Erica McAfee, a grief specialist and doula, who really puts grief and loss and recovery into perspective. This is the perfect episode to end the 2020 year. You will hear Erica talk about how we have all lost something in 2020. We all lost the expectation of what 2020 would have been. She has some excellent tips that you can use in any stage of your life to cope with challenges and find your path forward.
I have not given enough attention to miscarriage and pregnancy loss on the podcast. Miscarriage and stillbirth can be a scary topic, especially if you are currently pregnant. The truth is that miscarriage and stillbirth are more common than you would think. The chances are that if you’ve never experienced this, that somebody close to you has, even if they haven’t shared that with you. If you are listening to this episode and you experienced a miscarriage or a stillbirth, or any type of loss this year my heart goes out to you.
Thank you to Erica McAfee of Sisters in Loss for sharing her expertise for this episode. Erica McAfee is a grief specialist and a doula. She’s the founder and head of Sisters in Loss, a digital media platform where black women replace silence with storytelling around pregnancy, infant loss, and infertility.
Transcript and Resources
Vanessa: Today on the podcast. I have Erica McAfee. Who’s a grief specialist and a doula. She’s the founder and head of Sisters in Loss, a digital media platform where black women replace silence with storytelling around pregnancy, infant loss, and infertility. Erica, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today.
Erica: Yes. Thank you so much for having me.
Miscarriage and Stillbirth
Vanessa: I want to start by talking about some of the data on miscarriage and stillbirth. I know that this can be a scary topic, especially if you are currently pregnant. The truth is that miscarriage and stillbirth are more common, probably than you would think. The chances are that if you’ve never experienced this, that somebody close to you has, even if they haven’t shared that with you. Miscarriage and stillbirth both describe pregnancy loss. Miscarriage is the term that’s used when it is before 20 weeks. Stillbirth is the term that’s used after 20 weeks. The rate of miscarriage is estimated to be 10 to 15% in women who know that they’re pregnant. This means that, in reality, it’s probably higher because some women are going to miscarry before they even realize that they are pregnant. Most women who experience a miscarriage do go on to have a healthy pregnancy. Only about 1% of women have repeat miscarriages.
According to the CDC, about one in 160 births results in stillbirth. This is a pretty staggering number and is about 24,000 babies every year in the United States. More common than you would probably think. When you’re looking at that CDC data and break it down by race, it shows that black women are twice as likely as white women to have a stillbirth. Erica, I don’t know if we want to get into that today.
Erica: We can get into that. Absolutely.
Vanessa: My whole point in talking about this data is to drive home that pregnancy loss is common. Hopefully, just knowing that alone is going to take the stigma out of it. Rather than bore you with more data, Erica, can you talk a little bit more about taking the stigma out of infant loss? I think that you’ve done an excellent job of doing that with all the work you’re doing on your platform.
Erica: Absolutely. Yes, all those statistics, it’s, it’s so many numbers that we see out there, really what are those numbers and who are those women and the stories behind those numbers? After I’ve gone through my loss, I experienced a stillbirth at 39 weeks and a second-trimester loss at 18 weeks. Then I had a very traumatic birth with my son. I knew that I wanted to be able to share those stories and a safe place to really normalize talking about loss. Also, to kind of remove the barriers and the stigma around sharing traumatic stories. Stories that are filled with pain, but some are filled with very much so triumph and success. It does take a journey to get to this place of motherhood or parenthood for some people.
I wanted to give people a place to share those stories. Then I really wanted to focus on black woman stories. As you mentioned, black women experience stillbirth two times more than our white counterparts. I’m sure many of us have seen the maternal mortality statistics in the U.S. compared to many third-world countries. What’s happening around black mothers and black babies experiencing mortality and morbidity at higher rates, as well in the U.S. compared to our white counterparts over the last 20 years, there has been a shift in our healthcare system. I wanted to really highlight those stories. What are those? Who are those women behind these numbers? And kind of normalize talking about it and breaking that silence and shame and stigma that people have around miscarriage and loss for us to really use our stories for a place of healing.
What people don’t realize, or until they go through something like this, wants to hear from other people who have been through it. It seems like a lonely journey on their own; they feel like they’re isolated. They are the only one who has been through something like this. In reality, there are so many women who have gone through this same experience, and they have a story to tell. They have a testimony to really share how they have gotten to the place they are now, where they are in a better place. They may have their rainbow baby or their baby after the loss. They may have gone on to either adopt or foster or have a surrogate or gestational carrier.
I really wanted to have a place to normalize what that looked like. Then really what that looked like in the black community. I knew that those statistics were very staggering and needed to know the stories behind those statistics. There have to be faces. There have to be names. There have to be memories of babies who have passed on that you want to honor in that manner. That’s how I have started to break the stigma with just storytelling in general. That has evolved into a community or online support group.
The Role and Value of a Doula
Erica: Now I am actually training a lot of women to become bereavement doulas, where they’re going back and helping those who have experienced loss in any trimester. Whether it’s the first trimester or the third trimester, how does that really look like supporting people in the hospital setting, in a birth center setting, and at home when they leave the hospital and have to say goodbye to that baby? What does that look like for them?
Vanessa: Can you talk a little bit more about what’s involved for someone in a doula capacity? Having conversations, is it kind of walking somebody through here’s what you can expect? What does that process look like?
Erica: Yes, it does. Doulas for a typical pregnancy may not have experienced any losses, and they may not be considered high risk or geriatric, as many people who are over 35 are. Typically would hire a doula and bring them on around five months pregnant. In that 20 to 24 week timeframe, they would hire a doula. Throughout the pregnancy, the doula would work with their partner and their healthcare providers, whoever’s providing care for them, to create a birth plan. This can look like, how do they feel about childbirth education? How do they feel about breastfeeding or chest feeding? How do they feel about circumcision if they’re having a boy? What does this look like from a holistic perspective? If something does occur throughout the pregnancy, how can we navigate that journey and give you options? If something does come up in the labor or the birthing room, that you understand your options, and you can make an informed decision and advocate for yourself.
The doula typically meets with the clients at least four to six times prior to the birth. Then obviously, they’re there 24/7. If anything happens, it’s providing them the emotional and physical support that they need. Helping them go through what are their plans for pain management throughout the birthing process? If they want to do a vaginal birth after cesarean or home birth after cesarean. You are navigating them through that.
What’s more particular for the doulas that I train, we really focus on loss because it’s so common, how to mostly support women who are pregnant after a loss or miscarriage or infertility journey. How does that show up in their subsequent pregnancy? What a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of the fear, the anxiety, the worries that they may have had typically will show up in a subsequent pregnancy. You want to focus on how do I continue to keep this stress, free trauma-free and remove all the negativity out of that pregnant person’s life. So they can focus on bonding with this new baby and grieving this baby that they lost. We really talk about that.
Then you go through the labor process, you have the baby, and then postpartum comes. That is even more critical, in my opinion than the pregnancy portion because there are so many things that can come up during the postpartum period. The baby could spend some time in the NICU, and then that’s a whole other grieving process. The parents could be going through their own form of some type of PTSD due to what happened during the birth. Especially if the birth didn’t go as planned. They may have wanted a vaginal birth, but they ended up having a C-section, and it was traumatic for them. It is being able to talk to them and navigate them through that.
Then just what that transition to new motherhood looks like. I think that we focus a lot on the babies, who’s taking care of the baby. I always say, who’s taking care of the mother? Who’s taking care of that parent, that birther, who just had this life transition? Their hormones are all over the place. Who’s focusing on them and loving on them and providing them the care that they need and the mental support that they need so that they don’t feel like they’re alone in that postpartum period? That they are getting the attention that they need, or they’re getting the support they need on navigating this new journey. They learn how to properly bathe the baby and properly care for the umbilical cord until it falls off. These are small little things that your doula comes and plays a role in, but it is a large thing in the grand scheme of these parents having the support they need in the first six, eight weeks of life.
The doula does come and support them at least four to six times in that six to eight week period postpartum. Then help them navigate lactation support, supplemental feeding. Introducing and preparing the family if they have other children or pets in the home. You are helping them care for their home during that time as well. One thing that I realize now, especially during COVID, is that we can’t be around our families like we normally would. Having someone else who you have felt comfortable with throughout your whole pregnancy that helped you through your birth process. They’re in the area, and they don’t have to travel far. A lot of us live away from our families. For a doula to actually come into your home, they’ve gotten their COVID tests, they’re negative, they are coming with the right PPE on they are being clean, and to really support you and navigate you on this new transition to motherhood and parenthood is key. One thing I realized with a lot of my clients is that they would not have had the help because their families live far away. They need that extra support and help, especially if this is their first time or second time, or even third or fourth time, they have other children around that are doing other things. Even though they understand the newborn transition period, having someone else there that can focus on the kids or focusing on them or focusing on the baby while the mother sleeps and takes care of themselves and gets a power hour nap, I think is so critical and maintaining your mental health in the postpartum period.
Something else that we really talk about is really what does perinatal mood, and anxiety disorders look like? How do I identify postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis that some people do receive? How do we navigate that in terms of bereavement and loss? Even though a lot of people may not have lost a baby, they feel like they lost something in that process. They may be just losing themselves, and everyone’s focusing on the baby and not really focusing on the mother. How do we love on the mother, so the mother feels important, they feel loved, supported, cared for in this new journey? It is being gentle with them. We’re being open. We’re holding space for walking alongside as people transition in this journey to parenthood. Whether it’s through bereavement or through the live birth of a baby and just being there to support and guide them through it. I know I’ve said a whole lot, but that is essentially what a doula does. I think it’s even more critical in COVID times because we just are not getting the support. A lot of women and birthers are just not getting the support that they normally typically would have, as a lot of people aren’t allowed in the hospitals. Then a lot of people are just scared to be around newborn babies because of what’s going on.
Vanessa: I think you did a really great job of talking about what doulas do. The easy answer is it’s somebody that supports you during pregnancy and birth. Doulas do so many things. As you said, you’re specifically trained for bereavement, which is a whole other realm I hadn’t thought much about. Doulas fill all these gaps that we have in the medical system in the United States. You are typically not getting a lot of time face-to-face with a doctor or midwife. A lot of times, those appointments are short. There is so much value in having somebody who will support you and advocate for you the whole way through, especially into the postpartum. I’m glad that you went into detail on that. I think a lot of times expecting parents may not quite understand everything that a doula can do.
Erica: There’s a lot of misconceptions about it too. I think it’s almost the hip thing to do right now. Everyone’s talking about it. Some people have had one, and they may have a good experience with one. Then some other folks will be like; I didn’t have a good experience with that doula. Or they didn’t meet their expectations. That’s just something obviously it’s providing a service. You want to make sure that your client is key to the service you’re providing. Also, I think that people don’t understand the importance of the role of a support person.
I think that even if you go back to way back at the beginning of times, even in biblical times, that there was always someone there supporting the birther. We have just changed the name. Doula has so many different meanings. As we have gotten into a society where everyone’s working in the household, everyone’s doing something, and everyone’s busy doing something. You just don’t have the support that you need. That’s the reason why doulas are needed. I think doulas are needed just because there’s just so much research that shows how they can help you achieve your goals for birth and postpartum. Also, just to help you navigate that journey. Having someone else who really is a little bit knowledgeable, who’s a subject matter expert. That you can call and text and say, Hey, I may be having some spotting right now, and they can help guide you on going to the ER and helping prepare you for things to come. If something is going not in the right direction, I think it’s so needed.
It’s so critical during this time. A lot of my clients and women in my community have said how tough it is during COVID, especially for those who were not able to have doula support during a loss.
They’re miscarrying by themselves, and they wish they had someone there they could call and talk to because no one else in their families or their friend circle really knew or understood. Then no one could physically be there because of COVID-19. We’re at a place now where, when we’re recording this podcast, things are going back to how they were back in March. A lot of things are getting shut down again. A lot of doulas and support may not be able to be in the ER or the birthing rooms for some clients. It makes it more difficult to navigate the journey. On the flip side, I think it’s even more critical for people to hire doulas early in their pregnancy so that they can have the support they need. So when they do get into the labor room, even if they’re by themselves with just their partner, they know exactly what to do. They know exactly what to say. They know how to really advocate and speak up for themselves so that they don’t feel under pressure to go through major surgery, even if they don’t want to. So I think it’s even more critical now to ensure that you have a safe and healthy birth to hire a doula.
Vanessa: I agree. You were talking about the evidence on that. I’ll link to some research that talks about having that continuity of care and how that does improve outcomes and lower cesarean rates. There are so many benefits from having a doula.
Coping with Grief
Vanessa: I want to talk a little bit about coping with grief. I know the data side of things. I have never experienced a pregnancy loss. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Can you talk a little bit about some tips that you could give somebody who’s experienced this to help them go in the right direction to cope with it?
Erica: Yes. For anyone who’s listening who has experienced a loss, whether it is a form of pregnancy loss and miscarriage, blighted ovum, chemical pregnancy, missed miscarriage, there are so many definitions that are out there to those who have had a stillbirth. As you mentioned, stillbirth being the technical terminology for a loss above 20 weeks of gestation. Remember that you are not alone on this journey. As isolating and as painful as it is to navigate grief, you don’t have to do it alone. There are so many ways to navigate the journey. One thing that I always tell my clients and my friends, and just anyone who comes around and asks the question, how do I cope with grief? How do I navigate this journey? I always say they are not alone. This journey is their own. Some individuals may not have to go through a full five stages of grief if they’ve had a miscarriage, and some people do. No different than if someone lost a child in their infancy, and someone lost a baby in their pregnancy, everyone grieves differently.
There’s no timeline for us in our grief journey. I always recommend that people take the time that they need. Take time off of work if they need it. It’s very hard to do, as a lot of jobs don’t allow time away due to certain gestational ages of miscarriage. I would just say, take the time that you need and really get connected with a mental health professional, whether that is a counselor or a therapist, someone that focuses on grief and can focus on maternal mental health to can help you navigate the journey. One thing to note is that postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety shows up differently. Women who’ve experienced a loss, you want to get connected with someone that you can share your feelings with. The other thing I would recommend for people to cope with grief is to just write out their story, to really journal. Journal how they’re feeling every day, the time that you’re upset, the times that you are feeling anger, the times that you’re challenging it, and you’re questioning why you? That you really write it out.
The last thing that I always recommend people do is to get connected with a support group. Whether that’s somewhere locally, you can easily Google “local grief support groups” in your area. Or an online support group. Those groups will help navigate you through your journey. They’ll help you provide you with the reassurance that you’re not going crazy, that you’re not alone, that your body did not fail you. That you have the opportunity if granted to become a mother. That may not be in the traditional way that you may have thought or expected it to be, but it may be in a different way.
One thing about my story, I mentioned that I had a traumatic birth with my son Maxwell. As a result of that, I almost lost my life. They had to give me a partial hysterectomy. I do not have the ability to physically carry any more children, but I have other ways I can become a mother again. I can adopt, I can have a gestational carrier. There’s no right path to become a mother or on this journey to parenthood. One thing I realized is that as we grieve and want to eventually try again and have more children, your path may look different. Sometimes you just have to realize that as a part of your grief journey. Getting connected with a support group and hearing other women’s stories can help you navigate what grief and healing look like for you.
The way you grieve and heal is going to be different from your partners, your spouses, even your family because you lose something that the expectation of it, the thought of it, of being able to have this thing is no more. You’re not only grieving, but your family is grieving too because they wanted it for you. The expectation of having a grandchild or a niece or nephew or cousin that they could have played with their children or grow up to see. Having a group that you can go to and share your thoughts with that truly understands you. They may have felt the exact thing that you’re articulating is so key to help navigate in this journey. Those are the things that are recommended for people to cope with, but there’s no one way to cope, and there’s no timeline on it.
I still think that we have all lost something, especially in 2020. As we’re recording this, we have lost something. I think it’s even more critical because I feel like we’re in a collective grieving right now because we all lost the expectation of what 2020 would have been. If this pandemic was not here and now, as we are on the cusp of going into a new year, we’re still met with that same anxiety of what is to come. You know? I feel like we’re all in collective grief. We all are kind of like, okay, God, what is going to happen next? You know, this fear, this uncertainty that we’re all experiencing. We all go through grief at some point in our lives. I don’t think we should ever put a timeline on ourselves or our bodies or our minds on what that looks like. I think that we’re all going to continue to grieve as life goes on. I think that we all just have to find ways that we can cope with it. Coping mechanisms are so different for everyone. Once you get plugged into the right mental health professional, the right support group, that really that you engage with that can give you the places and space to really put one foot in front of the other. Especially as you navigate and think about trying to conceive again to have that support you need as you navigate that journey.
The importance of Community and Story Telling
I love being able to be in community with women who have gone through something like this because it’s kind of an unspoken sorority that we really don’t want to be a part of, but we know how each other feels, and we can be vulnerable in a way. We probably won’t be vulnerable to other people, especially our girlfriends, our best friends, the people that we love and we’ve known for years because they just may not have gone through that experience. They just don’t understand how raw and how painful and how dark it can be for people. But there is light in that darkness. You really just have to do the work through therapy, prayer, meditation, self-care, and self-love. I always tell people to turn to the arts. Find something artistic that you love to do, whether that’s painting, poetry. For me, it’s podcasting. Do you know what I’m saying? Something that you can focus on and that can help navigate you through your grief journey and to help you cope. It’s my life’s mission to continue to do this purpose work and really guide women and men on really what it looks like as they navigate through the journey. Then, what does it look like on the other side? As I said, I think we all will continue to grieve as our life goes on.
Vanessa: I love the emphasis on maternal mental health, which I think gets overlooked. I also like, especially with the podcast that you do (Sisters in Loss), your emphasis on storytelling. You also talked about if you’ve experienced a loss, that it can help to journal and document your story a little bit. Can you explain why?
Erica: Because when you’ve gone through something so traumatic, you may not have even collectively said the story out loud, audibly, or even written it out. It’s all in your mind, it’s all of the things that you have felt. So being able to write your story and write it out, plainly no stopping, no editing, just getting it out, is a starting process in your healing. It allows your mind and body to really connect back to those emotions you did feel at the time, but it also allows you to get it out. I really feel like when it comes to grief and healing, that we can’t harbor those emotions inside of our bodies; we have to let them out some way.
In the black community, statistically, we have higher rates of diabetes and hypertension and high blood pressure, heart disease, and the list goes on. It’s because we are carrying all this stress and trauma in our bodies that show up in the form of some of these diseases. I mean, obviously, there’s some other factors there too, but stress is a big portion of it. I believe that once you start to journal and really get your feelings out, no matter how raw they are, and put them on paper, it allows you to start to release slowly but surely some of that trauma that built up stress that you have your body. Also, journaling helps you if you do get licensed mental health professional. They can help you navigate through your feelings because you’ve already journaled them out. One thing that I realized on my journey is that it was very hard for me to articulate how I felt, but I can write it out. It was just hard for me to speak it. And the exercise of actually writing out how I felt and bringing it to my therapy sessions was therapeutic for my relationship with my therapist. My therapist could actually read what I wrote. I could actually articulate it back more clearly to them and say, Hey, well, this is how I felt these aren’t just fewer words. These are verbs and adjectives on exactly what I was going through at that time, at that moment, when I was thinking about this particular incident in my journey. Being able to write it out also allows you to be able to talk about it more freely in a professional, confidential therapy relationship. Then on the other side, I believe writing it out allows you to begin to heal. Getting your story out, whether it’s audibly or on paper form, allows you to start to speak it, to actually see it in its entirety.
Then the healing starts to begin once you get it out. Those are the reasons why I truly recommend journaling throughout anything in life. I think journaling is a good tool to have, as you’re navigating any transition in life, let alone grief and loss. Definitely, if you’re going through a painful loss. Even as we round out the end of this year, that may be something to exercise that we all need to do. Just reflect on 2020 and the things that we’ve lost, the things that we gain, the things that we don’t want to carry on into 2021. The things that we hope for in 2021, as we are still living in this collective grief and this time of uncertainty.
Vanessa: I was thinking too, with the stories, not that you would necessarily want to share a private journal entry, but I like the emphasis on sharing stories to inspire other people. To also let people know that they’re not alone.
Erica: Absolutely. I think that that’s the next step. It takes some courage to get to that step where you want to be able to share publicly something that’s so private. The first step is definitely sharing privately till you get to that place where you’re saying, okay, now I know that this story can help at least one person. I feel that I’m ready to take that next step to actually share it with the world. Whether that’s through Facebook posts or Instagram posts, or actually doing a YouTube video or sharing it in a podcast form where you are willing to put your story out there for people to connect with you in that manner. That takes a little bit more bold courage, and that’s not necessarily the first thing people think of when it comes to sharing their deep, dark, painful moments. Once you get to that place that you are at a different place in your healing journey that you have gone through and worked through your grief. Now, okay, I’m willing to share this with the world because I know it’s going to be impactful for someone, but it also gives me another opportunity to heal because I’m able to share it out loud.
Counseling and Therapy
Vanessa: That makes sense. I mean, you’ve talked about seeing a counselor or mental health professional. Do you recommend that people seek out someone that specifically specializes in grief, or is it just find anyone that you’re comfortable with? Do you have any recommendations there?
Erica: Yes, I would recommend someone who specializes in grief and loss. It’s even better if you have someone who really focuses on pregnancy and infant loss or infertility or maternal mental health. Now that’s the next step, therapists are like doctors. They all specialize in something. You want to get a therapist who specializes specifically in grief and loss. And one thing about a therapy relationship, which should be very similar to dating. I always tell people this there’s not a one size fits all. When it comes to a therapist, if you and a therapist are not vibing, you may not like some of the advice or exercises or tools they may give you. You are inclined to stop that therapy relationship and have them recommend you to another therapist. Sometimes you may have to go through a few therapists to get one that you feel is aligned with the values that you have, the things that you want to do, and your goals for therapy.
Obviously, in a situation where you’ve gone through a miscarriage or stillbirth or some form of loss, you want to make sure you have a therapist that really is compassionate and empathetic to what you’ve gone through. If they aren’t, then it may be time to look for another therapist. It takes at least three therapists at the minimum for a lot of people to get a therapy relationship going where they are vibing with them. They understand them, they are giving them tools, they’re leaving therapy feeling good. Also, therapy is not one of those feel-good moments. You have to really do the work. I always tell people to at least think about doing at least two to three sessions with a therapist before they feel like, I may need to switch therapy. You need to give the therapist some opportunity to work with you and get to know you a little bit better. It’s a relationship. You have to build the relationship up if they may not be specialized in the particular thing that you’re looking for, then maybe that is when you say, I don’t necessarily know if this is going to work out. Do you have any other recommended therapists that really focus on miscarriages, or are really focused on grief and loss with a stillbirth or an infant or a toddler or a child? Can you recommend a list of therapists from that perspective?
The other thing about therapy I think people don’t realize is just how accessible it is when it comes to insurance information. For private insurance, you can get therapy for little to no cost. It may just be a copay on your insurance. That may be something that you want to call up. You also have the ability to use your HSA or FSA for my U.S. folks. There are many ways to ensure that you can continue your therapy relationship with therapists. One thing that I’ve loved throughout COVID is there are so many online therapy programs like Open Path Collective or Better Help that are really pushing online therapy with trained professionals in your state. You can do it all virtually. You don’t actually have to go physically to a location. It’s all virtual, which a lot of therapists have gone virtual because of COVID. So that’s another option as well.
Open Path Collective has a sliding scale, so it may be more affordable to use them where you can use your FSA account to pay for therapy. Better Help is definitely out of pocket. Also, you can call your insurance to see if they have other options and what the copay may be for your therapy relationship. Or if you have to meet a minimum for your out-of-pocket fees for the year, whatever that may be. It is still very open for us. I think that we all should look into having a therapy relationship because, like I said, we’re all in collective grief right now.
The other thing about therapy that I want to mention is that when you have a therapist, you have to go in with a goal in mind. If you’ve gone through an untimely loss and you know that you are one this cycle and you really just don’t know where to go. You may have all these different thoughts running through your mind. You want to make sure that you go in with your therapist and say, This is really what I want to work on. I really am dealing with X. How can we work through this? I’m really dealing with the grief of losing my baby. How can we work through this? I think that that’s another key to a successful therapy relationship. You have to have a goal in mind, and then that helps them create plans and exercises and tools and resources around getting you to that goal. Then once you’re at a better place in your therapy journey, then you can reevaluate with your therapist and say, We’ve been doing this for a year or two years, or however long it takes, this is my next goal on what I want to get to. I want to try again, I want to have another baby, but I don’t know what that looks like. Well then, let’s go work towards that goal. I think that that helps the therapy relationship. If you don’t go into it with a goal in mind or just something that you want to accomplish or really explaining how you feel at the time, it’s very hard for a therapist to help you. I hope I helped answer that question.
Vanessa: You did. As you said, it takes work, right? Therapy is not a passive activity. It’s definitely going to take work.
Vanessa: You also mentioned support groups. Are there networks of national support groups for grief or is it all local?
Erica: Yes, there are so many support groups that are out there. I would say do your Googles, but some of my favorites are, there’s so many, I’m trying to think of all of them on top of my head. If you go to GriefShare.org, they have a list of a bunch of different groups. I like Miscarriage Matters. I love the work that March of Dimes is doing, they have a grief support group around pregnancy and infant loss. I love the Star Legacy Foundation they have grief support groups in each of the different States and some cities around stillbirths. On the other side, when it comes to infertility, you have Resolve. There are so many groups out there that are focused on this work that are online.
Locally there are so many support groups in your local hospitals. You have bereavement coordinators and chaplains that run groups in the local hospitals that a lot of people may be able to get plugged into. That’s another place to start. If you want to actually do something locally, granted they may be online right now, but they may actually have an opportunity to meet in person. I think that a lot of people benefit from either. It really depends on just the person and the individual. I think that a lot of couples benefit from in-person support groups versus online support groups. That may be an option for the couple. You and your partner, or your spouse, can actually go to a group together and listen to other couples talk about their grief. A lot of online support groups are another way that people are being connected, feeling a sense of community, feeling a sense of sisterhood and camaraderie as they navigate their journeys.
Vanessa: Thank you for sharing all of those. Erica this has been so helpful. We talked before we started this interview about how I don’t feel like I’ve given enough attention to this topic on the podcast. I am so grateful for you coming on and sharing so much of your wisdom. It’s been wonderful talking to you today.
Erica: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. I’m so happy that you’re willing to have this conversation because as you mentioned, it’s a typical occurrence that happens. It’s something that we don’t talk about. So thank you for giving me space to walk alongside and hold space for your community as we talked about all the differences when it comes to grief and healing from pregnancy loss and stillbirth.
Vanessa: Before we wrap up, is there anything else you want to share that we skipped over or missed?
Erica: Everyone come join the Sisters in Loss support group. You know, I didn’t mention my group but come join us. We’re on Facebook, and you type in Sisters in Loss, and you can find us there as a free support group. Definitely listen to our podcast for those who have gone through loss or infertility and just want to find a sense of hope and healing. Also resources and tools and people that you can plug in and go to when it comes to foster care, adoption, surrogacy, gestational carriers. We talk about it all on the podcast.
Vanessa: Thank you so much for all of the work you do. I know that you support a lot of women who I’m sure are thankful to have you as a resource. Thank you so much, Erica.
Erica: Thank you again.
Thank you to Boppy for their support of this episode.
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