How to be gentle with yourself after experiencing pregnancy loss
People all around us are carrying different types of invisible loss. For many people, this type of loss is a miscarriage. A miscarriage, also called early pregnancy loss, is when the fetus becomes no longer viable in the womb before the 20th week. About 10-20% of confirmed pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and most of these occur before 12-week gestation.
This adds up to a lot of people carrying around the pain of a lost pregnancy.
If this has happened to you we at Stix want to first of all say we are so sorry for your loss. The time you shared with your baby was significant for you both. You created a wonderful home for your child.
It’s important to not blame yourself.
Most pregnancy losses that happen especially in the first trimester, are caused by a genetic abnormality that stops the fetus from developing normally. There aren’t any normal activities — like exercise, sex, or extra work or movement — that could cause your body to miscarry. Many people blame themselves after a miscarriage, and feel a sense of stigma or shame. This is not factual. If you feel yourself wondering if there’s anything that you could have done differently, try to take a few deep breaths and remember the facts. And the fact is, this is not you or your body’s fault.
It is important to take time to grieve.There may be some people around you who do not understand what you are going through, and may say things that are insensitive. It's likely that they are not trying to hurt you, but rather that they just don’t understand your loss. It is not your job to make them understand your loss. Grieving is not a linear experience. You may feel you are making progress, that you are feeling more like yourself for days at a time, and then experience a setback and need to crawl back into bed to cry for an afternoon. Be patient with yourself, be gentle with yourself, and surround yourself with people who provide you the same patience and grace. If you are not comfortable talking to people in your life about your grief, there are support groups you can join with other people going through the same process of loss. If your feelings of sadness don’t feel more manageable in a few months, or if after some time your grief impedes your ability to complete basic activities after an appropriate amount of time, talk to your healthcare provider about additional mental health services in your area or in your network. You don’t have to carry your grief alone — there are people and professionals here to help.
Besides people, there are other resources you can utilize to deal with the grief of a pregnancy loss. Many people before you have battled this loss, they have navigated the murky waters of grief, sadness, and other people’s misunderstandings. And they wrote about it. See a list of books that can possibly help you find a slice of peace and closure here.
Beyond holding space for your grief, some people find it helpful to honor their child. Some people have found holding a memorial service for your lost child to be an important step in their grieving process, and an important way to thank your child for being in your life. An informal, or formal, memorial also allows people in your life and in your community a chance to show empathy and support. If you do not want to do anything public, don’t feel the pressure. Create time for yourself to write a note to your child about what they meant to you, or find a place in nature to thank the child for being with you, even if it was just for a short while.
If you are not experiencing the grief associated with a miscarriage, your friend, partner or family member may one day confide in you about their pregnancy loss. As a friend, it is important to create a space of understanding. Let your friend guide the conversation and take a comforting role. If your friend is using their baby’s name, consider following their lead and use the name as well. Do not try to make them feel better, do not try to placate their feelings. Remind them that it’s not their fault and try to show your support. Other forms of support may including bringing over food, sending a gift, and offering to babysit if they have other children.
Most importantly, make sure you say something.It’s okay if you don’t know what to say, it’s okay if you don’t understand what your friend or family member is going through. It’s okay if you feel incredibly awkward. Friendship is a promise to be there for the good times, and unfortunately the inevitable bad times. If you are able to, be an anchor for your friend. If the burden is too much for you to carry, offer your time as a service through favors or chores, or donate to an organization of your friend’s choosing in honor of their lost child.
Miscarriages are very common, and yet they are not often discussed, both in the public or between friends. It is important to remember that your grief is valid, your loss is real, and it is not your fault.
Thank your body for its work in creating space for a child. And remember to take care of yourself.
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