I'm a Grief Therapist—This is How I Help Patients Grieve Their Miscarriage
As a grief therapist in private practice, many people come to me in the depths of loss. Truth is, no one can ever be prepared for the loss of a child, and the enormity of the emotions that follow can be deeply personal, complicated, and isolating.
Many of the people who come to see me after a miscarriage feel a sense of discomfort with their grief, since they had never met their baby. But, this does not make grief any less real or overwhelming. Allowing the feelings that come up to be felt is an incredibly important part of the healing journey.
It's also important to know that although people view grief as the loss of a person, there are many different types of grief. Pregnancy loss is a culmination of little losses beyond the major loss itself. It's grieving the expectations made during the pregnancy, the role of parent to this specific child, the identity of parenthood itself, as well as the private hopes and dreams held within for this soon-to-be life, among other more personal losses.
Below are some words of advice that I give to people who come to see me for therapy after suffering a miscarriage. The most important thing to remember, though, is that you do not have to go through this loss alone.
Feel Your Feelings
A miscarriage is a traumatic loss. It can lead to anxiety, depression, guilt, agitation, irritability, numbness. There may, at times, be an inclination to push away the feelings, or manage other people's reactions around your miscarriage. It is also common to have fear and anxiety around being pregnant again. Your feelings are valid and important, and they need to be felt. You don't have to care for or manage the feelings of all those around you right now—you're allowed to put your feelings first.
Go Slowly And Allow Yourself To Be Cared For
It's important that you don't rush back into routine or feel you must carry the full load of your life during this time. That's especially true if your body is still going through its own healing process after a miscarriage. You may feel like you're on a roller coaster of emotions, which can be heightened because of fluctuating hormones. If you have people around you who offer to cook, bring food, care for your other children, do the laundry, or any other chore around the house, this is the time to rely on the people around you.
Integrate The Loss Into Your Life
In my therapy practice, I believe in the continuation of the relationship with a loss, if the parents are open to it. It doesn't matter how long was the gestation period, it only matters the relationship being built with the baby.
I believe that honoring their time with you and having the baby be a part of your story, is integral to the grieving and healing process. I like to have my clients write letters, or create something personal and meaningful that can be seen as a continuation and honoring of the baby's presence. This can have a powerful effect on moving forward, not without, but with the baby's memory along with you.
If you have other kids, talking with them and exploring feelings about the loss can help them to process the experience, as well as help to preserve the connection to the baby that the entire family was welcoming together.
- RELATED: 5 Miscarriage Myths
Connect With Others Who Can Relate
Processing a traumatic grief, such as a miscarriage, doesn't have to be a solitary experience. Your feelings deserve to be witnessed by another person or people who can help to carry the weight of the loss. Although it can come in your own time, sharing can help alleviate the burden of the immense grief. Sharing your experience and emotions with people who have experienced similar can also have a normalizing effect, and help to unburden you from carrying the weight of your grief all alone.
Talk To A Professional If You Feel Overwhelmed
I am always an advocate of reaching out to a trusted therapist who can be a support, guide, and be an ally in your grief journey. If your feelings become overwhelming, feel like too much to bear, or if you find yourself isolating and feeling alone in your experience, I recommend reaching out to a professional. If you have a partner, this may also be a time you talk with someone together, as your partner may also be struggling with grief and a sense of feeling helpless alongside you.
For access to in-person therapy, I recommend searching Psychology Today, which is an electronic database of mental health professionals that can be searched by location, sliding scale pricing, and specialty.
If you find yourself having a hard time finding someone available or a good fit, I recommend two virtual therapy options. Better Help offers individual online therapy that is both affordable and convenient. If you are looking for a virtual option that also can manage medications and has insurance options, another great option is Cerebral.
The Bottom Line
If you have been going through the enormous loss of a miscarriage, you don't have to go through the grief alone. The emotional experience of a miscarriage is different for everyone, so I encourage you to process your feelings in your own way and at your own pace.