Last week, I blogged on the importance of grieving in community with others, and how there’s far greater healing to be found in sharing your pain with others than alone. If you missed it, you can find it here.
So today I thought I’d get a bit more practical & share a few of the ways that I have intentionally tried to seek out healing through community:
1. Blogging about my story.
It’s not the easiest thing to lay your pain bare for anyone who wants to read about it on a blog. But I’ve done it mainly because I’m a writer, and I tend to write best when I write honestly, from the heart, and about whatever I know. And right now, this is what I know.
And even though I never really began writing about miscarriage and infertility with any other intention than to process my own feelings about it, as I have shared my story freely and openly with others, I’ve found that it’s opened up so many healing conversations with other women in my life who have been through something similar.
2. Sharing update posts on social media.
A lot of people have said that they thought it was very brave when we shared news of our pregnancies so widely on social media. But honestly, at the time it an act of self protection as much as braveness. Because a large part of our rationale for doing this was that we felt like we’d rather share the story once with everyone, than endure endless awkward drip drip conversations with various people about it over the following months…
3. Joining online support groups & communities.
If choosing that level of openness on social media feels too far out of your comfort zone, why not consider searching out some closed support miscarriage or infertility support groups on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram instead?
There are lots of them around, and they can be really helpful in terms of getting help to thrash through some of the endless questions that swim around your mind, like ‘Is this normal?’ or ‘How long does that go on for’ in an online community – but with semi-anonymity.
4. Sharing what you are going through with close friends.
It’s completely understandable to not want to tell everyone you know about your personal struggles, but at least sharing the full reality of your loss and grief with some selected good friends and/or family members can really help.
In my experience, most people will be more than happy to listen if/when you want to talk about things, and just happy to be there as company when you don’t…
Ans honestly, our decision to be open about pregnancy losses as a couple has turned out to be such a blessing to us both.
In the immediate aftermath of our news, there were close friends who offered to look after our son Ben for a few hours when I had hospital appointments, or bring us round a meal.
Friends who fed and bathed and let our son stay with them, so that Andy could stay with me in the hospital.
Friends who turned up on my doorstep, whether I agreed to it or not (!), loaded with wine, chocolate, flowers, books and magazines in varying combos!
And friends who just texted on a daily basis, to check that we were doing okay.
5. Being open with work colleagues.
Chances are you probably won’t want to tell everyone in your workplace about your loss either. I certainly didn’t!
But the fact is that it does help to at least confide in an immediate manager and/or a couple of trusted colleagues for several reasons. Not only are you likely to need some time off initially to aid your physical recovery, you may also need further follow up appointments in the days and weeks after too. So if only for HR purposes, it might be easier to get some flexibility from your employer if you are honest about the reason for your absence from the outset.
For many women, returning to work after a pregnancy loss can be a hard adjustment too, and chances are you may not feel completely emotionally over everything when you do. Often miscarriage can affect a woman’s body image, mood and general confidence levels in the weeks that follow too, so having colleagues who will look out for you and/or cover for you if you need some time out can really help.
6. Considering talking to a counsellor.
It can be really hard to know how to process grief after a miscarriage loss in a healthy way. On the one hand, it can be tempting to want to sweep the whole thing under the carpet and move on too fast, but you don’t want to become too emotionally stuck on your loss either.
What is normal? What is healthy? What does grieving well look like? And how can you support one another as a couple when you’re both emotionally in different places? For us, talking to a professional counsellor as a couple has been one of the most useful tools that we have found.
7. Getting spiritual support in a small group setting.
For me, another place of healing has been in attending my small group at church – a community of eight women, who meet together every couple of weeks to chat, share about what’s going on in our lives and pray.
And honestly, I feel so lucky to have this group of women around me, all of whom I count as close friends. Over the years we have supported one another through life’s various ups and downs from engagements and marriages, to break ups and divorces, sick kids, career changes, cancer diagnoses and lots more besides…
So naturally, they have been alongside me at every stage of our fertility journey too; celebrating with me when I’ve celebrated, but also sitting with me in my pain when all I could do was just turn up & cry…
Most of all, they’ve supported us with their prayers continually, even when we didn’t have any more prayers left to pray ourselves. And that kind of spiritual support is sooooo worth making yourself vulnerable for.
And if you don’t attend any kind of church or spiritual community, there’s lots of other support groups you could consider attending too.
8. Deciding not to swerve all the mums group and social gatherings.
It can also be so tempting to just decide to swerve all playgroups, play dates, baby showers, kids parties, sunday-school groups and social outings with other mums for a few months in the aftermath of repeated pregnancy loss.
And I absolutely get that feeling. Who wants to sit with other mums and their ‘exactly how I planned it’ families or hear about new baby announcements or listen to other mums moaning about how hard it is juggling all their kids. Or look at kids the same age as the ones you should have had but lost. It really sucks, especially when your pain is still raw.
But even when it feels difficult and everything in me wants to avoid every situation that presses on my pain, I have chosen to stay engaged with these friendships as much as possible. Why? Because I know that avoidance is not really a long-term solution for healing and becoming whole again.
And besides, if you already have an energetic four year old like us, you will find that there’s rarely much of a choice…
But be kind to yourself as well.
But even though I have said all of the above, I want to add that there is also space for grace. So be kind to yourself as well – especially if you’re having a bad day.
Sometimes you don’t have to go to that party or gathering. Sometimes you can choose to just stay at home. If going is more than you can cope with right now, then that’s the very best decision you can make today.
Because sometimes the kindest, most healing thing thing you can possibly do is to just let yourself off the hook, and try again when you feel more ready. Healing is definitely a gradual process, and it’s not always a linear thing, so just take it one day at a time.