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But What If It Works?

This blog is being reposted by the author, Dr. Julie Bindeman. It was originally posted to Pregnancy After Loss Support in November 2017. 

So much of a pregnancy after loss is spent with the all consuming thought: what if it doesn’t work this time too? That thought can linger in the recesses of a person’s mind and grow louder. It tends to crescendo right before a sonogram or a doctor’s appointment, and then fades dramatically once there is confirmation that things are fine. The days, weeks and months of a pregnancy after loss are spent in this pattern.

Sometimes, during a quiet moment when the thought about another bad outcome has lessened, a new thought emerges. One that can also inspire an equal amount of panic in a pregnant person: “What if this works?” Bracing yourself for a bad outcome, the idea that a good one might occur seems almost comical. Of course, it is the hope for the pregnancy that it works. Those who haven’t suffered a loss might be baffled at this kind of thinking—“You had bad luck before—of course it will work!” they might say.

Suddenly, a second cycle begins: what if this doesn’t work and what if it does begin to circle around one another as if dancing. They bring fear and hope, and certainly anxiety. It’s hard to get lost in the thought about what if it works—in the past, when that has happened, and it didn’t work, you felt crushed. You are protecting yourself with the expectation that it might not work, but with the glimmer of hope that it does. Even as the pregnancy progresses, it can take some time to wrap your mind around the idea that ‘this is working’.

Starting to slowly plan for a baby might emerge as your thought process. The cycle might continue, as if a superstitious thought about something good happening might bring on a heartbreaking outcome. Balancing this cycle, allowing yourself to be in the place of good, can be important. Finding that space and balance of each part of the cycle, and perhaps introducing a third part: silence. Now might be a useful time to start a meditation practice or a yoga practice, where silence can be cultivated. Because what if it works?

Grieving during the “Happiest Time of the Year”

There is no good time or easier time to grieve. The first year is especially hard as new “firsts” are being lived through-such as birthdays, anniversaries, and of course holidays. There is a supposition that the first year is the most awful for grief, and to an extent, this can be true. However, no one truly “gets over” a death of a person they loved. They might incorporate that loss into their daily life and construct a new normal, but this is different from “moving on”.

 

Holidays are the time of the year that bring up the memory of the person we lost. How could they not when traditions were formed or carried out with this person in our midst.  The ways in which we celebrate inherently brings to mind remembrances, which can be both comforting and painful—sometimes simultaneously. Given that not everyone can opt out of the holidays (they seem to occur around us even if we aren’t taking party), here are some ideas to make this season just a tiny bit easier.

 

  1. Make plans. Your plans don’t have to be elaborate or follow past traditions. Being alone when everyone else is with family or friends can feel even more isolating.
  2. Share memories. Talk about who you miss and what you miss about him or her during this time of year. Share memories with others that knew this person or let someone who didn’t know what they were missing.
  3. Set time aside. There can be a give and take when it comes to occupying yourself. Total isolation is not the goal, but taking some time for yourself can be helpful.
  4. Self care. This is essential throughout the entire year. Continue practices of relaxation, meditation, exercise—even though you might not feel like it.
  5. Don’t apologize. Grief is a normal part of the human experience. Don’t feel you need to apologize for tears, should they come through.

 

What do you need to manage the holidays while grieving?