This month, I have been concentrating all of my content-based efforts toward educating and putting as much information as I can, out into the world, about pregnancy and infant loss. One of the main themes you’ll find, if you’ve been following the content, is that secrecy is pervasive when it comes to pregnancy and infant loss. In the interest of ending the stigma and the silent shame that surrounds it, I will share with you that pregnancy loss is VERY personal to me. Historically, I haven’t talked much (*read: at all*) about my experience with pregnancy loss, both within my personal life with friends and family, and publicly. Quite honestly, it’s only been recent that I’ve felt able to speak about it. I liken it to feeling like a statue. I felt like if I can just be as still as possible, it won’t hurt any more than what it currently does (see my attempt at controlling the pain and emotion, there?). I’m now able to wiggle my toes a bit to process, talk and heal. Hooray! Yes, I’m still processing 7 years later. “Tsk tsk” therapist! Therapist-shaming aside, I want to share a few things with you that I’ve learned and discovered along the way (with a therapeutic spin), in my own journey with pregnancy loss. Take this at your own pace, again I’m 7 years into this, it will likely be different from where you’re at in your own journey. My wish is that this provides you with a sliver of light and hope that you can move through this grief. It will never be gone, it will morph and change shapes, and the pain will come in waves, but this is survivable. You will be forever changed, but you can survive this pain no matter how unsurvivable it feels right now.
This will change you. This is a life altering event, a trauma. I am a different person from who I was pre-pregnancy loss. At first, this made me angry. How dare this already incredibly painful experience, also take who I am, away from me?? I became pretty bitter at that time. Also, I am convinced you will never see as many pregnant women or people with children as when you’ve had a pregnancy or infant loss, which added to my dismay. This, I believe, is not the universe’s way of driving the knife in even further, but rather providing opportunities for you to walk through your grief by exposing you to this trigger (although, at first, I recommend avoiding places where kiddos congregate, if at all possible, again…they’re everywhere!). Nevertheless, at the time, it didn’t make sense and I felt the world coming down on me, in what felt like such opposition. Now I see, that this, who I am today, is who I was meant to become. Reframing the experience can be incredibly helpful. How can this serve you? How can you use this experience to change you for the better? For me, I can now help others through this and I hold an important perspective having been through this special kind of loss. This didn’t happen in vain because I can help others. When the loss has just happened, it’s normal to question why. Why the hell did this have to happen to me? However, in time, if you can develop your “why”, and perhaps in the name of the baby you lost, there can be a certain level of comfort that comes with that. You may want to consider developing what I call a “post it mantra”. This includes putting the words, “For (insert the name of your baby here)”, onto a post it and affixing it to your bathroom mirror (or another highly visible spot) to remind yourself to continue (and by continue, I mean letting the emotions in that are an intrinsic and an important part of healing). In the beginning, unfortunately, you may not feel like you are “enough” of a reason to continue through the grief journey. Ultimately, though, the goal is to get to a place of seeing yourself as enough and worthy of compassion (a daunting task for most).
Acceptance of yourself and your process is key to “efficiently” moving through your grief. Notice I have said “moving through” grief a couple of times now. Grief is traditionally not something you “move on” from or “get over”. It will stay with you, it just may look different at different times. It is important that you not try to “fight” your way out of how you’re feeling and experiencing this loss. This includes avoidance of your feelings or distracting to an unhealthy extent. I realize sitting in such discomfort is, well…uncomfortable, but avoiding or distracting is only a short term solution that will prove to be unsustainable (and come back to bite you). Our feelings have this fabulous way of bubbling up to the surface regardless of our consent or lack thereof. In other words, you can pretend your emotions aren’t there, but they will make themselves known in one way or another. They are persistent little buggers.
I want to thank you for bearing witness to the glimpse I have provided you, into my own experience with pregnancy loss. It is my honor and my privilege to return this favor and hold the same safe space for my clients. We all deserve this and more!
“Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither.”