Making Sense of Your Thoughts After Pregnancy Loss
Maybe the loss of your pregnancy-your baby-is new. The hurt is fresh. You can’t stop thinking about what went wrong. You try to stop worrying. To stay in the moment. You can’t. Your thoughts race. What if you try to become pregnant again, and succeed? That could mean you might lose the pregnancy-the baby-again.
The words “don’t be afraid” might roll off a well-meaning person’s lips with the intention of trying to make you feel better. You might even say them to yourself. But when you do you find yourself back in an anxious state. Now what?
First: the two extremes
There is a term circulating these days called “toxic positivity.” Kim wrote about that here. I want to look at positivity, toxic or otherwise, as a reaction to fear. I have noticed that people bounce between these two states after the adrenalin rush of trauma ebbs. I think the backlash about toxic positivity is our realization that extremes are not the answer to healing hurt and pain.
When you are in a worried state the only thing to do is honor it. You honor your worry by examining it and your reaction to it rather than shaming it into submission. You take it seriously. You lift it up to the light.
This is different than reacting to feelings or taking action in hopes that a feeling will go away.
For you to try: Identify two extremes you’ve pivoted between? Write them down.
Second: the tension point where feelings intersect
Carl Jung explored a way of looking at one’s life and feelings through something he called “holding the tension of the opposites.” In simplest terms, this means feeling the opposite forces at work within us simultaneously. There is tension when you feel two things that are in contrast with each other. Same goes for opposing thoughts or beliefs.
They all need space to consciously co-exist. Inside you.
You do this by exploring what these different and opposing forces mean to you personally. By taking them seriously. By tolerating the tension of their opposite-ness, you become more aware and conscious. How they relate to your loss matters. The feelings make more sense and the need to “get over” them lessens.
This is what is meant by integration.
For you to try: Write down two (or more) contradictory emotions that might be vying for your attention. Journal about them. Write to them. “ Dear Anxiety, I want you to know that…” is a good opener. Give them a platform to be heard, acknowledged and considered inside you. We sometimes act on emotions in hopes of banishing the hard feelings. It doesn’t usually work. Commune with them instead.
Third: Ruminate on purpose (it actually has a purpose)
Researchers have found thatrumination may be helpful at a time like this. A 2020 study published in Psychological Trauma, showed that rumination plays a part in the adjustment to traumatic events, namely the end of pregnancy. According to researchers: “Evidence suggests that deliberate rumination predicts posttraumatic growth.”
Deliberate rumination is different than obsessing. It is thinking about something on purpose, letting yourself linger over it and in it.
It is a type of mindfulness.
For you to try: Take a thought or worry that intrudes on you regularly. Now, think about how your loss has changed you. How it has impacted your views, your life, you. How has it deepened you? Made you more aware of your own suffering and the suffering of others? There is value to understanding the meaning of your pain. Explore these points as they arise or as you become aware of them.
A few takeaways to consider:
- Ping-ponging between extremes is part of the grief process, particularly early on.
- Competing feelings live inside all of us-all the time. They co-exist within already. Your loss has activated them.
- Telling yourself to “stop worrying” is not necessary. It dismisses the value of a process you need to travel to find meaning in your loss.
It may seem like a lot, but this is so much better that trying to “think positive” anyway.
This post was written by Meredith Resnick.