We Need to Talk About PTSD Related to Child Loss
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and today I want to share with you my experience with PTSD, which is directly related to the loss of my infant/child.
Yes, you read that right, post-traumatic stress disorder.
It is not uncommon for someone who has lost a child to develop PTSD, and although it is not uncommon, it is rarely talked about.
As a whole, most people are becoming more aware of PTSD, but most of that awareness has to do with combat-related PTSD. I have a dear friend who battles combat-related PTSD, and although we have the same symptoms, as well as the same diagnosis, our PTSD illnesses are very much different. I personally cannot speak about combat-related PTSD, but I can help shed light on PTSD related to child loss.
I wish more people knew PTSD can happen after the loss of a child. I have been openly judged because of some of the “triggers” I have. Although I am working on dealing with them, it is not easy, and it is not a fast process. Anxiety, flashbacks, avoidance, fear, and nightmares are all part of PTSD.
Anxiety and Fear: I do have terrible anxiety about pregnancy and infant loss. I have had people tell me I need to stop worrying because it will not change anything. The problem is my worrying is not about what might happen, but it is about what did happen.
Flashbacks: When watching television, I am unable to watch any type of labor/delivery scene because it takes me right back to my delivery with Robby. I was in labor for days, knowing my baby boy was not going to survive. Even if it is a comedy show, it gives me flashbacks.
Nightmares: I have intense nightmares about Robby’s birth and death. I relive those moments over and over in my dreams.
Triggers: I can be walking around the mall and when I see a small boy who would be about Robby’s age, I have trouble breathing. I can be eating at a restaurant with my family, and hearing the sound of a newborn cry can make me feel like the walls are closing in on me. Sometimes just even seeing pictures and announcements on Facebook can be enough to be a trigger for me.
Avoidance: This one might be the hardest for people to understand. There have been situations I have avoided because of my PTSD. A baby shower is a perfect example. Yes, I will be able to handle that someday, and when the next opportunity arises for it, I will try to face this certain trigger of mine.
If you know someone who has lost a child and is dealing with PTSD, I urge you to please be gentle with them. Please be gentle with all who have lost a child because they might be dealing with things you aren’t aware of or things you might not understand. Please do not assume they are OK because it has been long enough in your mind that they should be “over it” by now.
Image via Thinkstock.