One of the most joyful times in a couple’s life is when they start a family. For most couples, finding out they are pregnant can be scary, but if the couple is emotionally and financially settled, it can bring a joy like no other. Immediately, couples begin dreaming of whether it’s a girl or a boy, how they will make the announcement to family and friends, setting up the nursery and of course choosing the right pediatrician for their new bundle of joy. Early in the pregnancy, the expected mom will seek regular checkups to make sure the baby’s heart is strong, the baby is growing at the appropriate rate and making sure the expected mother is getting proper nutrition, rest and support. For most, this process continues until they take home their new son or daughter. Unfortunately, for some, this is not the case.
Pregnancy loss, still births and termination for medical reasons are not typically on new expected parents’ minds, but rather a shock and jolt to their system. Immediately, couples enter this new whirlwind of emotions that most cannot comprehend. For some, miscarriage means requiring unexpected surgical procedures, stillbirths can mean those same surgical procedures or even delivering their babies knowing they will not get to take them home. Some parents face the heartache of having to terminate their pregnancy due to such issues as: chromosomal abnormalities, bone structures abnormalities or malfunctioning organs. Pregnancy termination has been described as the choice between terrible and horrible. Whether a couple goes through a miscarriage, a stillbirth or a termination for medical reasons (tfmr), it is a devastating loss that brings an overwhelming surge of emotions that most family or friends cannot relate to. This can feel isolating and lonely. It’s especially isolating if couples are forced, due to the nature of their loss, to keep the details of their losses from family members, co-workers/bosses and friends. Other emotions that can derive from pregnancy loss are: depression, anxiety, stress, sadness and fear.
Here are some tips for couples going through a pregnancy loss:
- Make sure you are physically healed and seek treatment and monitoring to confirm you are healing well.
- Many hormonal/physical changes are happening inside your body that most new moms expect. Many women feel they need to bounce back quicker since they didn’t take home their baby. Give your body time to respond to these physical changes. Get plenty of rest and follow the advice of your medical practitioners.
- Reach out to family and friends. Most will not know what you need so you will need to tell them what you need. Be patient with family and friends. They need time to learn and practice being there for you.
- In our society pregnancy loss is not viewed the same as other losses, so family, friends and colleagues might not recognize your need to grieve.
- For some expected parents, there wasn’t a service or a memorial, no memories to reminisce over, and no cemetery to visit for comfort. Creating your own memorials and rituals are helpful, and for some, crucial during the grieving process. Things like a memory box filled with ultrasound pictures and cards, releasing balloons, a garden or a symbolic piece of jewelry will help memorialize and give you a “place” where you can honor your little one.
- Dates are very important to the grieving parents and should be recognized if you feel it’s helpful. Dates like: the expected due date, date of your loss and other dates within your pregnancy are the most common. Honoring your little one on these dates can be as simple as releasing balloons, lighting a candle or more in depth such as: a weekend away with your spouse, a massage or planting a garden. The most important thing to remember is you are the one grieving so do what is most important for YOU.
A support system is essential to healing during the grieving process. Family, friends and even colleagues whom you trust can be source of support. Accept their support, but remember most people have not experienced this type of loss, and might not always know the right way to support you. If you feel you are unable to move through the grieving process with your personal support system, reach out to a mental health professional that has experience with grief and loss. Also, online support groups can connect you with other women and couples who had a similar experience. Some of these groups can be found on:
If you are from the South Florida area and need additional emotional support, marriage, family or individual counseling, please contact Susan Block, LMFT in Coral Springs, FL.