It’s the time in your life when the hardest thing to do is to be selfish. Yet, that is how you might feel in terms of your emotions. The sadness, tears, heaving sobs that are unrelenting threaten to unhinge you. You yearn to stop, but you can’t. Those around you try to offer you comforting words or platitudes. Sometimes they help, but often they don’t. This is what grief can look like, particularly the soul-crushing grief of losing a pregnancy or baby.
Through this grief, you often feel alone. Friends and family don’t seem to understand that one month later, you haven’t “snapped out of it” and “moved on.” Your partner is also at a loss for words or actions that might be comforting as he embraces you for the hundredth time. Perhaps he sees the loss differently. Or maybe more time has passed and you even have another baby, yet you still feel some numbness that this new baby hasn’t been able to fully eclipse.
This is the time when you just want everything to disappear. Or you throw yourself back into your life, willing the everyday motions to undo the feelings. You want to be cared for, but all of the attempts of asking aren’t helpful. Perhaps there are a few people that get it, but you don’t want to burden them. The temporary salve they provided in just talking and listening has worn off, and reaching out seems too hard.
A compounded loss in grief is the temporary loss of your sense of self and the idea that you have a semblance of control in your life. Taking this back and reclaiming you can be important and healing through your grief journey. But how? Taking tiny steps to care for yourself. Yes, take care of yourself.
In the throes of grief, it can be difficult to even get out of bed in the morning and go through your hygiene routine. Even past this phase, doing anything pleasurable can seem like plodding through molasses. Often, grieving mothers fear that if they start to engage in life again, that somehow this means that they are forgetting the baby that died. There might be continued focus on trying to achieve a new pregnancy (from yourself or from those around you) as if this is the answer to healing. Ultimately, at the end of the day, you are your own best resource. You are your own best advocate. To do either, you need strength and perhaps the permission that it is OK to matter. It is OK to indulge. It’s OK to ask for a break and to take charge of your needs.
What might self-care look like? It can be as minimal as taking time to journal, take a bath, go on a walk, or sing. Self-care doesn’t have to cost money (as the previous examples suggest) but it’s also fine if it does. Examples might be: a manicure, massage, a weekend retreat, signing up for a class or learning a new skill.) The only limit is you. And you are the only one who is fully able to care for yourself in the way that feels best.
Dr. Julie Bindeman is a clinical psychologist specializing in reproduction and parenthood who has worked in outpatient settings, private practices, and universities, including Marymount, Johns Hopkins, and Loyola.