Sometimes life confronts us with tragic events, things out of our control, which bring on a myriad of emotions and impact our beliefs about ourselves and the world. One of these heartbreaking arenas is infant loss and pregnancy loss.
Once shrouded in quiet suffering and stigma, we are thankful that more and more open conversations about these not-so-uncommon events are occurring. Still, hesitation to discuss a loss of a pregnancy or child still abounds. Sometimes this is because the pregnancy was not yet disclosed, sometimes it is because the grief pushes people into hiding, sometimes it is because they simply do not know how to broach the topic and sometimes it is individual choice. Everyone experiences grief differently and encouraging and supporting individuals in the way they most adaptively address it should be the goal for both therapists and loved ones. As a loved one, it is also important to know when to step in when the individual is struggling.
It can be difficult to know what to say or how to help, however. Finding a way to be supportive involves knowing a bit about what the loss means to the individual and knowing a little bit about how they would like you to support them. Sometimes it is a memorial, something to honor the child or pregnancy, holding space for them to discuss or a casserole dropped off. Removing the shroud of secrecy, if they are comfortable, can offer a place to process what has happened.
Things to steer clear of include: being dismissive “well, you can just get pregnant again” type of comments, assuming what the attachment level to the child or pregnancy is, forcing a conversation, flat out ignoring it, minimizing the event or emotional responses and assuming it has only affected the woman.
Often, in the acute stages of grief, directly following the loss, loved ones are the most supportive. In the case of pregnancy or infant loss, there are often far-reaching effects, and traumatic memories amplified by anniversaries, important life events, other’s pregnancies or children and subsequent pregnancies. Being supportive and aware of this over the long run is helpful in assisting someone dealing with grief of this nature. A conversation, knowledge and acknowledgement go a long way. As does therapy around the loss. Incorporating significant life events into our worldview and present life experience, regardless of whether they are positive or negative, is an important part of a healthy response to trauma. At Shift, we endeavor to identify any limiting beliefs- negative thoughts about ourselves or the world- that are activated by miscarriage or infant loss. Quelling the limiting beliefs allows us to use more of our cognitive processes, reduces maladaptive emotions and remain mentally healthy. Doing so also helps with the ability to remember the good parts and happy memories- no matter how fleeting they were.
Shift’s therapeutic protocol can help navigate through grief and the challenges associated with loss. We focus on ensuring that these tragic experiences are adaptively addressed and avoid becoming issues of complex grief, wherein an individual gets “stuck” or has maladaptive responses.
In The Shift Show Episode 12, we speak to Kristina Oriold, founder of Tiny Footprints. Tiny Footprints is an organization which raises awareness and provides support for individuals dealing with pregnancy loss and infant loss.
Shift Psych: https://shiftpsych.com/