Perinatal Duel: How to Overcome the Death of a Son

He Perinatal duel Is the process that people go through after the loss of an unborn child and, in general, is a loss not recognized by society.

I am sure that at some point in your life you have gone through the hard process of having to overcome the death of a loved one, be it a grandfather, a father, a friend…

Perinatal duel

When something like this happens, you feel a heartbreaking pain, your life loses meaning, your schemes break down and nothing matters anymore.

There is no longer any rush, to-do or work report that you had to deliver urgently. Your world has been paralyzed by the loss of your loved one.

Now think for a moment about one of the biggest losses of your life, the pain you felt, how your world fell apart, the time it took you to overcome it... and ask yourself: how would that moment have been if no one had recognized My loss

The loss of the child may have occurred in several ways:

  • For a miscarriage.
  • For a voluntary abortion.
  • For a voluntary abortion due to fetal malformations.
  • For a voluntary abortion because the life of the mother is in danger.
  • By the selective reduction of the pregnant (in the case of twins, triplets...) because one of the babies has a problem / malformation or Any other reason.
  • Complications in childbirth.
  • Etc.

Although throughout the article we talk about duels for the loss of unborn children, the perinatal duel comprises the losses produced from the moment From conception to six months of the baby's life.

If we read about perinatal grief we can find authors who establish other ranges (for example, from 22 weeks of pregnancy to one month, six months…). There are many opinions on this topic.

I must emphasize that the pain associated with perinatal grief does not differ from the pain associated with normal grief, although there are differences between them.

Differences between perinatal grief and normal grief

When a loved one dies, society recognizes this loss in several ways:

  • Allowing us to carry out the rituals of mourning that we create opportune (funerals, masses, burials...).
  • Changing our role: from being a son to being an orphan or being a husband / wife to being a widower.
  • Getting a few days off at work to be able to"recover".
  • Receiving the support of the people around us, who ask us and are interested in us.

However, when the bereavement is perinatal and the loss is that of an unborn child, things change:

  • There are no established mourning rituals for this type of loss, which puzzles parents, who have the need to perform some Kind of rite, but do not know how, when or where to carry it out.
  • There is no word in Spanish that describes the new role of parents who have lost a child.
  • There is no option to take a few days at work, but you should join your job immediately after the loss.
  • The support received is much less, since this type of loss is often a taboo subject that does not ask or ask little.

Society does not recognize this type of loss, denies it, maintaining the false belief that if one does not speak of something, it is as if it had never happened.

This denial complicates the situation of parents, who are helpless without knowing what to do or how to act in a situation so painful.

I must emphasize that society does not deny the existence of a pregnancy that has not come to fruition, but denies the existence of a social relationship Between the parents / family with the baby, and, therefore, if there is no social relation, there is no mourning.

The fact that mourning is not recognized for the loss of an unborn child results in a series of serious consequences.

Consequences of perinatal loss

  • Social isolation.
  • Anxiety and fear of a new pregnancy.
  • Wrong beliefs On my own body and on myself (my body is not able to gestate, my body is not worth, I am not worth...).
  • Culpability Towards oneself.
  • Depression .
  • Difficulties when it comes to take decisions .
  • Anger towards others (the medical team, God...).
  • Lack of care to the rest of the children.
  • Lack of interest in activities of daily life.
  • Eating problems (do not eat or overeat).
  • Problems in the couple (both relational and sexual).
  • Physical problems (tightness in the chest, empty stomach...).
  • Problems sleeping (insomnia, nightmares...).
  • Feelings of ambivalence before a new pregnancy.
  • Feeling lonely , of emptiness.
  • Sadness.
  • Etc.

These consequences affect not only the mother, but also the father, the brothers and the grandparents. Do not forget that they have also lived the Pregnancy and, therefore, also suffer loss.

How to help after a perinatal duel

Whether we are professionals or not, we can help people who are going through this bad time in many ways. If you want to help you should:

  • Recognize your loss, without denying at any time what happened.
  • Allow them to talk to you about what happened, letting them cry in front of you, often asking them how they feel...
  • Offer your support for everything you need, even if what you are asked for seems ridiculous and insignificant.
  • Find the resources that are necessary for its improvement (a doctor, a psychiatrist, a psychologist...).
  • Respect your decisions, such as getting rid of baby things or not.

You should also take into account a number of aspects to avoid and that unfortunately we tend to do:

  • You should never say style phrases: "Do not worry, you'll have more children" , Because for parents each child is unique, special and irreplaceable.
  • You should avoid typical phrases at loss: "Be strong","be in a better place","everything happens for a reason" ... They do not help.
  • Do not tell I understand your pain If you have not been through something similar.
  • Do not judge the decisions that the parents have made.
  • Do not look for positive aspects of what happened.

Unfortunately the perinatal duel is an unknown issue for most of the population, so we have shortcomings in helping those who are Passing through this painful moment.

In many cases it is better to stay with the person in mourning, offering him our love and support, than to talk without having much idea and to provoke more pain.

How to help yourself

If you are going through a perinatal duel and you do not know very well what to do, how to act or how to handle all those feelings that overwhelm you, do not worry, Is totally normal.

The first thing to do is understand that you are going through a process of mourning, which involves a time of elaboration and much pain associated. You finish Of losing a loved one and that is very hard.

Here are several steps to follow to overcome the duel:

  • Bereavement of your baby is very important for the preparation of the duel. Ask the nurses to bring it to you and spend some time alone with him.
  • Perform some kind of funeral rite, in which the family and relatives can say goodbye to him.
  • In some hospitals they allow you to make a mold of your baby's hands or feet, to photograph with him or even to bathe him. Whenever you want, These activities are recommended.
  • Talk about what happened to your loved ones. If this is not possible, look for a support group for this work.
  • Do not contain your feelings and emotions, do not repress them, it is necessary for your improvement that you feel the pain associated with the loss.
  • Find out about perinatal grief, how much more information you have better.
  • There are many parent associations that have lost a child, find out and get involved.
  • Do not be in a hurry to overcome grief, it's a long process.
  • Go to a psychologist, it will help you in these hard times.

Depending on the conditions, the mourning will be more or less complicated to elaborate. It is not the same as a natural abortion to schedule the death of your Baby, it is not the same to have one or several losses...

Regarding the duration of the duel, it is very difficult to predict, since they influence many variables: the history of previous duels, characteristics of Personality, type of death, type of relationship with the deceased...

As expressed by author William Worden: "Asking when a duel is over is a bit like asking how high up is" .

All these recommendations are intended to accept the loss of your child, both intellectually and emotionally. I know it's hard, but it's the first Step to move forward with your life.

" The pain of mourning is as much a part of life as it is the joy of love; Is, perhaps, the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment"- Colin Murray.


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  3. Forhan
    , M. (2010). Doing, Being, and Becoming: A Family's Journey Through Perinatal Loss. American Journal of Occupational Therapy , 64,
    142-151.Complicated grief after perinatal loss
  4. Gausia, K. Moran, A. Ali, M. Ryder, D. Fisher, C. Koblinsky, M. (2011). Psychological and social consequences among mothers suffering from
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  7. Whitaker, C. (2010). Perinatal Grief in Latino Parents. The American Journal of Maternal / Child Nursing , 35 (6), 341-345.

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