The Loneliness of Perinatal Loss

October is the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This formal designation is meaningful and important as it lets parents who have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss know that their loss is not invisible. Grief can feel incredibly lonely — the whole world around you is still buzzing with its steady, everyday activity while you are looking on in disbelief, dazed, wondering how things can seem so normal when to you they are anything but.

Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz captured this painful experience in his poem “A Song on the End of the World”:

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

The poem concludes with a description of an old man who says while binding tomatoes, “There will be no other end of the world / There will be no other end of the world.”

To lose a baby, whether during pregnancy or post-childbirth, is a devastating experience that to many can and does feel like the end of the world. It does not make any sense when it happens; you were just celebrating the creation of a new life and the building of your family, and weaving dreams and hopes together into a vision of a beautiful future, and now your baby is gone. The pain is made greater by the shattering of these dreams and the identity you began to form as a parent to your baby.

One of the very troubling social dimensions of perinatal loss is that many parents experience a sense of isolation and lack of understanding from others. For pregnancy loss in particular, there are few recognized social rituals that facilitate grieving. Often loved ones do not know what to say or are dismissive. Medical providers might inadvertently fail to acknowledge the emotional pain in visits following the loss. The loneliness of this kind of grief increases the risk of the loss being experienced as a traumatic one. If the lack of understanding has felt cruel or judgmental to the bereaved person, the potential for trauma is made even greater.

For all these reasons, a nationally recognized designation of October as the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is an important step towards helping parents and families heal. Indeed, awareness is the first step on the path to compassion and attunement. We cannot be compassionate towards something we do not even see.

Let us make sure that we recognize the pain of perinatal loss. If you care about someone who has experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss, show that you care. Ask what you can do. It may be hard for the bereaved person to express what their loss feels like in words or what they need. That is okay. Words are not the only means of communication. Sometimes just sitting there without judgment and with compassion in your heart can make your loved one’s grief a bit more bearable, if only for a moment. Whatever you do, make sure your message is one of acceptance towards the person who is hurting. Do not try to talk them out of their grief.

Grieving is a profoundly personal process that does not end with acceptance and moving on. Instead, the bereaved person comes to learn how to carry their pain in a way that allows them to make room for feeling alive and once again connected to people and things that matter to them. This takes time and is facilitated by the presence of compassion and attunement from others: gentle recognition of the pain and an equally gentle invitation to share and to be together in that pain, even though the person who is not going through it cannot possibly take it away or comprehend the enormity of the loss.

We grieve because we have loved. We heal in the presence of love. It is as simple and as complicated as that.

About Aga Grabowski, LCSW, PMH-C, CST (she/her)

I am a co-founder of Wildflower, a psychotherapist, a presenter and a consultant in the area of perinatal and reproductive mental health.  Many other aspects of my personal identity shape my clinical work: chief among them is the family and immigrant background which has informed my attunement to the psychological upheaval that accompanies major life transitions and to the many sociocultural forces that impact our lived experience.

In my clinical work, I am focused on helping people thrive and cope during periods of significant change, and particularly during journeys towards and through parenthood which may involve infertility, losses, depression, anxiety, and conflict.  I work with people from all walks in life. Clients I work with are some of the strongest, most resilient folks I know. They don’t always feel this way, and they come to therapy feeling raw, maybe lost, and certainly quite vulnerable. It takes courage to confront your pain and struggle. I view psychotherapy as a deeply collaborative process that aims to help you discover and tap into your strengths and resources.  You already have what it takes to feel better, be happier, face challenges – good psychotherapy basically helps you access all that. This can only happen if your therapist genuinely cares about and respects you and is invested in their own ongoing professional development and personal growth.

I have extensive training in perinatal and reproductive mental health, evidence-based treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, sex therapy, and trauma.  I earned my bachelor’s degree in international studies at the University of Chicago and obtained my master’s degree in clinical social work at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.  I often present on topics related to mental health. I am an AASECT-certified sex therapist and a certified perinatal mental health clinician. My most valuable learning experiences come from my clients: their experience, wisdom and perspective have shaped my clinical practice the most, something I am deeply grateful for.

LCSW License Number:149016046
Type 1 NPI Number: 1841631132
Accepts: BCBS PPO and BlueChoice plans, Lyra, self-pay and out of network clients


Selected training and affiliation
AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist
Certified Perinatal Mental Health Clinician
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Training
Bringing Baby Home Educator Training, Gottman Institute
Circle of Security Parent Educator
Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE) training
Gottman Method Level 1 training
Dialectical Behavior Therapy Training

Key beliefs
People are stronger and more resilient than they often realize.
Our culture teaches us to be fiercely independent. To thrive, we need to embrace being interdependent -- deep connection with others is essential for happiness.

More about me
I love the outdoors and hiking, camping, kayaking.
I can’t live without chocolate.
I feel grateful every day for getting to do the work I love.