Creating Space to Grieve After Early Pregnancy Loss
There was something about the rumbling thunder and the gloomy grey rain-soaked days that seemed to mirror the heaviness in my heart. Hurt and an overwhelming sadness permeated everything. As much as we’d tried to comfort one another, we just didn’t know how to move through the grief. I realised that I needed emotional assistance, so I began taking steps to get support. In doing so, I came across a book by Zoe Clark-Coates called ‘The Baby Loss Bible’. In this book, Clark-Coates suggests having a ‘grief release ceremony’ or private memorial of sorts to honour the life of the baby that would have been as a way to bring closure and acceptance for you and your partner. Open to any advice that could guide us through the mourning process I discussed the idea with my husband. We decided that a release ceremony seemed like a worthwhile exercise for us to do.
So, one night we sat down together at our dining table. He held my hand as we took a few deep breaths to get centred. Doing our best to navigate the waves of emotions that seemed to be rising to the surface, we took turns to share what we were feeling. When we were ready, we each put pen to paper and individually wrote a letter to our baby. It was a pretty emotional experience. I poured my heart out, expressing how much I loved, wanted and missed my baby. I wrote about both my hurt and my gratitude for the few weeks of joy this pregnancy gave me before it all fell apart. Once we’d written the letters, we then went out onto the veranda where my husband and I lit some floating candles. We placed the candles in a bird bath full of cool water before gathering a few beautiful rose and orchid flowers. We held each flower with the intention to release our grief and honour the life of our baby as we set them down into the water amidst the floating candles.
It was moving and sad all at once, yet we both noticed how therapeutic having this ceremony was for us. In the days that followed my husband and I discussed the shift we felt in ourselves since that evening. It gave us closure and we’d felt a little lighter.
The whole thing made me realise something. When you experience an early pregnancy loss, whether a miscarriage or an ectopic loss, you don’t always know how to process the pain and resultant grief. Couples usually don’t share the exciting news about their pregnancy until they’ve passed the 12 week mark. So, when a pregnancy loss happens, they go through it alone, uncertain of how to give context to the devastation they may feel.
Writer, Lauren Patterson, discusses this in a poignant article titled Miscarriage and the 12 Week Rule: Carrying grief alone (https://www.scarymommy.com/miscarriage-12-week-rule-carrying-grief-alone/) where she highlights that there is a general protocol followed when a loved one dies – condolences are offered and there is a funeral service where respects are paid and the life of the deceased is celebrated. Unfortunately, we don’t have a process like this when it comes to early pregnancy loss. When no one knows that you were pregnant, your loss goes virtually unacknowledged and as a consequence you may even struggle to give yourself permission to grieve. In the end, you’re left bereft and carrying unresolved sorrow. This isn’t made any easier by the fact that topics like miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies are not spoken about much, something that contributes to the shroud of secrecy, shame and feelings of isolation for couples going through a loss.
“Miscarriage is death before life. Often times, it is death that only one person feels or even knows about, and carries alone.”
~ Lauren Patterson
Coming to this understanding motivates me to keep sharing my experiences. For one, talking about the tough things creates awareness and understanding so that people feel less isolated in their struggles. In addition to this, raising the sensitivity around what women go through when they experience early pregnancy loss also ensures that they are better able to access the kind of support that they need to move through it all.
Give Yourself Space to Grieve and Release
Have you experienced an early pregnancy loss? How did you create space for your own healing? What helped you process your grief?
Going through such a traumatic experience will naturally have a significant emotional impact on you. The initial days and weeks are the hardest. On some days, the grief of your loss is completely debilitating. Other days you may find it easier to breathe. Don’t hesitate to seek out counseling if need be. Give yourself permission to take it one day at a time, moment to moment, bearing in mind that you’re grieving the loss of your baby, and perhaps the trauma of a loss of certain physical aspects which represent a part of your fertility too (a fallopian tube, or ovary, or both tubes) in the case of an ectopic pregnancy loss. Healing is a gradual process where your need to allow yourself room to process your experiences and work through the various stages of grief as they surface.
As I found in my own case, a closure or grief release ceremony as suggested by Zoe Clark-Coates is a worthwhile and therapeutic exercise to help bring some level of emotional relief.
And when the going gets tough and you can’t see a way forward, ask yourself:
‘What is the most healing or nurturing thing that I can do for myself right now?’
Then focus on taking that small step for the moment until you have the strength and presence of mind to move forward.