October 15 is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and the month of October is designated for raising awareness and education about miscarriage, pregnancy loss, and stillbirth. This month, many women will find healing in self-reflection, remembrance rituals, or even advocacy campaigns for pregnancy loss awareness or miscarriage research. Recovery can also include forgiving yourself for what might feel like a failure to do what the female body is uniquely equipped to do.
If you have suffered a miscarriage, you are familiar with the myriad of emotions that hit you in the throat as you process. Grief, loss, anger, isolation, confusion, disappointment, sadness, and so much more – they cloud your mind and come leaking out your eyes at the most inopportune moments.
Talking about these feelings is hard, but your partner or other loved ones might feel many of those same things about your miscarriage. To some degree, you are probably working those feelings out with folks who get it. However, one emotion that many women feel deeply but often find it challenging to put words to is betrayal.
Feeling Like Your Body Failed You
The sense that your body has betrayed you, or betrayed its purpose, cuts at the core of who you are. That makes it hard(er) to talk about. It might be difficult for your loved ones to understand your feelings if they haven’t been through this particular kind of experience themselves.
You feel let down by your body’s failure in all organisms’ most basic evolutionary task — procreation. You are furious that you were finally able to get pregnant, but then it could not do the second most elementary evolutionary job of staying pregnant.
The Domino Effects of the Loss in Miscarriage
The physical pain and grief of your miscarriage are compounded by the loss of your dream of motherhood. It’s like a falling domino that triggers a whole chain of falling dominos: your partner’s vision of parenthood is dashed, your parents wish to be grandparents is delayed or destroyed, your nursery sits empty one more year, and so on and so on. The initial failure is terrible enough, but it doesn’t stop there, and you are So! Angry! About! All! These! Losses!
What Do You Do with That Betrayal?
Your miscarriage is indeed a horrible loss. Your heart is disappointed and broken. What do you do with all that hurt? We hope you are naming it and giving yourself permission to be angry and hurt about it. Then what do you do?
What do you do when a friend hurts you grievously? Or when a co-worker betrays a confidence? When you have been let down by a friend, what do you do with that? If that friend comes to you and seeks reconciliation with you, do you hold that betrayal over her head and cut her off for life?
The truth is yes, sometimes that does happen in relationships. However, you’ve heard the sage adage that refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and then waiting for that other person to die. Forgiving the one who has hurt you is for YOU. How much more then, should you consider how to forgive yourself – your body – for the pain, the failure, and the disappointment of your miscarriage or early pregnancy loss?
Don’t get us wrong – we would NEVER say that it’s easy to “just forgive yourself.” But we are saying it is healthier for you. You deserve the gift of that forgiveness. You deserve to pursue your healthiest self. While your body is recovering from this devastating physical loss, you can work on your emotional and mental recovery.
How Do You Forgive Yourself After a Miscarriage?
Self-forgiveness looks different for everyone. Sometimes all it takes is a conscious choice to name it and move on from it. Other times, it’s going to require some deeper digging to get through it. Whatever you need to forgive your body and find a path forward, you should go for it.
1. Try Positive Self-Talk
One step that might be helpful toward self-forgiveness is coming up with a mantra. Healthy self-talk is a powerful tool for adjusting your heart and mind toward wellness. Whatever positive language you can give yourself, do it and keep doing it until you can find peace over the pain.
Amanda told us about the self-talk that worked for her recently,
…recognizing that I’m not alone and this happens to a lot of people makes me feel less like my body is at fault and more like it’s a super unfair thing that happened. I’m allowed to be sad and angry about it but I also have to accept what’s done is done and focus on the future.
2. Be Grateful
Another kind of self-talk you might find helpful in forgiving yourself is gratitude. You’ve probably heard of gratitude journals – it’s a writing exercise to list the things for which you are grateful. You can say or write something like, “I forgive my body, and am thankful for all that it CAN do well right now.” As you practice, you can be more specific and intentional in your gratitude.
3. Find Your Village
The third support for your self-forgiveness process is finding a community of other women who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy or an early born baby. The experiences of shared grief can forge strong connections that will sustain you when the pain hits hard. These relationships can also buffer you against the temptation to hide away with your grief and anger. Isolation is a normal response – and not entirely wrong in a measure, and for a season. Having the safety net of others who can draw you out again will keep you moving forward.
Many women find that a combination of in-person connection and online groups work well for them. You cannot beat the benefit of a face-to-face with a friend or two over coffee or dessert. But there’s also something to be said for the easy access of an online support group – day or night or whenever the grief sneaks up on you.
4. Seek a Professional
If you find yourself in the grip of unforgiveness and betrayal and you just cannot break free, remember that help is available. Seek a therapist or counselor who has experience in miscarriage, grief counseling, or infertility care. Your “village” can be an excellent resource in helping you find a therapist who is a good fit. Your local infertility clinic might also have leads on local-to-you counselors with whom you can talk.
Forgiveness Is A Gift You Give Yourself
Again, it’s not easy but choosing to forgive yourself – even when it takes time and sometimes painful effort – is a gift only you can give yourself. You deserve to find healing and peace from the disappointment and grief of miscarriage or early pregnancy loss. Regardless of the next steps in your plan to build a family, you will never regret the time invested in forgiving yourself.
Image Credits: Nenad Stojkovic; Katie Tegtmeyer; JimileeK