How to Cope with a Pregnancy After a Loss

Watch the video here.

We discussed this question with Sarah Vollmann, our new Board Member who is the author of the study Legacy after Loss (read the full study here) and Joann O’Leary, Ph.D., who has published many articles on this topic; Joann has offered groups to help with pregnancy after loss and parenting after loss, for over 30 years and shares her way of helping parents who have lost a child.

RCF Video - Feature

Joann O’Leary is a consultant with the Star Legacy Foundation and recommends to welcome the new baby into the family, and to greet and relate with it already in the womb. “We know now that the foetal cells stay in our body for many years; a foetus may feel the distress of a grieving parent in the womb.” Hence parents and grandparents need all the support they can get to grieve a loss and to see the new child as separate and not as a revenant for the lost one.  Families where parents and surviving siblings have the benefit of grief counselling fare better than those that don’t, affirms Joann O’Leary.  

Rita Battat, co-author of the award-winning book Replacement Children. The Unconscious Script, discusses the term “rainbow children” which is now used to emphasize the joy of welcoming a new baby into the family after a loss; while it conjures up a nice image it may however still create a link between a living and a departed child. Sarah Vollmann says: “this may be an attractive term but a new baby just wants to be a baby, welcomed on its own, and not have its existence linked with the one that was before”. 

Judy Mandel, author of Replacement Child – a Memoir, asks how to avoid a comparison between the lost child and the newly born child, how to address the memories and avoid comparisons.

Kristina Schellinski, author of Individuation for Adult Replacement Children. Ways of Coming into Being says that it is most important to see the new human being as an individual and to love it in its own right. 

It is important to realize how the loss of a child can impact the whole family, both surviving siblings and children who are born thereafter; they may suffer from the replacement child syndrome (Cain & Cain, 1964) as a child and as an adult.

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