I CAN’T get over my grief – tips for coping after a miscarriage or failed IVF cycle

After each of my miscarriages I felt profoundly lost and went searching for tips for coping after miscarriage like it was my job. Of course, I was also heartbroken and devastated, but what felt the hardest was not knowing how I would ever move past these feelings.

I’d ask myself. How would I ever feel okay again? I’d never seen anyone grieving after a miscarriage. What does ‘coping’ even look like? This type of grief is invisible in our society, so there was no obvious path for me to follow.

Unlike other losses where you have memories to hold on to and a funeral to say goodbye; a miscarriage or failed IVF cycle is so much more ambiguous. Because of this ambiguity, coping after miscarriage or failed IVF cycle can feel impossible and overwhelming.

coping after miscarriage

Why ambiguity makes coping after miscarriage or failed IVF cycle even harder.

Pauline Boss, PhD who specialises in ambiguous loss, says that the nature of this type of loss is less clear-cut, and that’s why it’s often the most stressful type of grief to deal with. There is often no burial. No support is offered by loved ones. For many women their miscarriage is never spoken of again by others. For all of these reasons a miscarriage or failed IVF cycle is often a very confusing, lonely and all-consuming loss to deal with.

It is the ambiguity of this type of loss that makes dealing with this grief so hard. Too many of the women that I work with in 1:1 sessions try to lessen their pain by downplaying their loss. They’ll tell me: “I was only 6 weeks” or “It was only a failed cycle, it’s not like I lost an actual baby”.

To which I call bullshit (lovingly of course – because I too have said these same words).

While they may say this, at the heart of it they are in an immense amount of pain over their loss and
don’t know how to feel about the intensity of their grief. We grieve a miscarriage or failed IVF cycle in the same way you grieve the loss of a loved one who has lived for many years, but dealing with the grief of this type of ambiguous loss is often an invisible and lonely process.

Tips for coping after a miscarriage or failed IVF cycle

Know that your loss is valid

Given that you may not have told anyone about your pregnancy, or that you were undergoing IVF; your friends and family might not even have the opportunity to recognise your loss. Or if you had shared the news, many people just won’t know what to say and will respond by giving you space to grieve, which ends up just feeling lonely.

I want you to know that regardless of the response of others around you, what you’re going through is real and worthy of grief. Only the person who has experienced the loss gets to decide if their pain is significant of not.

I hope just by knowing about the ambiguity of your loss and naming it as such, can help you to make
sense of why you’re struggling with these feelings so much.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel and respond to grief

A lot of our suffering around grief and coping after miscarriage is often wrapped up in feeling like ‘you’re doing it wrong’, or ‘they aren’t feeling it enough.’ I know I felt this way after each of my losses. I struggled to understand why I was still so devastated, while my husband was seemingly unaffected and continuing on with his life as normal.

But just as it would be unfair to criticise how I was experiencing and coping with grief, it is also unfair to do the same to others. I think it’s important to remember that their grief doesn’t have to look the same as yours to be felt as deeply. Nor does your grief have to end after a certain period of time. Let grief be what it needs to be.

Let go of the idea of needing to find ‘closure’

When it comes to grief there is no point in time or anything you can do to signify the end of your feelings about not having this baby in your arms. I know it’s hard to hear but you will likely always feel this ache in your heart.

I found knowing this to be helpful though. If we can let go of the idea of needing to resolve or end our feelings, we can instead focus our energy on learning how to co-exist with them.

It’s now been 7 years since my first loss and 3 years since my last. I no longer feel the suffocating
feelings of grief about losing my babies, but the ache is still there. I have gotten better at containing
that emotion; giving it time to breathe and be felt when I need to, and allowing it to wash over me
at other times.

Don’t isolate yourself

I know it feels tempting to lock yourself away until you feel better, but isolation often makes grief feel more intense. I’m not saying you have to spend time with others talking about your loss (although that can be helpful too), but it is healing to stay connected with others around you.

Stay involved in those activities you enjoyed before your miscarriage or failed IVF cycle. Or start a new hobby when you feel up to it. After my first loss I avoided going back to my beloved yoga classes for a long time. I know why. It felt too painful. Too raw to sit in those spaces with people who knew about my pain.

But eventually I did go back and the experience was profoundly healing. We didn’t talk about my loss (because what is there to say) but the love I felt from that community was everything. Human connection really is one of the greatest healers.

Find something to feel hopeful about.

You might find yourself struggling to understand why you’re going through this loss. I know that thought spun round and round in my head many times after each of my losses. “Why me. Why me? Why ME?!” Let me tell you though, those thoughts don’t get you anywhere. Certainly not any closer to feeling like you’re coping after miscarriage anyway.

What did help though was finding new things to feel hopeful about. I wrote myself a happy list of things I would do for no other reason than to make myself feel good. The list contained small things I could tick off in an afternoon, as well as longer projects I felt excited to get started on. Working through this list gave me a sense of purpose and a small glimmer of hope on some of my darkest days.

    If you’re currently struggling with feelings of grief after a miscarriage or failed IVF cycle, I would
    encourage you to write your own version of a happy list. This doesn’t mean that you’re denying your
    feelings of grief or forgetting about them.

    Instead it’s about finding a new way to hold both truths inside us at the same time. We are devastatingly sad about our loss AND we are also hopeful for what the future may hold.

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