It stands to reason that our friends are around the same age as us, that our brothers and sisters are likely to be just a few years older or younger and that the possibility of some of our friends or family members announcing pregnancies or giving the birth in the context of our losses is fairly high.
Navigating pregnancy announcements, being ‘happy’ for others, being sad for ourselves or being triggered into the deepest of grief emotions is unfortunately a reality that most of us in the baby loss community will have to face in their Trying to Conceive Years.
I experienced all of this 14 years ago, granted it was much easier as my losses occurred largely before the explosion of the social media world. However hearing other people’s pregnancy announcements, whether it was a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend, my bestie or my sister or sister in law was one of the most difficult aspects to navigate through during my loss years.
I wish someone had given me some useful advice that might have protected me, reduced my angst and in turn saved some important relationships. I don’t know if I never sought this advice or if the people I was seeking it from never really got what it was to be me.
To this end I have compiled some strategies to help you deal with this shitty aspect of miscarriage. It’s often when the physical aspects of miscarriage die down that the emotional impact will rear its ugly head.
My number 1 rule is to be kind to yourself when you hear someone else’s ‘happy’ news
You are not a bad and evil person if you hear someone else is pregnant and feel incredibly sad, jealous and angry. All these emotional responses are normal and occur in the context of your grief. Some of the most common things that I hear from clients is ‘I don’t even know myself anymore’, ‘This is not who I am’, ‘I hate the new me’. This acceptance or non-acceptance for most people of your natural response to someone else’s happy news can make a difference to how you manage the situation. It is hard enough to lose your baby or your much wanted pregnancy, but as I see it you have 2 choices here. You can hate yourself and beat up on yourself in response to your emotions, thereby further punishing yourself (as if you have not been punished enough) or you can accept your responses as normal without judgement and treat yourself with kindness. Remember it will not always be like this and the ‘bad’ emotions that rear themselves in the context of miscarriage will fade in time. It takes far less energy to accept the ‘bad’ stuff than to fight and push against it directing blame and shame on yourself for your feelings. In the context of grief your energy supply is limited. Preserve it.
This is key, and by communication, I mean have the courage to let others know the best way to support you. Although 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage it may feel that no one in your inner circle has had experience with pregnancy loss. The reality is that most people will want to support you but will have no idea of what is the ‘right’ thing to do. This lack of understanding will often translate in other people staying away from you particularly if they themselves are pregnant. It takes a lot of courage to let people know what you want and sometimes you yourself may not even know what that is. Take some time and think about it. For some people, you may want others to talk to you about your loss, to check in, to deliver meals, send care packages and for others you may want no-one to talk about it as the constant reminder is too painful. If you are someone who does not want to be left out of the loop and wants others to share pregnancy news and photos with you let them know, if you don’t, let them know that too. It can be helpful to say something along the lines of “I am very happy for you that you are pregnant, it is just difficult for me to talk about it, as whilst I am happy for you I am very sad for myself and the baby that I lost”. You have chosen most people in your life wisely, trust that they want to do the best by you and understand that often people do not know what that is. We are getting better as a society at this miscarriage thing but the loss of a pregnancy and the grief that accompanies it is still largely disenfranchised and by talking about it and sharing the painful reality you are paving a way for the future, where people have a good understanding of how to support women and their partners who lose a baby.
Look in and not out!
What do I mean by this… We spend a lot of time focussing on others, what they are doing wrong, whether they are pregnant, making judgements as to their successes and failures. When you divert your energy to worrying about everyone else and what is happening in their lives you are once again zapping away at that limited energy supply that you have. Instead of focusing on the ‘whole pregnant world’ focus on yourself. What do you need to do for you to begin to heal from the loss that you have experienced? Do you need to eat better, exercise more, develop a mindfulness and mediation practice, improve you sleep hygiene, hop off all social media for a time, journal your thoughts and feelings, take some time off work, go on a holiday, change doctors, see a therapist? There are so many things that you can do to focus attention on your healing. Doing so will help you to feel better, and not worrying about everyone else and what is happening in their lives will make it easier to deal with your emotions around other peoples’ pregnancies.
Finally, and to reiterate give yourselves a break.
Be kind to yourself and don’t let other people make you feel worse than you are already feeling. If I have learnt anything as a baby loss mum and a therapist working with families that have lost their babies, it is that ‘this too shall pass’. It does get easier with time and you do build a strength and resilience to deal with distress that you could never have imagined was possible. Most people don’t get over it, they get through it and the intensity of your pain will fade as time goes on no matter where your journey takes you.
Take care of yourselves and each other, this support group is an amazingly helpful resource and it is an honour to watch you incredible women support each other through your painful losses. Each journey is different but you are all united as a community and that is a wonderful thing. Never underestimate the power of shared support.
Sending love and healing to you all.
Baby loss mum, infertility and perinatal loss counsellor and NICU Social Worker