We had waited for this day for so long. On a hot August day, my husband and I found out we were expecting. We were overjoyed. I had my first ultrasound at eight weeks and we saw our baby’s healthy heartbeat. We were hesitant about sharing the news so early, but were eager to let our families know. At nine weeks, we surprised our families with the news. They cried tears of joy. We talked about our hopes and dreams as we prepared to welcome our new baby into the world. I created a baby registry list, searched pregnancy classes, even bought baby-safe bath products.
A few weeks later, I woke up with light cramping and bleeding. I cried and then called my doctor. She assured me that cramping and bleeding in pregnancy can be normal, but that I should come into the office to get checked out. Something didn’t feel right. There in the exam room, I hoped and prayed I wasn’t losing my baby. Then, after what felt like an eternity of trying, she took a deep breath and uttered those dreaded words, “I’m not finding a heartbeat.” I immediately started sobbing. I was experiencing a missed miscarriage. I called my husband crying, and he immediately started sobbing too. I could hear the pain in his voice. The rest of the day we both cried, talked, and held each other.
I wasn’t aware of how painful it would be, not only emotionally, but physically, too. One night I was in such intense pain that I couldn’t fully function. I panicked and called my doctor. She told me to take some medicine and try to get some sleep. Her tone felt cold and condescending. I knew I needed medical attention — I was bleeding and in intense pain — so my husband and I went to the ER. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was having contractions. No one had told me this would happen with pregnancy loss. The days that followed, the physical pain disappeared but the emotional pain didn’t. I sought out therapy, leaned into my trusted supports like my family, husband, and close friends. I bought books on pregnancy loss, started following social media accounts that normalized pregnancy loss, the stigma around it, and the heartbreak that comes with it. I also took gentle walks with my dog in nature, and most importantly, let myself feel it all. It certainly hasn’t been an easy process, but grieving is necessary. We can choose to feel it now, or let it hit us unexpectedly later.
If you’ve suffered a pregnancy loss or want to support someone who has, here are some mental health tips to help you or your loved one through the grieving process:
Let yourself grieve. Cry and lean into the grief. Take your time while you heal. You’ll feel a mix of emotions. For me, they were shock, sadness, disbelief, anger.
Rest and practice self-care. Your mind and body are working hard to process the loss. Give yourself time to rest and heal. Engage in nourishing self-care practices like taking warm baths, ordering your favorite takeout, or going for walks. After checking with your doctor about starting exercise, try this yoga class for after pregnancy loss. If possible, take time off of work, or alter your schedule.
Accept help. If you have people who can help, allow them to care for you while you’re healing. Accept offers for meals and help around the house.
Seek out support from a therapist, coach, or counselor. Depression, PTSD, anxiety, and postpartum depression are all common after pregnancy loss. Your shifting hormones can affect your emotions, too. Check in with yourself and reach out to a professional for help.
Join a support group, share your story. Talk about the loss with others. I know it’s hard, but talking about your loss lessens the stigma around pregnancy and infant loss for other women. It can give you hope to hear how others survived their losses. To my surprise, when I opened up, ten other women shared that they had experienced a loss, too. Listen or read others’ stories. I recommend this article and this book. Join an online support group. Reach out to a pregnancy and infant loss toll-free number.
Honor your baby’s memory. Doing so can help with the healing process. A few ideas: create a memory box with ultrasound photos, write a letter to your baby, save baby clothes you bought. Purchase a piece of jewelry or memento to remember your baby. I bought an “always in my heart” mantra band to wear. Create a playlist to honor your baby. Name the baby if you’re comfortable with that.
Remember that everyone grieves differently. There’s no right or wrong way to mourn your loss. Your partner might mourn differently than you, so do your best not to compare your grieving process to theirs. Take the time you need to grieve. And remember that healing is not a linear process. Many women who have gone on to have healthy children still mourn their loss or losses. Allow yourself the grace and compassion you deserve.
And, if there’s someone you know who’s gone through a loss… Hold space and check in often. Tell them you’re sorry for their loss, that you’re there for them. Reach out regularly, check in close to the due date, and even one year later. Since grief can come in waves, it’s important not to let them feel isolated even after a long time has passed.
If you’ve experienced a pregnancy or infant loss, you are not alone. This loss will forever change you. It’s important to acknowledge that. But remember, you will see beauty again. Grief and mourning look different for everyone. My story was my story. It’s OK to honor your grief any way you see fit. After all, there’s only one you, and it’s your right to heal, find happiness, and have peace again.