When you lose a baby, it's often a silent pain - only you and your spouse and possibly your family miss that little one. Others may grieve for you, but they can't really grieve your child. It feels like every other person who dies has friends and co workers and families and teachers that miss his or her presence. Not unborn babies. No one else really had the chance to love our baby yet except for us, so we were often mourning alone. I think the loneliness is what makes a miscarriage so tough. Almost all other forms of grief are both communal and personal - but with a baby lost before birth, the whole process is almost entirely isolated and personal.
I still miss our little one daily. Remembering this little life helps me to be grateful for my time as mommy to sweet Baby R, rather than just mourn what time I don't get. Time and prayer and God's sweet comfort and grace have helped ease this pain -but, making it through those first few months can be lonely and painful so I am sharing some of the things that worked best for me.
Surviving the first months after a miscarriage
The first piece of advice I have seems so practical - grieve, and grieve how you feel is best. It may be that you cry in the shower or go for long runs and pray or talk about your baby a lot or spend time praying and keeping the whole situation to yourself until you are ready to talk. Grieve however you need to- but do grieve. Just because society often overlooks miscarriage doesn't mean you should. Take time to mourn that sweet baby.
2. Realize that your husband doesn't grieve the same way you do.
A friend gave me this advice and it was probably the best post-loss advice I received. Dave missed our child and mourned, but it wasn't in the same way I did. His body didn't go through the process of loss that mine did - and he did not feel the same sense of failure and shame that I did. Also, because he is such a good husband, his main concern was me and making sure I was okay. Dave mourned our baby, but he wasn't going to cry daily like I did. So, realize that men and women grieve differently. (Also, check on your husband and ask how you can care for his hurting heart too)
3. Let your body heal.
My miscarriage occured later than most losses, so my healing process probably took longer than most. But, no matter how early or late your loss occurs, your body will need time to repair. Prepare yourself! I was not prepared to ache for weeks or have numerous appointments to have my hormone levels checked as they slowly fell back into not-pregnant range. Your body has just been through a mini-trauma, so take it easy for awhile. Take a day off work if you need to. Spend your weekends on the couch. Go to bed early. Also, it might be worth taking a couple months off trying to conceive. I did not - and I regret that. We had two chemical pregnancies following our loss - my poor tired body was trying to get pregnant but it wasn't quite back to par. I was so convinced that the only way to feel better was to be pregnant again, but I wish I had just let my body heal so I could avoid that frustration and extra hurt - and so maybe I could have lost a little first trimester weight I had gained with our baby.
4. Share with a few close friends.
So many women do not share about their miscarriages - and part of that is because it's not considered polite conversation. Maybe you don't want to share with everyone, but do find a few friends or family members who you can trust and let them know. Talk to a counselor or pastor if that's easier. This way, you have people praying for you and checking on you. I had precious ladies checking on me often - and just knowing that they saw my hurt and recognized this life made the process a little less lonely.
5. Protect your heart.
One thing I have learned with past hurt is that some people can't be trusted with your pain. If you are talking about your loss with someone who is not supportive or doesn't seem to understand the gravity of it, then don't keep sharing with them. If your heart is not safe, protect it. (and also a good reminder to us to all be the type of people who are a safe place for our friends) These people may be selfish - or they may just be clueless on what to say, but your sweet heart is facing enough pain at the moment - so don't subject it to any more hurt or rejection.
6. Honor your baby.
I think that the fact that we don't have pictures, a burial site or even know the gender of our lost one will always be hard. But, we did find ways to commemorate our baby - a framed bible verse, saved ultrasound photos, a copy of the announcement card we were about to send, a necklace. Picking a small way to remember your baby helps you feel like the child is not forgotten.
7. Expect that EVERYONE you know to end up pregnant or have a baby in the few months post-loss.
I say this jokingly, of course....but there is some truth to it. I am sure that I was just hyper aware of babies and pregnancies but it seemed everyone I knew was announcing their pregnancy last spring and even if I was happy for them, the reality of others having a child while we lost ours still stung. So, prepare yourself for the fact that life goes on - and others will be announcing pregnancies. Also, protect your heart and do what you need to do to get through this - step away from facebook, have a good cry and margarita after baby showers, skip a baby shower and send a gift if you have to! Realize that you can be happy for others and sad for yourself at the same time, but give yourself the grace to grieve.
8. Pick a goal, any goal.
After miscarriage, you spend a lot of your time grieving - or obsessing about getting pregnant again. So, pick a goal or a hobby or plan a vacation. I decided to train for a 10k with a friend. It gave me a goal, forced me to be healthy, made me get out of the house and socialize and brightened my spirits (endorphins, sunny weather!) Focusing on something other than pregnancy and loss can help you feel a bit more like yourself again. Wanting to be a mother was my big part of who I was last spring, but it wasn't the only thing about me - running, planning our vacations and spending time with friends helped me enjoy other pieces of myself.
9. Give grace.
People don't know what to say - or they say the wrong things. (For the record, it's worse to say nothing at all!) If people are trying, give them grace. Chances are that you have failed to say the right thing before. If people aren't trying, still try and give grace. These may not be the friends and family you can trust your heart with (see above suggestion to protect your heart) but the truth is, they probably don't mean to be hurtful. Recognize that sometimes when people don't know what to say, they say nothing - which may be the easy way out, but its not malicious.
10. Prepare yourself for the fact that not everyone will take this loss seriously.
The harsh reality is that a lot of people barely recognize pregnancy loss. They support all sorts of causes and awareness campaigns - but they don't really recognize your lost one as a baby. I think once I accepted that, I was less upset by it. I just expected that there would be friends who I had mourned break ups with and loved through really hard times who just wouldn't get the pain I was going through. (and thankfully, you can also find friends who are amazingly supportive - find your safe place there!)
11. Run into the Savior's arms.
I dove into prayer, journaling and scripture reading after we lost the baby. It was good for me to see how God answered small prayers along the way. I prayed for my hormone levels to drop. I prayed for my cycle to return. I prayed for healing and comfort and days to get better. I prayed for a new pregnancy. And often, I just poured my heart out - to a God that was not afraid of my unpleasantness. In the midst of a miscarriage, it feels like no one wants to deal with your messy heart - but we have a God who climbs into the mess with you. The silver lining to pain is that it can drive you into the arms of your Savior. I often times hope people will be the ones that get me through hard times, but the reality is that our Father is the best place to turn with our pain - especially the pain of a lost baby. He, too, knew the pain of losing a child - and that Son is the only reason I could have hope for seeing this baby again.
12. Speak Positively about the Future
After miscarriage, most women are mourning two things - their lost baby and their lost sense of security in pregnancy. While grieving her baby, a woman's heart is anxious, wondering if she will ever have another shot at motherhood and if so, will this new pregnancy be okay? (this worry is especially true if it is your first pregnancy and you don't have kiddos at home, reaffirming the fact that yes, you can and will have babies) The reality is that most women who have a miscarriage go on to have a child. Statistics overwhelmingly show that women who miscarry have excellent odds at having healthy babies! So, go ahead and think hopefully about the future. That future pregnancy will come with its own set of fears but the good news is that you most likely will be pregnant again. So, talk positively to yourself- you can't undo the pain of this pregnancy, but you can be comforted by the fact that you most likely can and will have babies!
Losing a child is so hard - and so unrecognized, so for those walking through this, my heart aches for you. I hope these suggestions help - but if they don't, find your own way of surviving! But, know this - you will survive - and you will always celebrate this little one. However, we serve a God who specializes in bringing beauty from pain!