Experiencing a reproductive loss can be devastating to an individual or couple. It is estimated that 26% of early pregnancies end in miscarriage and this is often something that goes unspoken or unacknowledged. Other types of reproductive losses including stillbirth, abortion and infertility are not commonly discussed and can leave you feeling as if you are suffering alone. Many who suffer a loss feel as if they are not given the time and space to grieve, and even if you do, it can be difficult to know how.
Grieving the loss of someone you may not have ever met can feel complex and difficult. The pain and heartache is completely real no matter how far along you might have been in your pregnancy. There are often hopes and dreams for what your life with that person might have been like. When the reality of those hopes and dreams looks different from what you planned, you are left to accept the reality of the loss and learn to live in the world without them. It is also important to know that each person grieves differently. The way you express or even think about your loss can look different from someone else. Both are not wrong, as there is no right or wrong way to feel. This is particularly important for couples to understand. Within your relationship, the time and ways in which you express your grief will likely look different from one another.
Far too often men or partners of those who have a reproductive loss are not recognized as experiencing the grief and pain of the loss as well. However, the emotions and loss is real for them too. Acknowledging the loss for these partners would be significant as it might be the key that gives permission for their healing process to begin.
Although each type of reproductive loss occurs differently, it is understood that paths to healing from the loss can look very similar. You can begin healing in several different ways and there is no right or wrong order. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your healing journey.
Identify your emotions- Whatever emotion you feel is okay. It is normal to be sad, angry, or even numb. Recognizing and allowing yourself to feel the emotions you are experiencing is helpful. Otherwise, it is common to begin to stuff or ignore the emotions you feel which can lead to unhealthy or unhelpful ways of coping.
Tell your story- Finding a way to tell your story can be an important part of healing. Identifying people that you trust and feel safe with can be supportive as you talk about the loss you have experienced. If there is not a person you feel comfortable sharing with, you might consider writing your story on a confidential forum or journaling it. Some ways to build support and find ways to share your story might also look like joining a support group, seeing a counselor, or engaging in some form of art or creative outlet.
Build an enduring connection- It is common for parents to feel like the grief and pain is their only connection to their baby. The fear might be that if they begin to heal, their connection and memory of the child will fade away. Your connection with the baby you lost does not have to only be tied to pain. In fact, memorializing your baby is a powerful way to build an enduring connection with them. Memorializing just means finding a way that feels appropriate or fitting to you that gives you something tangible to carry the memory of the life you lost. Some examples of memorializing are: creating a memory box with items that you want to keep, name your baby, plant a tree, hold a ceremony or buy a piece of jewelry.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. You can join with organizations and groups nationwide to honor and remember your child through many events that will be taking place or hold your own event for yourself, or with friends and family.
Know that you are not alone in your suffering and that there are many types of support such as healing websites, support groups and counseling.
“Grief is not a disorder, a disease or sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.” – Dr. Earl Grollman