Dear Tzippora,

Several months ago, my wife gave birth pre-maturely to a stillborn. It was horrible and shocking, and the medical community had little explanation for us other than these things sometimes happen. Yet now that some time has passed, I feel that we should move on, and I can't understand why my wife is still grieving this loss like it just happened yesterday. Am I insensitive or is she refusing to move on?

Baffled Husband

Dear Baffled Husband,

I commend your sensitivity for posing this question, and having the insight to question your own reaction as well as hers. It sounds like the two of you have responded in very different ways, and as such, it is a challenge to sensitively relate to each other's position.

Your individual experiences of this loss are very different as well. First of all, your wife carried and gave birth to the infant. She and the baby shared a unique connection during the months of the pregnancy, and in many ways the baby's presence was more tangible and more real for her than for anyone else— even you. Her loss is also more tangible. Her emotional reaction is compounded by the physical reality of her changing body. Even several months later, she is still considered post-partum, and her hormones are still affecting her moods.

As her husband and the baby's father, your own experience of this baby was of something outside yourself, and therefore it may be much easier for you to put aside your grief and move on. Furthermore, because you remain physically unaffected by the loss, it is easier to return to a state of feeling normal.

Having come so far only to be deprived of the satisfaction of knowing her baby is understandably heartbreaking for your wife, and it is important to be patient and understanding of your wife's need to grieve. Having a baby that dies in utero is a very traumatic experience. As the Jewish sages say "More than the baby wants to feed, the mother wants to nurse it."

Although you feel consciously ready to move on, the fact that your wife's continued grieving is disturbing to you may mean that on an unconscious level you have unresolved emotions of your own. It is fine to put aside some of your own grief for later as long as you recognize that these unresolved emotions may resurface further on.

In the meantime, rest assured that grieving a post-partum loss for several months or even several years is well within the range of normal, and is not considered reason for concern unless grieving interferes with one's normal day to day functioning.

May G‑d grant comfort to you and your wife,