The Blurred Lines Between Postpartum Depression & Grief After A Loss

[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Warrior Mom Jessica Watson. Jessica is a mom to five, four in her arms and one in her heart, and today she’s sharing her experience with the blurred lines between grief and postpartum depression after perinatal loss. You can find her wearing her heart on her sleeve at her personal blog Four Plus an Angel or on twitter @jessbwatson. -Katherine]

The Blurred Lines Between Postpartum Depression and Grief After a Lost

October will be five years since I lost my daughter. One of triplets, she passed away while still in the NICU. Somehow I think nearing five years without her makes me some sort of veteran of grief, an expert in something I never wanted to know a thing about.

I am often asked by moms new to this process how I felt in those early days and months after saying goodbye to my daughter. My first response would be to say I felt like I had been hit by a semi truck and left to lay in the gravel, bruised beyond recognition. But that is not what they want to hear. They want to measure where they are at with where I was. They want to know if they are doing it “right.” They want to know if I was depressed, if I took medication, if they should listen to the people telling them what they should be thinking, feeling, and doing by now.

The lines of loss and grief and postpartum depression are so blurred I could not see them clearly, and I know very few loss moms who can. What I can say is, after my subsequent pregnancy, one that did not involve loss, I felt many of the familiar feelings return. The paralyzing grief was not there but the weight of my feet was just as heavy. I did not answer the phone or enjoy conversation or feel the responsibility to smile at anyone but my children. I still remember the day I hid in the basement, shh-ing my children so unexpected guests would not know we were at home. How dare they arrive happily with gifts in hand? I was not feeling light and carefree and their visit was somehow a slap in the face to my feelings. I didn’t even have the energy to turn the doorknob.

I finally turned to medication long after I should have. Until the cloud of depression—maybe postpartum depression—started to lift, I had no idea it was there or that it had been muting my world for years by that time. For some reason, after losing my daughter, I felt that taking medication would take away my vivid memories of her. I thought that if I medicated the pain, I would be somehow numbing her from my life and I would not feel the sense of loss that I needed to feel in order to navigate the grieving process.

I could not have been more wrong. The only thing I can do now is let myself off the hook for not taking care of myself sooner. Could I have been a better mom, a better wife, a better friend if I had sought help for postpartum depression when I needed it most? Probably. But I have to look forward, not back.

I have learned through this process of trying to sort out grief and depression and raw heartache that nothing needs to be labeled. You don’t need a name or a diagnosis for your feelings; you just need help. The best gift you can give to your children is a mother who understands strength does not mean suffering through the pain but rather accepting help when you need it most.

If you know someone who has suffered a loss, whether it be through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss, ask them what you can do to help them with their own grieving process. Everyone moves through grief differently and all you can do is be at their side when they need someone to lean on.


For more stories and resources on this topic, you might like:


About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. NO joke I was just thinking about this this morning and writing a piece on it. Even with my history of PPD when I lost my son at 18 weeks no one even mentioned or thought to discuss my anxiety and depression as anything other than grief. Treat it like it was something I would get over. It was a long hard year an d I didn’t get help until almost a year later when my daughter was born and I was still suffering near debilitating anxiety and intrusive thoughts on horrible things happening to her, Than and only than did I finally get help…

    • Jessica (@jessbwatson) says:

      So glad you ultimately got help Melissa. I’m amazed how often people think that grief is something that we will “get over.” I think the only thing we can do is try to take care of ourselves as we work through it.

  2. jackiepcross says:

    Losing a child has to be the absolute worst thing to experience. I had a miscarriage and that alone was difficult.
    It makes me happy that there are others out there like you who are so open and willing to help those going through similar situations.

    • Jessica (@jessbwatson) says:

      Thanks Jackie, I think continuing to tell my story has helped me through the grieving process. I hope you have found support when you needed it too.

  3. You’re so so brave and strong. Thank you for sharing your story, Jessica.

  4. Jessica,

    Standing ovation.
    Thanks for putting this out there—you will help SO MANY.
    And the parts where you talk about the PPD and hiding to avoid answering the door? I know that feeling. All too well.

    There is nothing wrong with how you felt and how you dealt. There is a broad spectrum and you also don’t need to defend yourself or what you were going through.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. Hadley is an angel who has an angel for a mother, too. I’m lucky to know you.

    • Jessica (@jessbwatson) says:

      Can’t thank you enough for always being here for me Erin and for understanding my anxiety all too well. xo

  5. I’ve never lost a child, but I have dealt with post-partum depression and just good old fashioned depression since having children. It’s amazing how much medication lifts the veil and allows you to glimpse just how heavy a thing you’re dealing with. It took an awful lot for me to go in and seek help after my son was born. I still haven’t “confessed” it on the blog, but I know that once I do it will reach others. It is so good to be honest and vulnerable and allow others to peek into your heart.

    You’ve shared so much of your journey with your readers and you must know how much it means to us. Thank you!

    • Jessica (@jessbwatson) says:

      Thanks so much for reading and for always being supportive. I’m glad you got the help you needed when you needed it too.

  6. Great post Jessica!!!

  7. Thank you for sharing your story Jessica. After Jake died I declined take the medication doctors offered me.

    At the 6th month mark after he died I found myself in such a bad place I really did not see any reason to be in a world where I could not take care of my first and only child at the time. I started taking medication and have not forgotten Jake but I am able to live in a world where I can take care of his younger brother and sister and sadly grieve for his youngest brother. xoxo

  8. Hi Jessica, That was such a beautifully articulated article. As a fellow loss Mom, I couldn’t agree with you more.

  9. It is very hard to understand medication until you’ve been on it – that it doesn’t change you or make you stop feeling, it just gives you the ability to find solutions to your challenges, and to be able to function.

    I’m so sorry you had post-partum depression on top of the awful weight that is grief.

    • Exactly.

    • Jessica (@jessbwatson) says:

      Thanks Jennie and this is so true, even though I had been on medication before, I had forgotten that they wouldn’t change me but just make me be able to think more clearly. I literally shut myself off from the world for at least a year and missed out on so much support from amazing people like you.

  10. Somehow, we do have to forgive ourselves. Who knows what to do, when you lose a child: what are the rules? There can’t be any rules. I can’t imagine more of a specific situation. An unbelieveable, unimaginable place for me.

    Anyone who suffers through this, is made of the hardest steel.

    What evidence of the fight you have in you, Jessica.

    I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Jessica (@jessbwatson) says:

      Thank you so much Alexandra and I remember thinking exactly that… what are the rules? what am I supposed to be doing with this pain? There weren’t answers and, for a time, I ostracized myself just enough not to be able to find them.

      Thank you so much for all of your love, support and kindness over the years. xo

  11. What a beautiful post. The part about medication really hit home. I have such an aversion to it, thinking it’ll prolong my pain, but I’m starting to realize it might just help me get through it. Thank you for opening your heart with these words. xoxoxo

    • Jessica (@jessbwatson) says:

      Yes! It absolutely helped me get through it rather than pretend it wasn’t happening and just hoping life miraculously got better. If there is anything I can do for you Mandy please let me know. I’m always an email or DM away :).

  12. sarah freeman says:

    I never thought about how similar they felt. And I really like the description of not knowing how bad you felt…because you were just in it. I didn’t get help for years because I just thought that’s how life was. I think I felt too that I would loose my son again if I let go of the grief. And believing in a loving God, letting go would also mean I had to trust that God would look after him….aughhh. So letting go hasn’t been easy.

    • Jessica (@jessbwatson) says:

      I totally understand this Sarah. I had the same fear, that if I didn’t FEEL the grief as strong as I should I was somehow letting go of my daughter. I’m glad you ultimately sought help too but am so sorry that you lost your son.

  13. Amazing Jessica. Thank you for sharing that piece of yourself. Son important that mothers know that there are others struggling too and it’s okay to ask for help.

  14. I agree about getting help sooner. While my son was born healthy, the overwhelming sense of grief and loss that took hold of me a few days after he came home was indescribable. It appears that was the first sign I was going to go through deep anxiety and depression after pregnancy. I remember crying profusely as my husband was holding my son. All I can describe it is as if I had a miscarriage. I guess I loved and bonded with my son and the feelings of being pregnant so much that after it was over, I was grieving.

  15. Many women experience repeat losses with no baby. I’ve had four losses. I don’t feel like a warrior, I feel beat down and resigned.

    • Heather King says:

      I’m sorry, Colleen. You don’t have to feel like a warrior. Others may believe that you are one, but I’m sure you feel many things that many of us cannot understand. There are no words to fix this and everything sounds trite. I’m just plain sorry for your losses and the grief and pain and resignation that has come with them.

  16. Douglas Southerland says:

    My wife had a miscarriage on August 28th (our first miscarriage experience), and I can honestly say as a military veteran and former police officer (disabled while on duty) it was the most gut wrenching and sorrow filled day of my life. I am the strong one that always protects my family (we have 3 daughters ages 11, 8 & 6) from everything and takes care of my wife and kiddos against anything that can hurt them but nothing ever prepared me for the helplessness and utter lack of control I felt when my wife screamed for me to help her and I walked in and saw what was happening. She had been having cramps and spotting at about 5 and a half to 5 weeks in and I kept calling her OB/GYN to get a sooner appt. but they were booked solid and no other doctor could see her any sooner so we spent many a night at the ER where we were constantly told everything looked fine and to go home. As her symptoms got worse I got more frustrated with the hospital and her doctor, I know there was more than likely nothing they could have done at that point but I still feel that had her doctor double booked her based on her symptoms or squeezed her in between other patients maybe my son would have had the chance to be here with us now. To be honest, we were quite terrified when she suspected she was pregnant, a fourth child is crazy difficult to raise especially when all of them are still living at home and rely on us to take care of and nurture three of them majority of the time and a new baby requires 24/7 attention. However, we just embraced the news and decided we were going to welcome this new little one just like our three before, and we were both pretty sure it was going to be a boy so we were extra excited although we just wanted he/she to be healthy and happy. Then the 28th of August came, and there is no feeling like seeing your wife in so much pain, shock and so emotionally destroyed and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to make it go away or stop. I came into the room and after catching my breath and swallowing my own tears and choking down that lump in my throat I got my wife all cleaned up and cleaned up the room and got her into bed, I barely processed what had happened by the time she finally cried herself to sleep in my arms and I laid there the remainder of the night trying to figure out what I DID wrong. Of course I realize neither of us did anything wrong but at the time my rationale was that if I could find some kind of tangible excuse or reason behind it or even make it my fault, then my wife wouldn’t focus on what SHE might have done wrong or could have done differently; it may sound stupid now but I thought at the time even if she was mad at me at least she wouldn’t think horribly of herself or believe she was to blame. Since that day I have been trying to help her navigate her grief as best as possible and at what ever pace she needs to go while dealing with my own grief in the process and it has proven to be an extremely difficult task. If she knew how hard it is for me to choke it all down and help her she would feel awful and then she would be even more depressed and distant because she herself has said she doesn’t know what she would do if I wasn’t there for her and I’m afraid of what would happen if I was lost in grief myself, I’m afraid of what might happen and worry about my children’s quality of life while we are going through this loss. I will say this though: sexually, I am fine I mean I am ready to get back in the swing of things like normal before the miscarriage but completely understand how it must feel as a woman going through the same loss just felt in a completely different way and she knows that I am ready as soon as she feels okay to be intimate and I haven’t nagged or egged on about sex or intimacy since it happened, I just let her know I still love and am in love with her, find her sexy, attractive and a wonderful wife and mother and that nothing was her fault. I am far from perfect and still have, dare I say it, “man needs and desires” but a man can still feel that way and still be a loving provider and emotional “rock” for his wife, even if he himself can’t or doesn’t understand what his wife or partner is going through personally. That being said, I think a large majority of men simply cannot process emotions or feelings at the same level or capacity of their spouse or partner and I think a lot of women cannot grasp how some men process complex emotions like the loss of a child. I know, I’m a man and the first emotion that came to me was anger, because my wife was in pain and it was an enemy I could do nothing to stop or protect her from it and it killed me that I couldn’t make it go away and it still angers and upsets me that I can’t do anything against this intangible force that is threatening to unravel her sanity and emotionally wreck the woman I’ve loved and been in love with since I met her 15 years ago. So as far as your husband/boyfriend is concerned, I can almost promise you the issues he is having with this loss has more to do with how powerless he feels rather than his actually feelings towards you or your pregnancy and loss of your child and you have to both lean on each other instead of expecting your partner to carry all your weight; God bless them if they try too but you both need each other regardless of what gender roles or society has pounded into us how it should be, but you must recognize that there may still come a point where you have to just focus on yourself and your own grief and coping with it before you get dragged under a current so strong that you lose yourself instead of your husband or partner. Just my opinion about our struggle to cope and recover from OUR loss, and I know everyone’s situation is different and varied but I wish you all the best in this world and hope each and everyone of us finds the peace we need and deserve. God Bless.

  17. Quintada Sutton says:

    I loss my daughter 3 weeks ago and I have so many emotions right now. I feel like i do not know where I should be in this grieving/postpartum phase. I’m afraid of the medications that ate being offered to me, because I dont want to get hooked. I’m a mess. Your article did help. Thank You for sharing your story.

    • Heather King says:

      I’m so very sorry for your loss. It is so recent and this is just so hard. There are no rules about where you should be right now. It’s okay to be a mess and to grieve. This takes time and you may need help to work through it, whether that’s through therapy and medications or just therapy is up to you. You can take your time and decide with your doctor what is best for you. You are going through one of life’s hardest trials so be kind and patient with yourself just as you would to a friend or family member going through the same thing. I am sending you peace.

      • Quintada Sutton says:

        Heather thank you for your kindness. I am speaking to my doctor this week. I’m just so afraid of being stuck in my grief and hurting the people I love.


  1. […] join me at Postpartum Progress today where I’m sharing a piece of our story, my story that includes a very important […]

  2. […] might also like: The Blurred Lines Between Depression and Grief After a Loss written by Jessica Watson, a mom who has been through perinatal […]