Grieving pregnancy loss during the holidays: my survival guide

As I already mentioned in a past blog post (click here for a reminder), I recently experienced the loss of a pregnancy. As I was just going through this, I decided to get into online forums and Facebook groups dealing with grieving and also with pregnancy loss, especially with ectopic pregnancy cases.

Something that’s very frequent to read in these online communities is the fear of the holidays. The two main reasons for this are: a) pregnancy announcements from friends, colleagues, members of the family; b) milestones that were supposed to be reached in your own pregnancy, like your own announcements, or the birth of the child. I have to confess that both elements touch me. I am starting to see all the happy posts sharing the news, or babies being born and I can’t help being sad because at this time we were supposed to start telling people about our baby. The issue is that, as hard and difficult as I may find this time, it is not going anywhere. We can say that all this is temporary, because it is, to be honest. In a month, we’ll be focusing on paying the bills, surviving winter and maybe planning a vacation to run away from the cold weather.

At the same time, this announcement thing won’t be going away anytime soon. Women are getting pregnant everyday, doesn’t matter if it is in December, January or June. And milestones will be always there. I need to face this as even after getting through the potential due date, I will think about other milestones: my daughter’s first month, her first smile, her first vaccines, her first tooth. Milestones that will be in my mind only, and this is what hurts the most. And this is what makes me realize that I need to work on moving on from this in the best possible way. That is why I came up with my steps to navigate this holiday (and beyond) period without losing my mind or ruining my emotional health.

Yes to acceptance, No to guilt

It is OK to feel a myriad of emotions that range from sadness to anger to gratefulness. It is normal to feel jealous of other couples expecting or having babies. And it’s OK to feel guilty of being jealous as well. However, the issue lies in dragging this guilt or any negative emotion for too long. As human beings, we all have many emotions manifesting throughout the day. The important thing is to accept this fact and to give more weight to the emotions that make us feel good. Jealousy? Yes, but not because you hate the people expecting a child or giving birth. It’s because you would like this happening to you, so it’s not personal against someone. And you know what? Having lost my baby, I actually feel happy to see a mother with her baby. I wouldn’t want other women going through the horrible pain of losing a child. I focus on the happy side of things.

Guilt is unhealthy when you use it to emotionally hurt yourself. I felt guilty at first and don’t let me count the number of times that I asked my Love to forgive me for losing our baby. And with time, and professional help I came to understand that in life, some things have no explanation and no reason for happening. I am a healthy person with good eating and exercising habits, barely drink alcohol and without any medical history related to my reproductive system. This happened to me because it just happened. Sometimes I feel angry, other times I feel sad, I think about what it would have been to announce the news to everyone, to start planning for the new bedroom, to reorganize the house to accommodate the new baby. And yes, I ask life, the universe or God himself “why did I have to go through this?”.

I give in to these emotions. I accept that they are part of me, of my process and I also invite other emotions, like gratitude. Gratitude for being alive and surrounded by much love and support, gratitude for the family I have built with my amazing Love. I invite love as well, this amazing feeling that makes things way better. And I focus on the beauty of the holidays, the family gatherings, the time we spend doing fun activities, cooking together, talking, laughing, just being there, present.

Life goes on

People will keep making and having babies. So, as I already mentioned, the baby news won’t stop anytime soon. The more I come to terms with this reality, the better I move on without feeling hurt. Among all the many reasons friends, relatives and acquaintances are making babies, hurting me is not one of them. And this gets me to my next point…

It’s not about me

Something I’ve come to understand with time is the fact that we are the result of our decisions, our emotional baggage, our experiences and, in some cases, our circumstances. This is what shapes our views and opinions. In addition, we live in a culture that has no idea of how to deal with loss, call it pregnancy loss, child loss, death, job loss. We are usually very inept when it comes the time to show support to someone facing adversity. If we add these two elements, we get the worst mix of unwanted “uplifting” phrases or actions. This explains the many “everything happens for a reason”, “you’ll get pregnant again in no time”, “well, at least you have kids” or the emails with baby scans, the thousand pregnancy posts and pictures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google plus, you name it!

So, I had to make peace with the fact that all this is not about me. People are excited and happy, and they can be sad for me, but why would they refrain from celebrating a new life? Unless they are doing something with the sole purpose of hurting me, in which case, they wouldn’t even be my friends, they are simply expressing their emotions. They’re not attacking me, they’re just living their lives. Up to me to be happy for them or not, that’s the only thing about me. As for the phrases, well, if I hadn’t read Option B or lost my baby, I would remain as inept as many other people.

Seek for help if you need it

I’ve being consulting a therapist and also got into online forums and groups dealing with pregnancy loss. By doing so, I’ve been able to meet people who have gone through the same thing. This has helped me realized that I’m not alone in this journey, because yes, despite being surrounded by supportive people, this loss is so personal, that sometimes you can’t help feeling lonely and isolated. If you can’t get a therapist, at least get into the online forums. The thing is to get the feelings out of the system, to work them through and not to be isolated from the world.

In conclusion

Pregnancy loss and holidays are not the best cocktail. We are sensitive, we deal with tons of emotions, we’re grieving and we are bombarded with pregnancy announcements, births and happy events. This is not something that will be changing anytime soon, so we better prepare to face it and try to come out unharmed or at least not too scratched. I learnt that by accepting my feelings as well as the reality of things, like people getting pregnant as part of life, and the fact that we are bad at dealing with other’s grief, I can manage things a bit more easily. Of course, I am fortunate enough to be able to afford a life coach and that helps a lot. But even if you are unable to get professional resources on a face-to-face format, you can turn to the Internet to find forums or Facebook groups to talk about what’s happening. Two of the groups I like a lot are: Ectopic Pregnancy Support Group and Option B: Coping with grief. Check them out and see if they work for you. In the meantime, I can only say that like any adverse event in life, we need to keep going little by little, accepting reality, embracing our emotions and counting our blessings.

Warm hugs,