The death of a woman during pregnancy childbirth or postpartum is an exceedingly tragic and painful event. This pain and loss is not only experienced by family, friends and the community but by health professionals, support staff, and advocates that served the family.
Grief Resources for Family and Friends
If you are a family member who has lost a loved one, you are not alone. Your grief is real and a normal response. Individual expressions of grief may last for years. Reach out to your family, friends, counselor, faith leader or health professional to share what you are experiencing and become connected to a support system during this difficult time. Many local and national organizations, including hospitals and care centers, offer grief counseling services. Over time, the Review to Action team will be expanding this site section to include reputable, evidence-based programs to connect individuals who have experienced a maternal loss to safe, supportive and confidential environments. If you are looking for something in particular now, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grief Resources for Health Professionals and Review Committee Members
Health care professionals who have lost a maternal patient also experience the emotional trauma of the loss. It is not unusual for caregivers to delay and deny their own grief responses to continue care for others. Often referred to as the ‘second victim,’ their grief may persist for years and if unresolved, can contribute to conditions such as compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout. Onsite, in house debriefing/huddles for involved caregivers assist with immediate emotional support, however, ongoing supportive services may be beneficial. Additionally, individuals involved in maternal mortality review committees (MMRC), especially abstractors, may experience grief symptoms from continually reviewing courses of events that lead to a death. The following are resources to assist grieving professionals:
- Pauline Hill, RN, MSN, published an article entitled, “Support and Counseling After Maternal Death.” This article includes important tips and strategies to review for health professionals working with pregnant women: Hill, P.E. (2012) Support and counseling after maternal death. Seminars in Perinatology. 36(1), 84-88. Retrieved at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0146000511001625
- Resolve Through Sharing has developed a Mother’s Memory Box to preserve the memory of the mother for surviving children.
- The Council on Patient Safety in Women's Health Care developed a bundle entitled, “Support After a Severe Maternal Event,” that serves as a checklist of guidance with related resources for patients, providers, facilities, and staff. The bundle can be accessed on the program’s website.
- The National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths presented a webinar on December 14, 2016 entitled, “Recognizing and Responding to Vicarious Trauma in Fatality Review.” Visit the organization’s website to access a recording of the webinar and related resources, including guidance developed for Child Death Review and Fetal and Infant Mortality Review teams that can be applied to MMRCs.
“I think about maternal mortality as a sentinel event similar to tossing a pebble into a pond of still water. It begins with a maternal event that expands with ever enlarging ripples impacting the child, her partner and other siblings, her other children, her extended family, then her physicians, nurses, and other health care providers, her employer and coworkers, society at large...”
King, J.C. (2012). Maternal mortality in the United States – why is it important and what are we doing about it? Seminars in Perinatology, 36(1), 14-18.