Dealing with and overcoming perinatal bereavement: the value of time

by Claudia Ravaldi

On 10 September 2006 on the old CiaoLapo web page this appeared:

This is the first page of a path of self-reflection and help that takes its cue from specific English and American articles and publications on perinatal loss, integrated with ideas of cognitive behavioral techniques.In my opinion, everything that can be useful must be known, so I will try to report those reflections that are both recognized by international experts and “tested” by other fathers and mothers “Claudia Ravaldi.

My privileged interlocutor, then as now, are the bereaved parents, and all the people in various capacities involved in the management of bereaved people.

And it is always to them, to parents, to family members, to friends and to operators, that I turn today in these articles, in the hope of offering a key to reading perinatal bereavement that can allow people to “open” those cognitive channels, emotional and behavioral that lead to resilience.

To do this, I will look at the individual paragraphs of my first articles in more detail, taking the time to deepen every fundamental aspect of the bereavement experience.

Today’s theme is time.

If I reread my old articles with the eyes of now, I am very struck by what they say about the old me and the urgency I felt deep to INSTANTLY raise awareness of perinatal bereavement.

I wanted everything to improve immediately. I wanted every parent to find relief and comfort right away. Immediately.

I was not yet fully aware of the meaning of time in mourning, or rather, I could not stay in that time, which seemed to me (and sometimes still today, it seems to me) infinite and uselessly spent waiting for things to change.

I wished I had a magic wand, a beanstalk, an Alice in Wonderland candy to do it all, quickly and well. For me and for others. After all, we were in the desert. There was nothing to cling to, the emphasis was also born from the desperation of feeling stateless at home.

Rereading my first articles today, if I had to compare them to a food, they would certainly be wasabi : dense in content, hyperconcentrated, and often “too strong” to be fully and fully enjoyed by a person lacking in experiences and knowledge on mourning or frightened by the grief itself.

It took me a long time to understand the “importance” of time, to recognize and try to respect the timing of inner time (not always corresponding to what we want or feel) and the rhythms of outer time (social time, family time , time understood as a historical epoch).

Time is our precious ally. Be wary of those who rush you, those who want you to be reactive on command like anyone else jack-in-the-box , of those who steal your time by projecting yourself into distant futures in which “everything will settle down, believe us, starting from NOW”, of those who leave you in an indefinite and suspended time, in which everything changes because nothing you change “because this pain has happened to us and it will never go away “and so on.

Be accountable to your grief and to yourself.

Take your time.

The broken heart time
The broken heart time

Time and mourning

There is the time before bereavement and the time after bereavement. There is an indefinite and ill-definable time for mourning.

It takes a long time to go through the pain. Time in any case well spent, we want as much as we need, as long as it is not a passive time, wasted, let go because ” Something will happen sooner or later “.

It is a lived time, in all its many nuances.

Going through recalls the need for a journey to be made, a shift to make, from one point, the one we find ourselves in when we are in mourning, to another point, which we do not yet know but to which physiologically, due to how we are structured, each of us tends.

This experiential journey is called grief processing .

It takes time, it requires flexibility, it requires the dynamic ability to move from one point to another.

Sometimes, much of the time at the beginning is spent (without our being fully aware of it) to “stay” at the starting point of mourning, motionless in front of that one still image that has so clearly separated the first and the after .

At first we feel unable to move towards anything other than loss. This stagnation phase does not necessarily have to be seen as bad. Nor should we think that this seemingly still time is wasted.

On the contrary, this time of mourning is an investment: it is like a meticulous preparation to reach our destination, to prepare the right luggage, choose what to bring on the journey and what not.

There is therefore a time to ” take a time ” in which to organize our re-action to mourning and our elaboration project.

This time, which differs from person to person, but usually no less than four to six months, is a time in which our brain works like a pinball machine . There are some fucking balls that you don’t want to fall into fucking holes. We have to continue living our lives, without tripping too much, and losing too many balls on the street. There is to live with the background noise typical of every pinball machine, with a thousand external and internal references between what has been and the world that continues to turn (just accepting that THIS happens, takes a very long time). repair those dozen springs that went off when we lost our child and that were used to keep our balls safe.

To complicate it all, above all, the fact that we don’t want to be pinball machines .

We would like to go back to the time before . That time when things went as they should go.

This time no longer belongs to us, for the moment. And accepting this takes a long time.

Accepting that our life is not going where it was supposed to go is not a cognitive automatism.

We cannot convince ourselves that “we have accepted”, nor pay others to accept in our place.

And herein lies one of the biggest deceptions of our culture. Thinking that rationalizing is mourning. The delusion that suggesting a vademecum and providing recipes will help to quickly and well process mourning, at no time or in a few months at the latest.

We ask for help to elaborate our grief when we are still at the starting frame. When the only path we can imagine is to the cemetery, and sometimes not even that. Very often out of time, we are offered encounters with people never seen before, precisely in those first months when we are still looking for the right suitcase for the trip we didn’t want to take.

It seems very extravagant and even out of place that the travel agency we were in when it all started closed its doors and instead sent us a tour guide for an unknown country, before we decided where to go and how to travel. .

Going through mourning is a path . It is not a straight line, it is more like a labyrinth or a concentric spiral. Sometimes one gets the impression of not having moved a step, because we go back to places already known. Sometimes you get the impression that you have walked for months and that you are still at the starting point. To do this work, we need good information, light baggage, and sometimes a good map.

Never make the mistake of taking shortcuts: the path

mourning passes through lack, pain, amazement,

the desire to remember and share, you have to let all these things pass

and accept the memory of what happened to us.

Forcing oneself not to think about it, self-censoring one’s mind, often “freezes” mourning,

which is then destined to re-emerge over time

(in later pregnancies, or at significant moments in life).

C. Ravaldi 2006

Time is an ally, not an enemy.

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