Lucia Shanahan, LCSW
Healing and Moving Forward After Pregnancy and Infant Loss
Reflecting back on the month of October I am reminded of all the excitement that comes with it. The beginnings of fall are emerging, Halloween decor and festivities are in full swing, children’s sports are being played every weekend and the planning of the holidays ahead begin to come into focus. Something else about October that is often unknown to people or overlooked in that it is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month and October 15, specifically, is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
The Silence Surrounding Pregnancy and Infant Loss Many are unaware of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month because the experience of losing a child through miscarriage or stillbirth is not openly talked about in our society. According to the American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists, 15-20 % of know pregnancies end in miscarriage in the first 13 weeks, 1-5% of miscarriages end in the second trimester, and 1 in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth.
Despite this experience being somewhat common, it is still a taboo subject that many feel uncomfortable discussing, leaving the parents, most frequently the mother, to suffer alone in silence. I know first hand with the loss of my pregnancy at 16 weeks gestation, the lack of space for my grieving process as well as lack of resources was vast and left me feeling alone and isolated. The array of emotions that may be experienced from this loss include:
Healing and Moving Forward
All of these mixed emotions are normal and may occur at varying times. The process of healing after loss is different for everyone and if you, or someone you love, is looking for a place to start, here are a few ideas:
Take care of your body: Eat, hydrate, sleep regularly, attend doctor’s appointments, take medications as prescribed and stay physically active if you are able. The physical tole of pregnancy and infant loss is significant like the emotional tole and it is important to facilitate the physical healing process as well as the emotional healing process.
Allow and ask for help: Allow others to support you in whatever you need, may it be bringing meals by, watching your other children, picking up a prescription, or sitting with you in solidarity. Be specific with what you need and many loved ones may not know where to start but are eager to help in whatever way they can.
Give yourself grace: Be patient with yourself as grief has no timeline and is not a straight path forward. Try to avoid putting expectations on yourself move through grief on a certain timeline or in a certain way. There is no “right” way to move through this, only the way that is best for you.
Validate your emotions with self-compassion: Remind yourself that what you are feeling is valid, despite being painful. Treat yourself with the kindness you would a beloved friend or family member.
Set boundaries: Allow yourself to set boundaries with others and maintain them if that is what is best for you to heal. This might include avoiding certain events (e.g. baby showers) or not wanting to talk about certain subjects.
Honor your baby’s memory: Remembering your baby in whatever way feels comforting such a memory box, writing a letter, creating art, etc. For me, creating a memory box with ultrasound pictures, gifts, etc. allowed me to honor my baby while bringing closure to help me move forward.
Let yourself be happy when possible: To heal, we should allow ourselves to experience positive emotions again. Feeling those positive emotions does not dishonor our baby or our loss, but rather keeps us moving forward on the path to healing.
Express yourself and seek support: Whether it is to a friend, family member, spiritual advisor, support group, or mental health provider, please share your thoughts and feelings. Grief is an intense experience that can be difficult to manage alone, so please seek out support systems that help you on this journey.
If you find yourself needing additional support, you are not alone. Reach out to additional resources such as individual or group therapy to process your grief. There are local and national resources that can help connect you to the services and/or community you many need to help in your healing process.
Ventura County Support Group for Pregnancy and Infant Loss, Hospice of the Conejo
Postpartum Support International - Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Groups
Providers Directory, Discussions Tools and Resources
PSI Helpline 1-800-944-4773
Lucia Shanahan, LCSW has therapeutic interests in the areas of mindfulness, parenting and family issues, child and adolescent development and clinical areas of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and trauma. Lucia can be reached at 805.626.8720 or email@example.com.