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The Unexpected Grief Triggers I Encountered After My Pregnancy Loss

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January 26, 2017. A day that will live in my memories forever because it’s the day I lost what would have been my third child. I woke up that morning and knew something was wrong, but it took several days of blood work and ultrasounds to confirm what I already knew in my heart — I had a miscarriage.

Although I knew losing a baby would be emotional, I don’t think I realized just how many triggers I would encounter in the months that followed my pregnancy loss.

At first, the biggest trigger for me was simply talking about the miscarriage. The words of comfort, terms like “natural abortion,” and questions about whether my then-husband and I would “try again” were overwhelming to say the least. It got to the point where I avoided coworkers in the hallway and refused to talk to family members about pregnancy or future plans.

In the months that followed, all of the baby items we saved from our second child’s birth became another strong trigger. Every time I opened the closet where we stored our child’s clothes and toys, heavy emotions consumed me. I felt angry, heartbroken, and confused. My brain just couldn’t make sense of the situation, so I decided to sell and donate all of our baby items just to get them out of sight.

As fall approached, more triggers appeared. Returning to my teaching job after having the summer off meant I could no longer hide my grief from the world. Each passing day brought me closer to the due date for the child I lost — a date only I seemed to care about.

Avoiding my grief was no longer working. The painful emotions of my unprocessed grief consumed me. I felt completely alone. Antidepressants weren’t helping me either. Finding a therapist who took my insurance and had an opening was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Out of desperation, I reached for the only coping skills I knew of — all of which were unhealthy. I was drowning in my own sadness, shame, and loneliness. I didn’t see a way out.

Finally, my then-husband made a decision that maybe shouldn’t have bothered me but still did: He decided to get a vasectomy.

Although his decision made sense, I was not in the right emotional place to cope. I saw this decision as closing a door on a chapter of my life I wasn’t ready to give up. I soon realized that I needed more than some pills and a therapist who mostly specialized in depression and generalized anxiety.

I needed legitimate help if I wanted to live.

I am now five-and-a-half years removed from the loss of my third child, and my life looks very different. I have spent a lot of time in therapy and learned countless coping skills to help me deal with my emotions and reduce their power over me. I’ve also learned to let go of the blame I placed on myself for the loss of my child — a loss that was ultimately out of my control.

The child I lost still holds a special place in my heart. However, I can now talk about the miscarriage without feeling overwhelmed with sadness and pain. I can buy baby clothes for friends, look at ultrasounds, and enjoy baby showers for my loved ones. In fact, I can even discuss the possibility of future children with my current partner without feeling “selfish” or worrying that I am “cursed” in some way.

I personally feel like pregnancy loss is one of the most difficult types of grief to deal with. It’s not discussed enough, which means many people who are experiencing it may feel completely alone. If you’re dealing with this type of grief now, know that it’s OK to feel sad, angry, confused, or overwhelmed. It’s OK if it takes you months or even years to make peace with your loss. There’s no timeline for grief. Take all the time you need to grieve the loss you experienced.

Getty image by Oliver Helbig.

Originally published: August 27, 2022
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