Pregnancy loss is devastating, no matter when it happens or what the circumstances are. With time, however, comes healing. Allow yourself to mourn your pregnancy loss and accept what's happened — and then look toward the future.
Understand the grieving process
After a pregnancy loss, you might experience a range of emotions, including:
- Denial. At first, it might be impossible to grasp what's happened. You might find yourself in shock or disbelief.
- Guilt. You might wonder if you could have done anything to avoid the pregnancy loss.
- Anger. No matter what caused your loss, you might be angry at yourself, your spouse or partner, your doctor, or a higher power. You might also feel angry at the unfairness of your loss.
- Depression. You might develop symptoms of depression — such as loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, changes in eating or sleeping habits, and trouble concentrating and making decisions.
- Envy. You might intensely envy expectant parents. It might suddenly seem like babies and pregnant women are everywhere you look.
- Yearning. You might experience feelings of deep or anxious longing and desire to be with your baby. You might also imagine what you would be doing with your baby now.
Other loved ones, including the baby's grandparents, might experience similar emotions including anxiety, bitterness and helplessness.
Grieving takes time. During the grieving process some emotions might pass quickly, while others linger. You might skip others completely.
You might also experience setbacks, such as feelings of anger or guilt creeping back after you thought you had moved on. Certain situations — such as attending a baby shower or seeing a new baby — might be difficult to face. That's OK. Excuse yourself from potentially painful situations until you're ready to handle them.
Move toward healing
Here are some suggestions to make your healing a little easier. Pick and choose those you think might help.
- Make your own decisions. Well-meaning friends or loved ones might suggest clearing out all reminders of your baby, such as maternity clothes or baby items — but the decision is up to you. If you're not ready to pack things away, take as much time as you need.
- Create memories of your baby. You might want to name your baby. You might also find comfort in holding a memorial service, personalizing a piece of jewelry, planting a tree or creating another memorial in your baby's honor. You might also ask the hospital staff to make handprints or footprints, or have the baby christened or blessed. You might even swaddle the baby or take photos with him or her. Some professional photographers specialize in working with families experiencing pregnancy loss.
- Take it slow. Some days will be better than others. If you're overwhelmed thinking about the future, focus on getting through one day at a time. If you can, wait to make major decisions, such as buying a home or changing jobs.
- Take care of yourself. Get adequate rest, eat a healthy diet and include physical activity in your daily routine. Don't turn to tobacco or alcohol to soothe your pain. Take medication only under your doctor's guidance.
- Talk with your partner. Don't expect your spouse or partner to cope with grief the same way you do. One of you might want to talk about the baby and express emotions, while the other might prefer to withdraw. Be open and honest with each other as you deal with your feelings.
- Keep a journal. Writing down your thoughts and feelings might be an effective outlet for your pain. You might also write letters, notes or poems to the baby or about the baby.
- Seek help from others. Friends and loved ones might not know what to say or how to help. Tell them when you need their support. If you want to talk about the baby or if you'd like help keeping the baby's memory alive, let your friends and loved ones know how you feel.
- Join a support group. Sharing with others who've experienced pregnancy loss — either in person or online — can be comforting. A clergy member or spiritual adviser may be another good source of advice or counseling. The baby's grandparents or other loved ones might benefit from similar support.
If feelings of depression seem prolonged or you're having trouble completing your usual daily activities, consult your physician, a mental health provider or a grief counselor for professional support.
Hope for the future
Many women who experience pregnancy loss go on to have successful pregnancies. Once the pain of your grief subsides, you and your partner can talk about whether to attempt another pregnancy and, if so, when you'd like to try again. Another pregnancy might yield feelings of sadness for your earlier loss — but it might also inspire hope for the future.