Sara shares her story: Terminating my first pregnancy early in the second trimester was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. As a human, I know there will be many more people and things to grieve, yet our society isn’t exactly set up to support those going through loss. Grief is non-linear and can pop up at any time, yet as time goes on, other things start to exist alongside it, as Cherie Altea beautifully illustrated in the image below:
I wish I could list off “5 hacks for getting over loss”, but that’s not how this works. Instead, I’ll share a few things that helped, if only just a little, alongside the support of family and friends:
Finding Community: In my case, community came in the form of a loss support group filled with parents who had miscarriages, terminated pregnancies or infant loss. Talking about what happened and hearing the stories of others provided a deep sense of not being alone. Many different kinds of support groups exist, from H.A.N.D. (which I attended) to those run by Hospice (with different groups to support people experiencing different kinds of loss). If a support group intimidates you, try to go even just once. It will be hard, but it likely could be just what you need. If it still sounds like a bad idea, try to connect with someone who has suffered a loss like yours.
Connecting to your purpose: At the time of my loss, I was working in the hospital as a physical therapist treating patients who had suffered neurologic injuries (think strokes, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, etc.), along with helping to put on She.Is.Beautiful. I started working with two young patients who had both suffered spinal cord injuries and I was able to channel some of my grief into energy that made sure they received the best care possible. I was also able to do the same thing while planning an upcoming race with She.Is.Beautiful, connecting to the stories of participants and harnessing the energy of what the race meant to them. This all came obviously after A LOT of time off, taking care of no one except myself. Try to think about one thing you do well (whether that be an element of your job, caring for your children, listening to your friends, etc.) and focus on doing more of THAT. Monitor how this might even take 1% of your pain away, even just for a small moment.
Moving my body: I ran before I was physically ready because my mind needed the escape. Even when I was physically recovered, I would cry to the point of having to stop a various points mid run. Yet as time went on, running gave me a sense of control that I was lacking in other parts of my life. It gave me the space where my feelings could literally boil up and then move out of my body. Getting my heart rate up and sweating allowed me a place to really get mad and take those feelings out on a hill (rather than on a loved one, which I also did plenty). In my case, it also provided the first chance to make peace with my body, which in some way I felt had failed me. Movement will come in different forms and levels of effort for everyone. Focus on doing something that feels GOOD and enjoyable to some degree. This might mean gentle walking or going to a yoga class. Regardless, expect feelings of grief to surface when you are exercising and welcome the chance to feel them on a deeper level.
While these are all great places to start, individualized counseling with a therapist focusing on loss can be a massive help. Please remember that you are loved and to stop judging yourself for grieving “the wrong way”, because there isn’t one.