This isn’t a guide which says “follow these steps to recovery and you’ll feel much better” because there isn’t a magic pathway to recovery. Losing a wanted baby at any stage of pregnancy is a big deal and you may never feel like the person you were previously – I know I don’t. But grief is about adjusting to the new normal and after a loss and a huge physical change to your body, it’s important to listen to your needs.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that what works for one miscarriage may not work for the next. After my third miscarriage I was disappointed that a hearty Italian meal and trip to The Globe didn’t have the same healing effects as they did with my second miscarriage. Last week I went to see the opera Otello two days after my surgery and I cried so much afterwards because I’d pushed myself to do something I still wasn’t in the right place to do.
I am still in a place of deep grief whilst I write this, but here are some of the things that have helped me so far throughout all of my miscarriages.
Unfortunately very few NHS Trusts, including mine, offer mental health support after a miscarriage even many women still suffer from PTSD nine months after a miscarriage. We’ve paid a small fortune in private counselling since our first miscarriage and we are so lucky to be in a position to do so. It’s helped us understand how we grieve differently and also navigate difficult decisions such as whether we want to try for another baby. For us it’s been important to have someone who’s been with us from the start of this very sad story and whose job is to understand us, not try to fix us.
If you’re not in a position to afford private counselling, I do recommend attending a Miscarriage Association online support group. They’re free and there’s no pressure to talk if you’re not ready but it’ll help you understand that whatever you’re feeling, it’s normal.
Friends checking in
I think British people are particularly awkward around grief, we tend to avoid it and sometimes it’s easier to give a grieving person space. But from my experience, I have found that silence deafening. The Miscarriage Association have found that people get less support with each miscarriage even though they tend to need more support the more losses they have.
I really appreciate all the messages people send me. I don’t always reply in a timely manner but I am so grateful to every person who reaches out to me and acknowledges my grief.
In particular, I am so touched when people check in on me again months later after a miscarriage. Time blunts the sharpness of grief but it is still there and ready to rear its ugly head at any point.
When we were expecting, everything was planned through the lens of having a baby. Finances were about saving for a nursery and childcare and things were booked or not booked because we were expecting to have a baby in our lives.
After our second miscarriage we decided to take the plunge and buy a decent sofa having put up with a cheap sofa for four years that was so uncomfortable Margot refused to sit on it. I have no regrets about our upgraded sofa and in fact, it’s been a great comfort to lie on when I’ve been feeling really low.
I’ve always found swimming to be a great activity whenever I’m feeling low. When I’m in the pool my mind switches off and all I can focus on is how many lengths I’ve swum. Plus “lane rage” is a great distraction – you can take out all your anger on swimmers being in the wrong lane. For a year now I’ve been going to the pool several times a week and it has been truly healing.
The downside of swimming is that it’s not something I can do in the immediate aftermath of a miscarriage for obvious reasons.
This is an odd one but for some reason I love spending a Saturday afternoon at the theatre or ballet. It could be because the atmosphere is a bit more chilled or maybe because I don’t have to rush for a train but I find matinees a lot less daunting than evening shows when I’m grieving.
Visiting an art gallery
I find art a gentle way to connect with culture when I’m not quite ready for a full-blown performance. At an art gallery I have the time and space to engage with a piece of art as well as the freedom to walk away from something that I don’t like. I have also found it reminds me of the person I was before loss and gives me hope that I will recover. Plus every art trip has to be followed by a debrief over cake which can only bring joy.
Talking about our losses
This is a big one and at some point I’ll write a more detailed post about how we talk about baby loss but I need to talk about my losses. I hate it when people don’t acknowledge our losses when losing four babies is the biggest thing that has ever happened to me. We talk about our living children without shame and I want to be able to do the same about mine who didn’t make it. It may feel uncomfortable but I want to talk about miscarriage because I believe that nothing will change unless we bring it out into the open.
That’s a brief overview of what helps me in the immediate aftermath of a loss. There are other simple joys I could talk about such as bubble baths, flowers and tummy tickles with Margot Pusscat but even Maria didn’t sing about all of her favourite things. Everyone is different and will have different needs but whatever brings you joy after a loss, make sure you bloody indulge in it.