Written by: Crista Glover, PhD, LPC
While many people are getting into the holiday spirit, celebrating is the last thing on a woman’s mind if she has recently miscarried. This type of grief feels especially palpable during the holiday season because women often have internal timelines that they would have shared the news by this time or possibly even delivered by that time. Pregnancy loss, while not as openly discussed as other losses, is very real and painful. If you are a woman recovering from this pain, here are ten rights you have as outlined by Dr. Alan Wolfelt in “Mourner’s Bill of Rights.”
1. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPERIENCE YOUR OWN UNIQUE GRIEF. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no right or wrong way to feel. The experience of pregnancy loss is unique, so be okay if your grief process is unique as well.
2. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR GRIEF. Even though many are silent around pregnancy loss, consider sharing your loss with safe, trusted others. Giving voice to your story is an essential step in healing.
3. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL A MULTITUDE OF EMOTIONS. Recognize that grief is more than sadness. It can also be anger, confusion, anxiety and other emotions. Feel them all without judgment.
4. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE TOLERANT OF YOUR PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL LIMITS. Not only does your soul need healing after pregnancy loss; so does your body. Give yourself grace and recovery time. You might not feel 100% for a while.
5. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPERIENCE GRIEF “ATTACKS”. Understand that grief is cyclical. You are okay until you are not. You are coping until the pain comes rushing back. Realize this is a normal part of the recovery process.
6. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE USE OF RITUAL. Get creative in how you memorialize your loss. Light a candle. Start a garden. Do whatever you need to do to honor that the life you once had is gone now, but will always matter.
7. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EMBRACE YOUR SPIRITUALITY. The basic belief in a higher power or universal design comforts many people in the face of suffering. Clarify what beliefs are helpful and healing to you and make room for spirituality as you define it.
8. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SEARCH FOR MEANING. It is normal to ask, “Why did this happen?” It is okay to question. Don’t ever feel as though you must blindly accept bad experiences as “God’s will.” Questioning leads to meaning, so be okay with journeying through the unknown.
9. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO TREASURE YOUR MEMORIES. You are allowed to cherish the memories you had throughout pregnancy. You are also allowed to mourn the memories that were never created. Chances are you had hopes for your imagined future. Make space to mourn what never was as well.
10. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO MOVE TOWARD YOUR GRIEF AND HEAL. Finally, recognize that grief is a process, not an event. There is no set timeline for moving on. Some things in life you never “get over.” Be patient with yourself and find patient support people to help you process all that has happened to you.
The holiday season is marked by joy and hope, both of which are in short supply when you are coping with pregnancy loss. If this is what you are facing right now, know that you are not alone. People care and help is available. Try not to hurry up to be happy for the holidays. Instead, remember you have a right to mourn. When you give yourself the time and space to mourn fully, that is what allows you to eventually heal.