families within my practice. Sharing a loss as a professional is important. Families can speak more openly, when the therapist has shared something about their experience as a human being.  In turn, when a therapist experiences birth, they gain an appreciation of what it feels like to be a parent. Having felt a loss so directly, one gains perspective about what it means to feel disappointed about something that did not come out the way it was expected. Some parents may experience a sense of loss repeatedly, such as when their child takes longer to develop, during transitions or when their child is given a diagnosis. Having a way to talk about this experience openly can relieve the stress that surfaces each time this truth comes to mind. Having a way to talk about our losses with relatives, friends and our social network, as is appropriate, can strengthen our bonds within our community. However, depending on each person, his or her level of comfort, their cultural values, etc., this can vary. Certain discussions are best shared within a small group of individuals or families who have had the same experience. We are fortunate to live at a time when it is easier to gain access to information and resources within our community. If you have experienced a loss, attending a support group or speaking to others who are in the same boat, can be a tremendous source of comfort. 

Some Favorite Resources for Pregnancy Loss

Sherokee Ilse, Arlene Appelbaum, Empty Arms: Coping with Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death (Wintergreen Press, 2000).

Bay Area Resources for Family Members of a Child who has a Disability

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