Everyone handles grief differently. Some shut down and retreat into their own world, while others throw themselves into work, the roles we assume, relationships, and other things… any thing, that will fill the gaping hole that loss has left behind.
For me, the moments after my miscarriages were still. I quickly learned that no amount of crying was enough. I cried myself to sleep, I woke up crying, I would cry when I was driving, having dinner, and mostly I would cry in the shower. Those were the best cries… where the water would mask my tears and cleanse my spirit at the same time. I would be crying and not even realize it. The grief was mass exiting my body through tears. And while I wasn’t saying much, my mind was moving fast, alternating between cataloging memories to hold onto forever and critically reviewing moments to see where, exactly, it all went wrong. I felt stuck in time almost, as the rest of the world pushed past me.
It’s important that in these moments, right after miscarriage, where the crying is endless, you feel numb, emotionally exhausted, and mentally paralyzed, that you take care of you. Here are 3 ways to take care of yourself after you experience a miscarriage:
1. Take a break
After my first miscarriage, the doctor told my boyfriend: the rest of the world will give her three days, be there for her when those three days are over.
I know you want the world to stop, just for a moment so you can process, mourn, breathe, but it won’t. And, most people won’t even get what you’re going through. Now is the perfect time to take a break. If you’re comfortable talking to your employer about what is going on, see if they will let you use bereavement time away or explore some work-from-home options. There is nothing worse than being expected to tend to first-world problems, when your whole world is falling apart. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your employer, let them know you’ve had a family emergency and ask for time off or use some of that PTO. It’s worth it, you are worth it.
2. Talk about it
With my first miscarriage, I was in the dark and in a fog for about a year. I wasn’t talking about it. I was just going through the motions. I was working, attending events with friends, even dating, but really I was just surviving. It wasn’t until I wrote about my experience that the veil started to slowly lift and it took me another year before I felt a new normal. My second miscarriage was harder to accept, but the healing has been lighter because I know the benefits of not grieving in silence.
I used to not be able to get through a complete thought about my loss, verbally, without breaking down. That was the grief talking. Now, I can tell my story and sometimes it gives me pause, it may always, but I own my story and it no longer owns me. It is now me talking. Talking about my babies, the pregnancies, the loss, and the complex nature of navigating grief, has made space in my body and my spirit for healing, for possibility, and for the new life I’m now caring for. Here are three more reasons you should talk about your miscarriage.
I’m not saying you have to get on social media and tell the world about the dark space you’re in, but find a safe person, someone who won’t judge you for the dark thoughts, someone who lets you find your own way through the darkness, someone who will hold a space for you as you find your way home… and talk to them. That person can be a professional, a family member, or someone you found in an online community.
3. Stay open
This is the hardest of the three because it covers such a broad spectrum what “open” means. I’m suggesting that you stay open to the dark side of grief, that you don’t put a time frame on your healing, and that you stay open to whatever the other side of this journey looks like.
There will be a dark side to this grief, be ready for it. I’m talking about the ugly things you think and feel, but don’t want to tell anyone because you’re afraid they make you a bad person. I’m talking about the dark and ugly things you are thinking and feeling about yourself, about your partner, about life, and about all the pregnant women who are flaunting their bellies in your grieving face. All feelings are ok, even the dark ones. Don’t beat yourself up about them. Feel them, find ways to self-soothe and move on from them.
Don’t put a time frame on your healing. Grief is complex and it comes in waves. One day you are fine and the next you are paralyzed by thoughts and emotions that you didn’t even know you had. It could be months after your loss and you could hear a song or see something that triggers your grief. There are no guidelines to healing and no two journeys are the same. You may find something: a hobby, a new job, a new love, or even baby that helps fill the hole in your heart; or you may never be truly healed, but rather find ways to better carry the load. Both are ok ways to move forward and you are the only one who know what’s best.
Lastly, stay open to what the other side of this darkness looks like. Maybe your pregnancy was a surprise or maybe you’ve been trying for years, whatever your circumstances, I encourage you stay open to what comes next. We all have hopes for what our future holds, and maybe another pregnancy is in store for you or maybe something else will make its way into your heart. The potential for what’s to come is endless, only if you’re open to it.
Navigating the grief of a miscarriage is complex and personal. What’s most important, is that you do what’s best for you. And, if at any time you feel you can’t do it alone, please don’t be afraid or ashamed to get help. Take care of you, there is only one.