Four Ways to Help You Cope with Loss After a Miscarriage
I was thirty-four years old when I had my son. After two miscarriages I thought I’d never have a child. I was distraught after each miscarriage, thinking that my strong desire to be a mother would never be fulfilled. I was depressed and felt so low that I couldn’t think straight. When the doctor told me if I miscarried again we’d have to look for help elsewhere I trembled at the thought. I was distraught.
I remember being so ecstatic after my first pregnancy that my husband wanted to take his mother out to lunch to tell her in person. She could barely contain herself in the middle of the restaurant and was beaming from ear to ear. But a few weeks later, when we had to tell her I lost the baby, her body shuddered and she remained silent. I felt like a failure. I loved her so and seeing her reaction to the news sent me into emotional hell.
I bottomed out, staying silent but acting as if I was fine. I went through the motions of living my life. Working, eating, socializing, being a good wife. But my stomach was in knots as I tried to chase the blues away on my own. I didn’t reach out and didn’t tell my story to anyone. I allowed the inner demons dancing in my body to inform my brain that life would never be the same.
I felt as if I was living in that familiar dream of trying to run from whatever is chasing you and you can’t run away. Only I was awake and that dream was real.
The stress of my emotions and the physical loss of the baby caused an MS exacerbation. A course of intravenous steroids fixed my relapsing-remitting MS but didn’t chase away the demons. There were no approved disease-modifying medications at the time so I had to do my best to keep more exacerbations at bay. I also had to listen to everyone’s well-meaning but infuriating instructions to rest, keep busy and stop focusing on motherhood.
I hated getting that advice. I was angry and wanted to tell them to leave me alone. But I remained silent and listened, shaking my head in agreement. I thought to myself that unless they walked in my shoes they had no right to give me advice.
Then someone I never expected advice from called one day. It was my husband’s grandmother, someone I deeply loved and admired. Grandma was a woman with the grace of Audrey Hepburn, the wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt and the understanding of Mother Teresa. Standing at about four foot nine inches, her little body was wisdom in motion. She lived to be 100 years old and up until the last year or so of her life she was one of the most amazing women I’d ever known.
Grandma told me that she, too, had two miscarriages and after she had them she felt as if nothing had meaning in a life without children. She had an overwhelming sadness but just enough faith in the powers that be to know that things happen for a reason. She held onto that belief as best as she could and eventually gave birth to two beautiful girls.
She was marvelous and gave me hope that perhaps there was a reason this was all happening to me. Looking back I can say with clarity that it was. My mood eventually lifted, I rejoined the world and went about the business of living my life fully. With my 23 year old son about to start graduate school you can guess how my pregnancy story ends.
Let me share with you what I learned during this difficult period of my life. I hope you’ll take this advice better than I did.
Communicate: If you experience emotional trauma talk to someone. A friend, loved one, professional counselor, priest or rabbi. Any good listener with your best interests at heart. It’s so important to discuss how you’re feeling, especially when living with a chronic illness. It’s unhealthy to let you feelings fester because any emotional stress can cause an exacerbation. I was fortunate that mine wasn’t worse than it was. You may not be as lucky. Seek help and try to stay as healthy as possible.
Faith: Whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs are, lean on them. My mistake was not doing that and I urge you not to follow in my footsteps. Whatever makes you happy at the moment, do it. Whatever uplifting videos, books or movies make you feel good, watch and read them. Whatever spiritual services speak to your soul, attend them. Whatever fills your spirit in nature like a beautiful park, a hike in a forest or spending time with animals, go for it. Lift your spirit out of the doldrums by doing what makes you happiest. You deserve it.
Journaling: This is not for everyone but I can’t say enough about the positive aspects of journaling. Writing your thoughts down in a beautiful blank book or on scraps of paper has been scientifically proven to help your overall well-being. According to an article in Psych Central called “The Health Benefits of Journaling” by Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP:
“There is increasing evidence to support the notion that journaling has a positive impact on physical well-being. University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health.”
Grieving: Allow yourself to grieve. That’s something I never let myself do and I paid the price. You may feel depressed and despair, angry, guilty, begin to blame yourself, ask why this happened to you, and finally find acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean you’ll forget but it means you will finally come to terms with loss. The grief you feel is real so allow yourself time to go through the stages of grief. I’ll never forget my miscarriages but over time I’ve accepted them as part of my life story. Sometimes I still feel sad and wonder how my life would be different but my miscarriages are now carefully tucked away in a special place in my heart that are a part of me. I hope you can find the same inner peace I did. If not, please seek help from a qualified therapist. Never go it alone. You deserve to find inner peace and wellness.