Grieving The “What Could Have Been”
Disclaimer: The content of this blog may be triggering as it discusses miscarriage or pregnancy loss. Please proceed with caution.
About one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. The loss of a pregnancy is accompanied by a mixture of emotions, from sadness to anger to fear. While there are many websites, articles, and people who try to empathize with you and explain what you may go through biologically or psychologically, no one can prepare you for managing life after your loss- managing the “what could have or would have been.” These are things like what would have been the day you announced your pregnancy, your baby shower, your due date, first holidays, or first birthdays. For each person and family, these may be different, and more importantly, the experience of these days will be different. For some, it may get easier as time goes on, but the grief may linger for others. Whatever your experience is- that is okay.
As I approached the day on which I would have announced to my friends and family that we were expecting, I found myself riddled with grief. My heart felt heavy, my muscles tense, and my mind clouded. I wanted to shut down while the world expected me to function like any other day. Later that same day, a close friend announced that they were expecting. The emotions that followed were nothing of what I could have expected or predicted. I felt envious and jealous. I felt angry and guilty. I began to question what I could have done wrong and engaged in self-blame. As I sent my friend a congratulatory message, I asked myself how I could express sincere excitement when I felt so much pain. I labeled myself as a horrible friend and person. As time went on, more pregnancy announcements came and went. I felt as if every person I knew was experiencing my hopes and dreams.
While the pain has dulled, pregnancy announcements continue to be a trigger for the traumatic experience that was pregnancy loss. However, I found a couple of things helpful to manage the grief and allowed me to truly grieve the “what could have been.” First, I became a member of a few support groups. Through this, I connected with parents who had similar experiences and emotions. I felt validated and permitted to experience my grief in whatever way it presented itself. Next, I identified ways to memorialize my loss in a way that felt healing. For me, it was a special stuffed animal that could one day be shared with my future children. For my spouse, it was a specially engraved key chain. I also sought out therapy to have a safe place to experience and process my grief. Finally, I scheduled time in my week to do at least one thing that I enjoy, such as going for a walk, taking a nap, or listening to the birds' chirp as the sun rises.
It is important to remember that your experience is your own. However, you feel and whatever you need is valid. What was helpful for me may not be helpful for you, and that is okay. I hope that through this, you felt less isolated in your experience and encouraged to seek out the things that you need for your personal healing.