20 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT HEALING FROM A MISCARRIAGE
1. You might grieve longer than you expect. I remember after my first miscarriage thinking that once a few weeks had passed I should have been over it by then. I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t, like I was making too big a deal about it. I kept reading that there is no timeline for grief, and everyone heals differently, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was going beyond the scope of “normal” and that I would be judged for it. Now looking back, I can see how deeply the loss affected me, and how silly it was to expect to be over it so quickly. It’s ok to take as long as you need to feel sad. It’s ok to ride out the waves of grief – some days are good, some days are bad. Some days you may seem good, and then you are suddenly “triggered” and you may melt a little. I wish that I had not spent any energy worrying whether I was grieving too much, and spent that energy on self-care and being kind to myself.
2. You may feel “triggered” by seeing other pregnant women, babies, and pregnancy announcements, and that’s ok. A month after my first miscarriage I had my first conversation with my best friend, who shared a due date with me before I lost my baby. I felt I had made a lot of progress in my healing during that month. But as she started talking ultrasounds and making references to her pregnancy, all my sadness came flooded back, as if the miscarriage happened yesterday. And in the days following the miscarriage, I couldn’t see a pregnant woman without crying. This is all very common. You’ve been through a traumatic experience, and these are all triggers that remind you of your trauma.
3. This is the perfect time to take a hiatus from Facebook. Everyone’s lives look perfect on Facebook, and scrolling through your feed may make you feel incredibly isolated and alone in your pain. Plus, it’s usually inundated with baby photos and pregnancy announcements. Seeing them will be counter productive to your healing.
4. You may not feel happy for others during their pregnancy, and this does not make you a bad person. I either felt dead inside and numb when hearing of pregnancy news of close friends and family, or I felt completed devastated by it. The guilt that accompanies feeling sad at hearing of someone else’s joy can be intense, and can feed into often present feelings of self-loathing. You may feel like a terrible person for having these feelings. But again, these announcements are triggers for your grief. You may have daydreamed about making your own announcement before it was ripped away, and you are grieving that loss. This does not make you a bad person.
5. Jealousy is one of the more difficult emotions to contend with after miscarriage. You will likely feel jealous of other pregnant women, women with babies, and of women who get pregnant easily. The jealousy can be a real source of pain. You look at them and you want what they have, and they remind you of your loss. Jealousy is a normal emotion to experience after pregnancy loss.
6. Your friendships may change. I found that I had friends who were so thoughtful and stayed with me through all my pain, and I had other friends who I stopped hearing from. Some friends may be a better source of support than others. Some friends may not know the right things to say, or may say insensitive things, or may not understand the depth of your sadness. It may be hard to spend time with your friends who already have children or who are pregnant, and you may actively start to avoid them. It’s possible this shift in friendship may just be temporary, depending on the kind of relationship you have.
7. The most important thing right now is self-care. Now is the time to be kind to yourself and focus on healing. After my first miscarriage I sought counseling to help me through my grief. I also started going to acupuncture once a week to promote wellness, reduce stress, and help my body recover. I started going to yoga. And then I focused on small pleasures; going for long walks with my husband and dog, enjoying a glass of wine, spending time with family, reading a good book. You may not have your usual motivation, and that’s ok. Do what you can, and don’t come down hard on yourself for what you can’t do.
8. Even if the sadness of the loss stays with you, you will start to heal and feel better. Even when you are still experiencing the waves of grief, each day you are getting stronger. Eventually the pain will be less on the surface. And you will start to feel ready to try again.
9. It’s common to feel like a failure after a miscarriage. You may be mad at your body for failing you. Many women who are high acheivers in real life, may not understand why they are having trouble achieving their conception goals, and may struggle with the lack of control they have. But miscarriage can happen to anyone, you do not have control, and you did not fail.
10. Everyone grieves in their own unique way. There is no need to feel like you should be on a certain “recovery” timeline. I would hear this a lot when I was recovering from my miscarriages, but I still felt pressure to recover within a certain timeframe. I felt if I took too long, people would think that I was making too big a deal out of it. It took me a long time to learn that grief and healing manifests itself in many different ways. You may heal, while still carrying the sadness of your loss tucked within you. You may feel like a changed person. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings in order to process them and move on.
11. Your husband may grieve differently than you. Infertility and miscarriage can be hard on relationships. Your husband may not show outward signs of grief in the same way you do. He may feel he needs to be strong for you, and push his grief aside. The most important thing to do during this time is communicate. Talk about how each of you are feeling. Ask each other questions. Show the same compassion and patience for each other that you would want for yourself. This can also be a time of incredible closeness for the two of you.
12. Other people may not understand your loss. They may not understand the loss because they never saw a tangible baby. But to you, the loss is very real. You loved your baby, you had hopes and dreams for your baby. You may have already picked out names, or planned a nursery. Miscarriage grief is often hard to understand unless you’ve actually experienced it.
13. People will say dumb things. You may hear things like “at least you weren’t further along” or “at least you know you can get pregnant” (click here for my post on the phrase ‘at least’). Or someone may say to you, “it was God’s will” or “everything happens for a reason.” These are well-intentioned, but unfortunately can cause more pain. The first time someone told me, “just relax!” when I was sharing my pain about my losses, I felt incredibly dumb, like I was being overly dramatic and high-strung about it. It was later that I realized that comment was incredibly insensitive, and it’s ok if I’m not “relaxed” during my grief. I didn’t have to feel dumb for caring so much about having a baby.
14. Feelings of sadness for what was lost, anger, shame, guilt, and jealousy are all normal reactions to miscarriage. I’ve spent months navigated all these emotions, sometimes one at a time and sometimes all at once. These emotions are very common, and will subside as you start to heal.
15. You may feel surprised at the depth of your own grief. I know that I did. Sometimes I didn’t even understand why this was so painful and why it cut so deep. I didn’t understand why it was taking so long to feel better. All women have their own relationship with their grief after miscarriage – it can go deeper for some than others. Perhaps if I hadn’t gone on to have a second miscarriage, and my baby had gone full term, I would have healed quicker. Or perhaps the feelings of loss after losing that first pregnancy would have continued to stay with me.
16. Do not be hard on yourself while you are trying to heal. This is the time to have the most compassion for yourself. Know that while you are grieving, you may not be able to do as much as you normally would. This is ok. Allow yourself the time and space that you need. Don’t beat yourself up over the emotions that you feel. Don’t beat yourself if on somedays you feel like you are going backwards in your recovery. Don’t beat yourself up for the journey you are on.
17. Deciding when to try again is a personal decision. Some women feel like they want to try again right away. Other women need to take a break to heal, before they are ready to try again. Trying again may be a stressful experience, as will the subsequent pregnancy. I found that the first negative pregnancy test I got after my miscarriage was extremely difficult. It brought back my feelings of loss from the miscarriage. Having a period again made me incredibly sad.
18. Don’t feel you need to go through this alone. Whether or not to share your loss with others is a personal decision, but you can find support in suprising places if you do decide to open up. Seeking counseling, joining a local support group or an online support group, or starting a blog can all help connect you to others going through the same experience and help you feel less isolated.
19. The emotional recovery is harder than the physical recovery. Physically, you may start to feel better after a few days, depending on what kind of miscarriage you have. The emotional recovery is unique to you, and often winding.
20. None of this is your fault. It is so easy to blame ourselves. It is so easy to feel so terrible about ourselves. You may find all sorts of ways to blame yourself for what happened (read my post here for how I blamed myself for my miscarriages). Often, women suffering from infertility and pregnancy loss are the most hard on themselves. But none of it is your fault.