On the grief of pregnancy loss
October 15 marks Pregnancy Loss and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, so today I write about my experience with pregnancy loss and my work to understand my grief and myself.
I experienced four recurrent early miscarriages before I found the help I needed to create my family.
My first miscarriage came as a shock. I was very sad, but I took some comfort in the statistic that tells us how common it is: according to the Mayo Clinic, miscarriage occurs in 10-20% of known pregnancies.
My second through fourth miscarriages devastated me. I felt hopeless, broken, and alone. I felt invisible and I felt as though my grief was not valid. My body was working against me to reject the life I wanted so much. I felt worthless as a woman. Even more, when I brought my grief and pain to my loved ones, the didn’t know how to support me. My grief was too much for them to handle.
In her book Holding Space: On Loving, Dying, and Letting Go, Amy Wright Glenn writes:
Grief isn’t something to manage efficiently. It’s not an illness. There’s nothing pathological about mourning.Amy Wright Glenn
And yet, people said to me, “at least you know you can get pregnant,” and, “it was meant to be.” These words left me feeling that my grief was false. It made me feel even more broken and invisible.
We grieve because we are human. Birth and death are cornerstones to every life. We find joy in the births and sorrow in the deaths. But what about when birth and death happen together? What are we supposed to feel?
In early pregnancy loss there is rarely physical evidence of the life that once was and was supposed to be. There is no body and there are no footprints. There is nothing tangible to hang your grief onto. Instead, you mourn dreams and hopes of what could have been but never were. You mourn an empty womb, empty arms, and an empty home. And often this grief is borne alone, as many women have not yet shared the news of the pregnancy with friends and loved ones.
Amy Wright Glenn writes eloquently about what it is to hold space for the grieving:
When people feel that they are held in a deeper way than they are used to, they feel safe enough to allow complex emotions to surface that might normally remain hidden.Amy Wright Glenn
When your loss is invisible, when there is no one to hold space for your grief, how do you find your way through?
My experience with the grief of recurrent miscarriage opened up my heart to a flood of emotions that I was not equipped to handle. As a highly sensitive person, I have always felt big feelings. I have not always received the support I needed to allow me to feel, express, and accept my big feelings. When waves of profound sadness, hopelessness, and self-hatred drowned me during my grief process, I felt lost. I didn’t know how to hold space for myself; I needed help.
Counselling has held me through these feelings. It has helped me learn to accept my sensitivity and my feelings and to see them as my strengths, not my deficits. It has helped me to grieve my pregnancies and the loss of emotional support that I did not receive.
It has helped teach me how to hold space for my feelings, my life journey, and myself.
If you are struggling with pregnancy loss: I know it hurts. I see you. I acknowledge your loss and your pain.
If you need a safe place to sit with your grief and your feelings, there are people who are here to hold you:
- A registered clinical counsellor
- Empty Arms Support Group (Vancouver Island)
- A trusted and compassionate friend or loved one
For more information and support on pregnancy and infant loss: