Updated: Nov 6, 2021
T/W: Miscarriage and Infant Loss
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. If you have experienced a miscarriage or the loss of a baby, please know that you are not alone. One in four pregnancies ends as a miscarriage or stillbirth. And then, some parents lose infants within the first year. Sometimes the cause is known and many times it's not.
But even with the number of people experiencing these losses, miscarriage and infant loss continue to be experiences that are not discussed often, even between family and friends. If you've suffered from a loss, you may be surprised at the number of women around you who have experienced a similar loss as you.
More about early pregnancy loss
It's important to understand that the experience of a miscarriage or loss of an infant can look a lot of different ways. This means there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to coping with and grieving the loss.
Many miscarriages happen before the pregnancy reaches the 20-week phase. This can make the grieving process different because it's possible people didn't know you were expecting in the first place. If you don't share the information with them, they may struggle to understand why your mood or behavior has changed.
It's been a common practice for women to wait until they hit the 12-week mark to share the exciting news of their pregnancy with others because around 85% of miscarriages happen within the first trimester. And while it seems it might be easier to cope with a miscarriage if no one knows you were expecting, that's often not what women find.
Instead, this can make the grieving process feel even more lonely because people around you don't know what you're going through. When others know you are grieving they have a chance to reach out to support you as you work through the grief. This isn't the case when they don't know.
More about stillbirth and infant loss
Around 24,000 babies are stillborn each year in America. And around the same number of babies pass away before their first birthday.
Each experience with stillbirth and infant loss can be different. Some parents know in advance that their baby will be stillborn or won't make it through their first year of life. Other parents have no idea or warning that this is going to be their experience. One loss is not easier than another. It's still the loss of your child.
At The NEST in Stillwater MN, we have therapists who specialize in perinatal loss care who can work with you as you process your loss and what life looks like moving forward.
Coping with miscarriage or infant loss
The tips and information below may be helpful to you as you navigate the grief of your loss and find a way to move forward in life.
1. Let go of guilt and shame
It can be common for a woman to blame herself for the loss of her baby. This is something that many women don't communicate even if they're feeling that way.
You may question yourself wondering if you could have done something different or better. You may feel like your body failed. And you may lay awake at night analyzing all of your actions to see how you could have avoided the loss.
The truth is there probably isn't anything that you could have done differently. Many of these losses are unexplained. But even if you have friends and family reassuring you of that, it can be hard to accept. If you're struggling with guilt and shame over your loss, talking to a therapist who specializes in maternal mental health can be an important first step in learning to cope with your loss.
2. Practice self-care
It can be difficult to practice self-care when you experience difficult situations like losing a child. Feelings of anxiety and depression can also make it harder for you to feel motivated to do the things to help you feel your best. It might be the last thing on your mind at the moment.
But self care is important for your physical and mental health.
While you may struggle with wanting to do a lot or take big action, it can help to find small ways to practice self-care throughout this time. Here are some self-care activities that can help:
Make sure you eat regularly, even if you can only manage to eat something small. Do your best to make healthy food choices to nourish your body.
Try to get in some exercise even if it's going for a walk or doing some stretching.
Get outside and connect with nature. Go for a hike. Sit in the sun. Watch the leaves fall from the trees and feel the breeze on your skin.
Listen to music, read, journal or do another activity that you enjoy.
It can also be helpful to connect with people in your life who care about you and support you. Talking about these personal experiences can feel challenging but feeling support from others can help you to cope and work through your grief.
If you know another person who has experienced a similar situation, they could be a helpful person to talk to. Of you may find it helpful to connect with a support group in the area or online.
3. Allow yourself time to heal
You may experience a lot of different emotions as you grieve your loss. It's normal for emotions to switch from things like sadness to anger. Try not to set expectations around how you feel you're supposed to grieve. The process doesn't look the same for everyone.
Don't be hard on yourself if you feel like you're not able to process it as quickly as you should. And don't be hard on yourself if you're able to get back into your daily routine faster than you think you should. There is no right or wrong way to grieve a loss.
Allow yourself the time that you need and don't hesitate to reach out to a therapist to help you in the process.
4. Don't assume your partner will grieve the same way
Everyone will process the loss in their own way. Don't expect your partner to feel the same way you do at the same time. And do your best not to judge the way your partner is processing and behaving. Just because they don't look like they're grieving doesn't mean they aren't. Remember that each person is different.
The loss of a child can be difficult on a relationship. Make sure to communicate with your partner and share what you're experiencing. Don't expect them to be a mind-reader and guess how you're feeling or what you're thinking.
If you find that your relationship is becoming strained as you both work through your loss, reach out to a couples therapist who can help you both navigate this trying time.
Addressing the fear and anxiety of trying to conceive again
In addition to processing through the loss of your baby, there can be anxiety and fear around trying to conceive again. While you may want to grow your family, you may worry that you will have the same experience again. This is something normal to feel as you think about trying to become pregnant again.
If you have already conceived after a loss, you may find that you're having a hard time enjoying your pregnancy because you're so worried and fearful of losing another baby. This is also something that our experienced psychologists in the Twin Cities area can help you process.
How can you support a friend or family member who has experienced miscarriage or infant loss?
If you've never experienced a miscarriage or the loss of a child, it can be difficult to know how to support a friend or family member who is going through this. Here are some tips that can help:
1. Listen to them and the stories
If they are comfortable talking about their pregnancy, birth experience, or child, listen to them. Allow them to share the details that they are comfortable sharing. If they named their child, don't be afraid to use the baby's name in conversations with them. If they have photographs or ultrasound pictures, allow them to share them with you if they want.
2. Remember they are a parent
If the person doesn't have any living children, others might not think to treat them as a parent. However, they carry that child in their heart. Remember to treat them as a parent. Think of them when Mother's Day or Father's Day comes along.
3. Be considerate of triggering events
Things like gender reveals, baby showers, birth announcements, and first birthday parties can be triggering events for someone who has experienced a miscarriage or lost a baby.
Be considerate of their feelings during events like this. It doesn't mean you shouldn't include them by inviting them to these events, but be understanding if they aren't interested in attending and make sure they know that you don't expect them to come if they're not comfortable with it.
4. Know what NOT to say
It can be difficult to know what to say to someone who is grieving. Here are a few things not to say to someone who experienced a miscarriage or infant loss:
At least they're in a better place.
You can still try again. Or, you can still have another child.
At least it happened early in your pregnancy.
Everything happens for a reason.
Let them know you are there for them if they need support. Let them know you are sorry for their loss. And it's OK to say you don't know what to say and wished you knew the right thing to say. The important thing is communicating that you care for them and will be there for them.
5. Attend the memorial service
If the person has a memorial service for their child, attend it to show that you care. Remember that this is an opportunity to show up for support. Let them know that their child mattered and will be remembered whether they had a short time on earth or died before being born.
Don't forget about the dad and siblings
When it comes to miscarriage and stillbirths, dads are often overlooked by people. There seems to be more understanding around the fact that a mother who was pregnant and carrying a child is grieving through a loss than what is given to the father of the child.
Many of the stereotypes that exist about gender can make it difficult for a man to know how to show the emotion he is feeling because of the loss. So remember that just because a parent doesn't look like they are struggling doesn't mean they aren't.
It's also important to remember that if there are older siblings in the family, they are likely experiencing grief their own way. This can look different based on their age and understanding of the situation.
The NEST therapists are here for you
If you're processing through a miscarriage, stillbirth, or loss of your child, we have a team of therapists who are here to provide support throughout your experience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment online or by calling 651-425-9297.