Here are the things that I wish I could have heard from myself or those around me, or the things that people did say or do that were enormously healing or validating.
“This grief is real. I know society doesn’t like to accept this kind of grief. Please don’t apologize or try to minimize your feelings.”
“These feelings may be strange to you; you may not understand why you’re feeling the way you are. It helps to just say how you feel and not worry about interpreting those emotions. This is such a confusing time for your body and your mind. It helps to accept that you’re confused all around.”
“I will help you. I will help you get through this. What do you need to get through this? What will help you to feel better right now? I won’t judge.”
“Please come over to my house and I will cook a meal for you and your husband and then I can pray for your baby and your family.”
“I won’t let you feel alone. Let me hold you while you sob so you can feel all those big feelings and I won’t let you feel alone. It can be so comforting to know that someone is holding onto you physically while you trek an enormously treacherous emotional path.”
“Your tears, your grief, your sadness, your anger, your regret, are all welcome here. No questions asked. You are safe here.”
“It’s okay to laugh and be happy and enjoy yourself. Please don’t feel guilty when you feel good. It’s the heart’s way of healing. I know it can be hard to accept that you even want healing, but allow it to happen. There’s no point in extending your suffering.”
“Don’t force yourself to feel ok. It doesn’t feel good to ignore a migraine or a hunger pain. You have to feel it in order to take care of it. This is the same. Tell everyone and their mother to let you grieve.”
“You’re not crazy. These feelings are normal and ok. You can talk to a therapist if you feel like that could be a good coping tool for you. Talking to a therapist does not make you crazy. Your feelings are valid.”
Not everyone is going to “get it.” They’ll say dumb and hurtful and ignorant things. Because they’ve never gone through this, or because they have and they’re repeating what someone said to them. It’s okay to not give these people details. You can just tell them you’re grieving a loss, or that your baby died in a miscarriage. It can be so helpful to come up with a phrase you can tell yourself and other people not close to you what happened. Something simple that honors your truth – think Collateral Beauty (eg: my baby died in a miscarriage. Her name was Poppy October. She was only 4 weeks old).
When considering a subsequent pregnancy: This is a deeply personal decision to be made by you and your partner (with your care provider’s okay). Some feel the need to wait until their angel baby’s due date passes. Others need much longer. Some don’t want to wait at all. If you decide to move forward with conceiving again, try to take the pressure off. Stop tracking your cycles for a while. Just be. See how that feels. You can always change your mind later.
Pregnancy after loss is incredibly difficult. The naiveté is lost. Much of the excitement is replaced by anxiety and met with guarded responses from friends and family. Find a support group. People who know this unique struggle and who can sympathize with all the little nuances that pregnancy after a loss can bring. Be honest within your support group, with your care provider, and yourself. Give yourself the extra grace; nothing about this journey is easy for you anymore. I’m so incredibly sorry about that.
It’s normal to feel huge jealousy for other pregnant people or moms with kids. Try to tell yourself that you don’t know their story, and they could be experiencing a loss right now or one that happened years ago. These kids or that bump could be their miracle rainbow baby they’ve hoped for many years. Give yourself space if you need it from your pregnant friends and family members. You do know their story, and that can make it really hard to sympathize with their pregnancy aches and pains and anxieties. Don’t force yourself to do that. But try to stay friends and invest in your relationship some way – you need each other.
Plug into your loss community locally. Northen Arizona Healthcare provides a list of online support platforms HERE and some offer local meeting groups – just search your area. Locally, Flagstaff has a wonderful support group, The JLB Project, and they have online support as well as the beautiful Children’s Garden in Foxglenn Park that you can walk and remember your little one. They also host an event annually called the Walk to Remember where you can submit your baby’s name to be read aloud and placed on a piece of paper marking the path. Hearing your baby’s name said aloud by someone else is such a validating beautiful experience as is seeing it written next to so many angel babies’ names. Walking as families together remembering our loss and feeling the continued grief and standing in solidarity is so healing.
Get out your emotions creatively. Choreograph a dance. Paint some art for your wall to see and remember every day. Get a tattoo. Design a memory locket necklace. Journal. Write and perform a slam poetry piece. Write a song. Put together a memory box or slideshow of pictures of you with your little one or bump.
You can do this. You are so much stronger than you’ve ever known, and this experience will teach you just how resilient you are.
It’s okay to not be okay.
I think of your baby often. What’s their name? What do you remember most about them?
I’m here for you. You’re not alone. I love you.
Karli is a Flagstaff local mom and birth worker. She is the mom to two babes, one angel baby Poppy October, and her rainbow baby Moira Wonder (13 months old) and stays at home with Mo. She’s involved with the Flagstaff community as a birth doula, photographer, dancer, and choreographer. She loves coffee dates, hiking, sushi, and talking all things birth and babies. You can connect with her on Instagram @momma_haviland.