Pregnancy loss is devastating, no matter when it happens or what the circumstances. Your hopes and dreams for the future are dashed, and you may feel as if you'll never be quite the same again. With time, however, comes healing. Give yourself the time you need 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 may experience a range of emotions, including:
- Denial. At first, it may be impossible to grasp what's happened. You may find yourself in shock or disbelief.
- Anger. You may be angry at yourself, your partner or a higher power for letting this happen.
- Guilt. You may wonder if you could have done anything to avoid the pregnancy loss.
- Depression. Your pain and sorrow may lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-pity. You may develop symptoms of clinical depression — such as loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, changes in eating or sleeping habits, and trouble concentrating and making decisions — as well.
- Acceptance. You'll never forget your pregnancy loss, but each step in the grieving process brings you closer to acceptance — which may help ease your pain.
Other loved ones, including the baby's grandparents, may experience similar emotions — including anxiety, bitterness and helplessness.
Keep in mind that you may pass through each stage quickly, linger at some stages or skip others completely. You may also face setbacks along the road to acceptance, such as feelings of anger or guilt creeping back after you thought you had moved on. Certain triggers — such as attending a baby shower or seeing a new baby — may be difficult for you 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 may 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 may want to name your baby. You may 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. If the loss occurred near the end of your pregnancy, you may want to save an ultrasound picture. 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.
- 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 may want to talk about the baby, while the other may 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 may 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 the best way to help and may not always find the right thing to say. 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 may benefit from similar support.
If feelings of depression seem prolonged or you're having trouble completing your usual daily activities, consult a grief counselor or other mental health provider 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 may yield feelings of sadness for your earlier loss — but it may also inspire hope for the future.
Last Updated: 2010-10-23