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Ask Dr. Zoe – How Can I Move on After Pregnancy Loss?

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‘Pregnancy Loss’ Asked:

I am currently dealing with a pregnancy loss. It is a blighted ovum and my body is just not catching up to what is happening. I am going back to the doctor to make final decisions at the end of the week. The problem is I still have pregnancy symptoms and because I haven’t physically miscarried yet, I just don’t feel like I am truly processing what is happening. To make things more complicated my husband is graduating from police academy (he has been gone for 6.5 months – only home on weekends) next week and then we may go away before he starts at his post the following week. While the distraction is helpful, it prolongs the process of moving on. How do I begin to heal and move on? How do I deal with certain family comments that are hurtful (i.e. so you were never really pregnant?, the timing was wrong anyway, etc.)?

Dr. Zoe Answered:

Pregnancy loss and infertility is a gut-wrenching experience never fully understood by those who haven’t walked that journey.

I’m not a medical doctor, but the medical community is in agreement that a pregnancy starts when a fertilized egg implants into the uterus. A blighted ovum is the result of a fertilized egg that is implanted in the uterus (7-14 days after conception), forms a sac, but for some reason (usually chromosomal issues) does not continue to develop into a baby.

Although many people disagree about when life begins, no one can intelligently question whether you were pregnant or not. You were. Stop questioning the validity of your experience. Whether you were pregnant for a day or 9 months, you lost your pregnancy and I am so very sorry. You begin to heal by first acknowledging your loss.

And you are right, your body hasn’t gotten the memo that your pregnancy isn’t viable because the implantation signaled to your body that it was. Your body happily started producing pregnancy hormones and still is. Technology gave you the window into your uterus, otherwise, you wouldn’t know either. So, in addition to your psychological grief, you have to ride out the hormone drop that will occur with your impending miscarriage. All the fluctuating feelings that might happen as a result are completely normal and expected.

You lost your pregnancy and I am so very sorry. You begin to heal by first acknowledging your loss.

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And yes, you have to grieve this loss. Sometimes the hardest part of dealing with grief is other people’s stupid, hurtful comments. No one gets to decide how upset you should be or whether it was a good time for you to be pregnant in the first place. Many people are well-meaning in their ignorance, but knowing this doesn’t always take away the hurt.

A good tip for dealing with comments is to just go ahead and expect it. When you expect people to have no idea what to say, you won’t be sidelined by the ridiculousness that comes out of their mouths. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt, while guarding your heart at the same time.

You guard your heart by knowing your truth and choosing not to be swayed by others. You guard your heart by sharing only with those who have earned your trust. You guard your heart by taking others’ words with a grain of salt.

A great way to process grief is to write about what you have lost. With any miscarriage or stillborn, you are grieving the expectation, the fantasy of what it would have been like if your child had been born and lived. It’s necessary to acknowledge and process the importance of that fantasy. Imagine what your child would have looked like, their gender and personality, etc. This is not overkill. And don’t worry, you won’t stay here.

Active grief needs to be moved through in a healthy way, as you integrate it into the tapestry of your life story. This exercise is similar to a yoga exercise where constricting a muscle very tightly and then releasing it, allows a deeper relaxing stretch than if you just attempt to release it without the constriction. Give yourself ample time to focus on your loss so that you can release it.

This is a difficult time, but you will survive it. Time does not heal all wounds, but time plus healthy processing does. You’ve got this—even though it takes a lot of grit and grace!

Read More on Grief

Read More on Grief

Check out these articles about handling loss with grace:

How to Move On From the Loss of a Dream in a Healthy Way
When Dreams Die… Grieving What Should Have Been
When Life Gives You a New Normal
What Your Grieving Friend Really Wants You to Know
Grace Is Not Weakness; It Requires Strength

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Dr. Zoe is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert who recently jumped out of a perfectly good plane just for the experience.

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