Handling Unexpected Grief After a Miscarriage
It doesn't matter if you miscarried at 8 weeks or 20 weeks, the loss is the same to you. I've written before, don't compare loss, it doesn't work, and it doesn't make anyone feel better. When women get pregnant they always hear "Your body knows what to do." That is true, even if the pregnancy is lost. However, just like the mind, once the body is pregnant it expects to be pregnant.
This is why I see an uptick in grief symptoms for women when their due date approaches. A woman who really wants a baby can do a lot of thinking and planning in the first 6-12 weeks of a pregnancy. She may have gone through her calendar and recorded each week, LMP to EDD, 1-40. She knows the due date and had expected to be "super pregnant by Halloween". Maybe she even thought about fun pregnant Halloween costumes. Or hoping her morning sickness would have abated by the Fourth of July.
Even if after all the prenatal check ups have been cancelled, it's hard to cancel events in your mind that haven't happened yet. And the body seems to remember that it's supposed to be pregnant. Hopefully you've been able to do what you need to do to grieve your miscarriage. You may even be feeling okay most of the time. But it's important to know that as your due date approaches, so may increased sadness.
Plan to take extra good care of yourself during that time. An expected due date is a great time to do something in service of your lost baby. You can write him a letter, plant a tree, knit some preemie hats and have a friend donate them to the NICU, take a long walk with your spouse and talk about how much you miss your baby. Don't miss this chance to connect with your loss and honor what you've been through.
When your expected due date approaches, know that your body will remember. Talk to your partner about what you might need around that time. Going for a walk, visiting the tree you planted, not doing the dishes, a long hug - the most important thing is that you allow space for the pain. A lot of time passes between a 7 week loss and the 40 week expected due date, so women can often be taken by surprise that the due date brings up hard feelings.
And once the one year anniversary comes and goes, expect that it will return again next year. Each year is an opportunity to validate your pain and acknowledge the baby you wanted so much. The pain doesn't go away, you just get better at it.
Allison Ramsey is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and fertility counseling specialist seeing clients online throughout North Carolina, Washington State, and internationally. She’s a member of Resolve, The Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Contact her to start feeling better.