Updated: Feb 16, 2021
Learn nine ways to cope with the grief over a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Grieving a lost wanted pregnancy can be devastating. As soon as you found out that you were pregnant, you most likely began to dream and hope for a future with your baby. Now, unanswerable questions swirl around and invade every moment, “Why?” and “How am I to get over this?” There are no satisfying answers to either of these questions. This can be the hardest part about grieving the loss of a pregnancy- coming to terms with these questions and grieving what will never be. Even when there are no good answers to these questions, you are still deserving to grieve. Pregnancy loss can happen to anyone. In fact according to the Office of Women’s Health, up to 15% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth.
Grieving the loss of a wanted pregnancy takes time. For some it can take up to 2 years before they feel like they’ve got a handle on their grief. Often times, learning of another’s pregnancy loss can trigger our own grief to resurface. The recent and very public acknowledgement from Chrissy Teigen and John Legend of the death of their baby as a result of complications in her pregnancy may have caused you to revisit your grief. Maybe you never shared your loss or received the kind of grief support that you needed. It’s important to acknowledge your grief and give it space to be expressed even if it was 20 years ago. Below are suggestions that can help wherever you are on your grief journey.
1. Don’t minimize your feelings. Your feelings are real and all of the feelings you have are OK. From rage to powerlessness to isolation and a distrust of the future, these are all normal feelings. It’s most important to recognize your feelings and give yourself permission to feel them and express them in safe ways.
2. Accept that everyone grieves differently. If you have a partner, understand that the two of you most likely not grieve the same. It can be difficult to experience the same loss yet have very different ways of dealing with the grief. It’s important to give each of you permission to grieve in your own way without judgement.
3. Find creative ways to memorialize your loss. Finding creative ways to memorialize the hopes and dreams that you had for this baby can be helpful. Below are some ideas. Consider doing one or more that feels right for you.
Create a scrapbook or special box of mementos such as sonogram pictures, photos, footprints, locks of hair, clothes or blankets.
Write a journal with your thoughts and feelings. You could write a letter to your baby letting them know your thoughts and feelings.
Light a candle or say a prayer in honor of your baby on holidays or on special days like your due date or the day they died. Do something special to bring your family together.
Donate books to a library or school in memory of you baby.
Plant a tree or special flowers in a garden. Create a stepping stone to place in the garden or next to the tree.
Have a piece of jewelry made with the baby’s birthstone.
Donate to a charity in memory of your baby.
4. Decide how to share your loss. If you shared your pregnancy with others, you’ll need to tell them of your loss. Consider how you’ll let them know. You can ask a trusted family member to let other family members know and likewise a trusted friend to let friends know. Some friends and family members may find it difficult to know what to say. In attempts to give comfort, they may say things like, “At least you know you can get pregnant.” or “You can always try again.” Or “Maybe it was for the best.”. Consider what your response will be. Remember that this is your story. You get to decide what you share and don’t and how public you are with your loss. Even if you didn’t share your pregnancy with others, know that you can still share the news of the loss. Your loss is real and you deserve to be supported in your grief. You don’t have to grief alone.
5. Connect with others. As social beings, we are wired to being in community with others for our survival. However, grieving is emotionally draining and being with others who are uncomfortable with grief can be too much. Identify those in your circle who can be with you without demanding emotional energy from you. While it may be difficult, your family and friends can help you to not feel so alone in your grief.
6. Communicate your needs. Let others know when you need task support like getting groceries, bringing you a meal, or taking other children out of the house. Your support system wants to support you but they are not mind readers. Let them know what you need and let them help.
7. Understand that grief takes time and comes in waves. It may feel like the pain you feel inside is unbearable, please know that this kind of intense pain will not last forever. There will come a time when you will feel better and experience grief in waves. It will come over you like a crashing title wave and then recede. This is normal and for many grievers lasts for years, if not forever. What many grievers share is that they get better at recognizing triggers and riding out the grief wave.
8. Practice self-care. You’ve probably heard this a lot. The importance of self-care is often minimized and can feel like an indulgence, excessive, selfish, or even unnecessary. Practicing self-care is vital to our ability to manage stress. We must find healthy ways for our mind and body to relieve stress of grief.
Rest- Again this can seem obvious but it’s one of the first to be forgotten. We can get wrapped up in “doing” that we neglect one of the most important and yet the easiest self-care practice. It’s normal to feel exhausted more frequently. Grieving is hard on your body- emotionally and physically. You may find sleeping at night to be difficult so finding times throughout the day that you can simply stop what you are doing and just rest is critical. Resting doesn’t have to be sleeping or even lying down. Just find a place that is comfortable and free from the typical distractions (your phone, TV, other people) and just be. Try practicing mindfulness by noticing your breath and thoughts without any judgment.
Eat Healthy food- Grieving is like a marathon. You need to care for your body by giving it a nutritious diet that can sustain it for the long haul. You may not feel like eating, so it’s crucial that the food you eat is going to be the best for your body. When we are grieving or experiencing stress, we often reach for comfort foods that with sugar and/or fat. It’s certainly OK to have some of the those foods but it shouldn’t be main staples right now.
Engage in physical activity. This allows the body to discharge the stress hormones that have built up in the body. It also provides a boost of the feel good hormones, endorphins. Take a walk outside, get fresh air and change in scenery. The point here isn’t about getting a workout in but rather just moving your body, increasing the oxygen and blood flow throughout the body.
Drink water. It’s easy to forget to drink water. When we don’t drink enough water we can get headaches and muscle aches which only compound the physical toll of grief on our bodies.
Do things that give you comfort. Be intentional about being compassionate to yourself. Considers these to be hugs that you give yourself. By doing these things you are bringing yourself to the present moment and providing yourself with both a mental and physical release. Here are examples:
*drinking a cup of tea,
*wearing comfortable clothes.
*going for a walk in nature,
*taking a relaxing bath or shower,
*lighting a candle,
*buying fresh flowers,
*getting a massage
9. Work with a grief therapist. Find an understanding therapist who can help you make sense of your loss and process your grief. Our society doesn’t do grief well and fortunately, it’s not something most of have lots of experience with. It can be difficult to manage the often quite difficult and conflicting feelings. An experienced grief counselor can help you learn helpful coping skills to deal with the pain caused by loss. Call me today to learn how grief counseling can help you.
Grieving the loss of a wanted pregnancy can be overwhelming. Learning how to manage your grief is important and can be difficult to do on your own. If you are finding it too difficult to cope on your own, you may benefit from grief counseling. Grief Counseling can help you understand how to get through your grief. Call me today schedule a free 15-minute consultation.