There’s nothing easy about loss. Whether it’s an early miscarriage, preterm labor, infection, membrane rupture, later term pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or newborn death, the loss can feel unbearable.
One of the first feelings you may have is a deep sense of grief. Grief is our way of mourning the loss we have just experienced. Every individual experiences grief at a different level and for different lengths of time. There is no real base for grief and how long it lasts, so it can be tricky trying to understand when it gets better. And for some, it almost feels like it will never get better. But even in our deepest grief, while it may often feel hopeless, there are moments of peace and we should allow ourselves the time we need to understand the experience.
When one experiences a miscarriage, there can be a lot of mixed emotion. Regardless of whether it happens in the first few weeks or closer to the third month, the letdown can feel the same. When a pregnancy is lost, we lose more than a pregnancy because we have often already picked out a name or began telling family of the great news. For first time moms to be, the excitement may have set in and preparations begun and even though you may not have seen your baby, or felt fetal movement, it was very real to you. These aspects combined can leave a dark space within us.
For those who might experience a late term pregnancy loss or a still birth, the feelings can become even more difficult to deal with. For many, grief can feel so overwhelming it feels unbearable. In days following, one can feel as if in a nightmare, or in denial that the situation has even occurred. It’s normal to experience severe sadness, depression, or intense anger. Individuals often blame themselves or their spouse for their loss because there might not be a clear-cut answer as to why it has happened. And like all loss, there is no set time for recovery.
For some, it can a few weeks to begin seeing improvement in mood. While for others, symptoms of depression and anxiety might take several months to begin improving. Every individual will experience the situation different but it’s important to have emotional support from your spouse, family, or clinical professionals during this time to help reduce negative symptoms. Depending on your location, there are often bereavement groups that focus on loss and recovery. While it may feel strange at first, relating to those who have also experienced loss can help with the healing process and give insight into how your emotions might change.
Although many women choose not to talk about their experience after, whether due to intense and overwhelming feelings, or due to feeling embarrassed or ashamed, it’s important to talk about these feelings in some capacity with either someone you trust, a spiritual leader, therapist or psychiatrist.
In 2014, a study in Israel revealed that a staggering 1/3rdof women at Hadassah University Hospital suffered from full blown PTSD after experiencing a late term pregnancy loss. And while this may be just one study, it points to a much deeper issue within pregnancy mental health care. Maternal health care has long been put on the backburner because when we think of pregnancy, we usually focus on the health of the baby.
So how can you make sure you are going easy on yourself and giving yourself the care you need and deserve?
While negative emotions may feel overwhelming, and you may want them to stop, having them is completely normal. Let’s be real though, who wants to be anxious, or depressed, or sad? Although uncomfortable, it’s important to practice accepting emotions rather than trying to push them away.
This can take a bit of practice but learning to embrace feelings by understanding why they might be coming up is helpful for future emotional stability. For instance, even after you feel like you have recovered, there are going to be moments or days when you may feel too sad to get out of bed or feel overwhelmed by negative emotions from a trigger. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to not feel this way and possibly thinking “I shouldn’t be sad about this anymore. Everyone else is over it. You’re weak for feeling sad”, it is helpful to rephrase it to something like “it’s ok to feel sad, I went through a very difficult loss, some days will feel more difficult than others”. While it might seem simple, learning to manage your negative emotions is a great tool for your recovery.
It can be hard to practice selfcare during the first few days or weeks after a loss. When our mind is exhausted, it’s important to make sure we fuel our bodies to pick up the difference. If you have a spouse or family support, let them take over the cooking roles so you can focus on rest.
Remember, be kind to yourself. Whether it’s a few weeks or a few months, take the time you need to fully recover and feel confident you are ready to try again.
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