5 Ways to Cope With Pregnancy Loss and What to Say to Someone Who Lost a Pregnancy
When I miscarried at 10 weeks and needed a D&C, I was devastated. Pregnancy had been way harder than I had expected, and no one had told me how common miscarriages were. And even if they were common, it didn't feel like a "common" everyday experience to me. It felt like someone took a shotgun to my dream right in front of my face. I wondered to myself afterward (until I got pregnant again), "Was a baby in the cards for me?" Maybe I would be one of the many people who struggled with infertility, or perhaps maybe I would never get pregnant. It didn't matter to me that so many other people got pregnant after a miscarriage: I wanted a guarantee that I was going to have a baby, and as we all know, there are no guarantees, especially when it comes to conceiving a healthy child!
So what did I do to cope with the loss? I have to say . . . I had some very good strategies and I also had some very poor ones that just brought me further into depression and further from seeing the sunny side of the street again. So let's discuss some good ways to cope — and some bad ways, as well as what others can say to you to support you if you've lost a pregnancy. It's a delicate matter, and it's not always easy for people to have those right words for you even if they really want to.
Thank you, Brenda and Dylan of Beverly Hills, 90210, for helping me through my pregnancy loss. 90210 was very popular when I was a teen, yet I was too "punk" to watch it at the time. But somehow, I caught an episode one day while I was lying on the couch feeling sorry for myself and depressed . . . and I was hooked! Truth be told, I am totally "Team Brenda"; she may have been a b*tch, but Kelly stole her guy and they were BFFs. Not cool, Kelly! I loved the campy drama, Jason Priestley screen time, and soap-opera feel to it even though I have never watched one single soap opera in my life.
And let's not forget how I turned to my favorite childhood show, Little House on the Prairie, for nostalgia-studded distraction. Watching all the episodes brought me back memories of my youth, and LHOP always had a happy ending . . . although there were way too many miscarriages on that show, so I don't recommend it in this case. Either way, some bad television is good for you when you want to get your mind off of the loss and heartache. It's an easy-breezy detour from the heaviness of your feelings.
One thing you shouldn't do? Stick yourself on the couch all day long for days on end. It's not healthy. Get up and move.
Whenever I was depressed, whether it was over my miscarriages or over my divorce, I got up and moved after letting myself wallow for a bit. There is no cheaper and side-effect-free happy drug on this planet that is better than exercise. While you may not want to go for a jog right after your D&C if you needed one, at some point getting yourself moving physically will lift you out of that dark spell. Even if it means dancing in your underwear to bad music while you cry, just do it.
It is OK and totally natural to want to be alone after losing a pregnancy. People will ask questions, and sometimes they will say very stupid things. It's how it works. Spending some time alone, whether it's to rearrange your closet or have some tea and read a good book, is a great thing. Your head will clear, and you can get out those tears in private.
When does it become not so great? If you're constantly turning down invites to see friends or family and if you've shut down all of your hobbies, it's a bad sign. Alone time does not equal isolation. Alone time means thinking time and decompressing. Isolating means shutting down and getting further into depression.
Do something nice for yourself, since let's face it, life didn't do something very nice for you at this moment. Losing a baby never ever feels like an everyday occurrence, even though according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, studies show that 10-25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Make yourself feel special and extraordinary for a day or two! Get a pedicure, enjoy a favorite meal at your most-loved restaurant, go out to a movie, or do anything that makes you feel a little indulged.
Choose a select group of people who you feel comfortable sharing your feelings around, and go see them! Even if that means you and your best gal pal sit at your kitchen table while you cry and she holds your hand, friends are there to help you through the dark times. Reaching out to people can make a big difference in your daily mood and your outlook on trying to conceive — when you're ready again! It's a big mistake to try to conceive too soon before your heart (and body) has recovered from such a loss. Don't rush, and listen to what your ob-gyn tells you!
Big mistake No. 2? Cutting off people who are trying to help you. I had a very hard time stepping outside of my house after my miscarriages, but positive friends and my own desire to get "past the depression hump" helped me a ton.
Do I Have to Say the Words?
Most people have no clue what to say when someone has miscarried or gone through a stillbirth, etc. Here are two things you can say in order to do your best at supporting a grieving loved one.
"I'm here for you any time."
Telling someone you are simply there is the best thing you can say, because truthfully, there are no magic words. Another version of this? Try saying, "If you need to talk, I'm here to listen." By saying this you are leaving the door open for someone to come talk to you when she's ready.
"I'm sorry for your loss. I am sure this is a hard time right now."
Acknowledging how hard it is for someone to go through this shows empathy and makes the person who is grieving feel as if her feelings count to you.
But Ssh! Don't Say This!
The day before my D&C, an extended family member asked me, "Why did you miscarry? How did this happen?" I felt awful as if the loss was my fault. And truly, how would I know why I miscarried? Sometimes a woman may know why, but most of the time we don't get a definite answer. Never ask why it happened unless the person decides to tell you IF she even knows!
"It was God's plan."
This may comfort some folks, but it irked me to no end. That's great to know that in the mystery of life, this was all planned ahead of time. That response earned me no comfort and all anger.
"It's so common."
Now that phrase IS helpful when uttered by someone who has been through it and has already acknowledged your painful feelings with empathy, but to utter to someone that it's common without first seeing how the person is feeling . . . is a bit too jarring. Like I said before, it may be common, but it's often life-shattering for a woman going through it.
"You can adopt."
Sure, adoption is wonderful, but you have no idea if this person can afford to adopt! I had an ex-friend say this not knowing how expensive it is. I could never adopt in a million years. Plus, how about acknowledging the loss of the pregnancy first before offering someone "your tips" to help her build a family?
The Sun Will Come Out
No matter what, eventually you will feel better. Give yourself time, be easy on yourself, and keep hoping for better days!