Pregnancy loss, no matter what stage of your pregnancy you were in, may bring about an overwhelming wave of emotions and grief. You may be struggling to acknowledge the reality of your loss, you may be angry at yourself, angry at your body, or angry at the universe. Following your loss, you may be ruminating over what you could’ve done or should’ve done differently to prevent the loss. You might also be experiencing much sadness and isolation, and maybe at times, you feel you’ve learned to accept this experience and its impact, only to feel these wave of emotions all over again. The fear settles in when you think of trying to conceive again and maybe you believe if you do certain things differently this time, you won’t have to go through what you did again. I want you to know that you are not alone. You are grieving, and what you are feeling, the thoughts you may be thinking, are a common experience for the nearly 1 million women who experience pregnancy loss annually.
Here are some tools that may help you process your loss and mentally prepare for the process of conceiving again.
5 Steps to Mentally Prepare for a Pregnancy After a Loss1. Give yourself permission and the space to grieve your loss.
- Grief looks different for everyone. Some may feel it is easier to push aside the emotions of their loss in order to focus on trying to conceive again, however, unresolved grief may at times show up in other areas of your life, bringing about other challenges. Remember that it’s ok and it’s normal to feel all of the emotions you are feeling. You may journal some of these emotions and thoughts and may also find it helpful to seek additional support from a grief counselor or a mental health professional trained in pregnancy loss.
2. Identify your core belief(s) about pregnancy
- A core belief is a central idea one has about themselves, others, and the world around them. Many women believe getting pregnant and staying pregnant is easy, therefore, if they experience pregnancy loss, then, either something has to be wrong with them or they believe they did something wrong. What are your core beliefs around pregnancy and yourself? Do they shape how you view your loss and trying to conceive again? Are you viewing yourself or the state of being pregnant through a distorted and negative lens?
3. Take note of your automatic thoughts about getting pregnant again
- Automatic thoughts are thoughts that pop up in our head at any time. What automatic thoughts pop up in your head about trying again? One thought may be: “If I conceive again, I may lose this pregnancy.”
4. Reframe the negative automatic thoughts with a neutral reframe
- A reframe is a redefining of a thought, especially a negative one, with a different way of viewing a situation. An example of a reframe of the previous negative automatic thought would look like: “If I conceive again, there is a chance that my pregnancy may result in a live birth.” Reframing the original negative thought allows for another possible outcome to exist.
5. Recognize what’s within your zone of control and what’s outside of that zone.
- Take out a pen and paper, and divide the paper down in the middle. On one side, list all the things that are out of your control related to your conception journey (zone of non control). On the other side, list all the factors that are in your control related to your conception journey (zone of control.) Take a look at both lists. It is likely that all the factors in your zone of non control are actually all the elements of your journey that you are trying to control. When we focus on trying to control the things out of our control, we tend to feel helpless and hopeless and lose sight of things actually in our control. When you find yourself ruminating over the items in your zone of non control, try to address something from your zone of control, which may leave you feeling empowered in your journey.
Working through the grief and loss of a pregnancy takes time unique to each individual. When faced with distress related to trying to conceive again, know that both realities can exist: you can be both scared and hopeful. The hopeful news is that, although you may not have complete control over the process of conceiving, you have tools that you need to be able to cope with some of the emotions related to where you are at in your journey.
About the author: Folake Ike is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Certified Perinatal Mental Health (PMH-C) clinician. She operates her private practice, Peace of You Therapy Services in San Diego, CA, providing individual therapy services to women adjusting to the waves of life, or struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression.Learn more about Folake or view more of her work on her Frame profile.