Instinctively, we just want bad things to stop happening.
Instinctively, we would at least like it not to happen to us, or to our loved ones.
Because contact with pain scares us.
It scares us so much, that instinctively we would like to be able to escape the difficult game of mourning, of waiting for it to work out, of the profound uncertainty that overwhelms us after a bereavement and during a wait after a bereavement.
I have asked myself many times, after having instinctively felt all these things, why we tend to complicate everything: birth, life, death, emotions, thoughts, actions.
I wondered if really, acting on instinct, which often means running away from or avoiding fearful and feared situations, pretending not to know that terrible things happen, or taking purely superstitious actions to contain anguish, is the best possible solution. for us, for our well-being, for that of our children.
The answer of course is no.
Escaping knowledge of a problem does not keep the problem at bay.
Running away from solving a problem does not solve it.
Fleeing from those who bring a problem, then, does not improve our condition, and neither does his.
So why do we flee? (with the body, with the head, with our words?)
We run away because we don’t know how to do it.
We do not know how to code the feelings associated with difficult situations such as perinatal bereavement and the death of a newborn for example.
We don’t know how to decipher and name the emotions we feel, all together, in unison, when dealing with this topic.
We don’t know how to put feelings, emotions, thoughts in a coherent order and then translate them all into appropriate behavior.
Appropriate for whom? You might ask me.
Appropriate for everyone. No, it is by no means impossible. Dozens and dozens of scholars of communication and the helping relationship teach us this.
Appropriate for those who, experiencing all this as a spectator, need adequate tools to react to the best of their ability, and for those who, experiencing all this as a victim, have a spasmodic need to receive appropriate, healthy and sanitizing feedback, given their current post-traumatic psychophysical state.
For this reason, for ten years, I have been working on three different levels on perinatal bereavement:
the level of assistance to those directly affected;
the level of care and education of the people caring for those affected;
the level of social awareness and education of the general population, in which we all live and whose feedback in our lives has a far from negligible weight, in terms of resilience.
This year in particular we have worked on the concept of knowledge (medical, psychological, psychosocial, community) applying it to the three levels mentioned above.
We realized, not without disappointment, that the three categories are separate, in their own right, far from each other.
I have defined the principle of non-communicating vessels.
Each in its own way, each separate, even in the face of the same event, even in the face of the same stillborn child.
The correct information on perinatal bereavement does not circulate, except in closed systems, which are independent of each other.
For example, the “audits” that are carried out together with families in the rest of the world are still very often behind closed doors, and only afterwards do they refer to the families what has been learned. There is a tendency to keep operators and parents separate. There is a tendency to keep the operators separate from each other, by professional categories.
Very few departments call for a meeting to return the folder and the exams to the family: many refer to the caregiver, many send everything home.
Few departments care about what happens to couples after discharge, many just wish them to become pregnant again soon.
Parents are often victims of misunderstandings about perinatal bereavement, of old concepts of psychology and medicine by now largely outdated which nevertheless stubbornly resist in certain hospital situations; the operators themselves, midwives, doctors, psychologists, in turn separated into separate categories and very far from an authentic team vision, are victims of this resistance to change, to the extent that, in certain hospitals, those who wish to improve his skills on perinatal mourning is still seen today as a jinx, a fanatic, a weird person or a time waster (it happened, I saw the written reminders, of each of these situations).
Even today, for one thing, the idea that a child moves less at term because he has little space is in vogue in many counseling centers and is taught to mothers. Even if it is well known that this is not the case.
Even today, despite a large amount of work done, it is doubted that what the international community considers useful for the purpose of mourning is really useful. We prefer to think that they are “fantasies” “suggestions”, “subjective visions”.
All this does not happen due to lack of time / means / intellectual resources / will (as I initially thought, incredulous).
Today, 2016, not even the correct training is a real problem. I have done 180 seminars and training courses in 10 years and the feedback I have received has been a better understanding of the problem and its facets which has allowed me to start changing care in almost every place I have taught.
Proper training exists. The bibliography exists. Theses on Italian samples exist (we followed 17 with our scientific committee).
High-level training is no longer a problem if one wants to do it.
So why do we parents, operators, society as a whole, very often prefer to remain in ignorance and oblivion?
All this happens because if I do not know in depth what I have to face, if I do not have the cultural, social and personal tools to understand perinatal bereavement and its dynamics, I will more easily be prey to fear, denial, escape, superstition.
More easily I will automatically choose, equally automatic compensation strategies, to solve the problem as quickly as possible. The higher my difficulty and my suffering and my discomfort with respect to grief, the more easily I will fall into the deception of the quick solution, of the paternalistic advice, of the pat on the back, of “if you continue to feel bad you will never stop feeling bad , be strong!”.
We all pay the consequences of this ignorance, generation after generation.
You need to stop running, catch a breath, take three deep breaths and take care of yourself.
It is necessary to stay close to this issue, and learn to know it, with the (numerous) means that we have available today.
It is necessary to distinguish what is my (legitimate) psychic defense to protect myself from fear and other negative emotions from what parents and caregivers around the world have been trying to teach us for years. And act accordingly.
My fear (my indifference, or my rigidity as it is) cannot become the parameter for my actions.
Especially when my choices have important repercussions on me and on others.
For these reflections, this year the BabyLoss Awareness Day in Italy will be dedicated to knowledge.
To the knowledge that, as such, protects us.
It protects parents from the suffering generated by ignorance, neglect and neglect by others, allowing them to make conscious and informed choices.
It protects operators from the feeling of confusion, helplessness and tension that is often associated with a bad diagnosis during pregnancy or after birth: an operator equipped with the appropriate tools will feel empathy for the couple, and sadness, but will also be aware of all the sensations, the emotions and thoughts he experiences, so that they can be identified and translated into appropriate behaviors.
It protects society, which in the face of perinatal bereavement often reacts by barricading itself behind the sense of injustice, of inexplicability of helplessness. Hence the need to “repair”, wishing couples to have other children, to find serenity as soon as possible, to return happy as they deserve. Or, and this happens every day in social networks but also in many places of care, forgetting who is the direct victim of bereavement who most needs qualified help and support, because our suffering is such as to obscure that of the person directly involved. That in this way, we condemn to be a victim twice.
A society in trouble with birth and death is in the greatest trouble when birth and death are intertwined.
It is a society that needs a space to be able to make thinkable, and therefore sayable, what today is not thinkable.
For this reason, on October 15th 2016 we will be in the squares, in hospitals and wherever we can, to promote the knowledge that protects.
All of us.
“Because joy like pain must be preserved and must be transformed” N. Fabi