What To Do When It’s Hard To Be Happy After Loss

What To Do When It's Hard To Be Happy After Loss

The experience of losing a baby is different for everyone.

You may be going through your first miscarriage or have lost a baby at birth. What your loss means to you and how you feel about it is determined by so many factors, and not all of your feelings will make sense to you.

Your grief comes from having lost a person before you knew them, and a relationship that ended before it really began. This grief is very different to that felt after the loss of someone you had known well, like a grandparent.

Other people around you, including your partner, may be unsure how to help you deal with your emotions, especially if you are affected by seeing or hearing about pregnancy and new babies.

Almost every woman who has experienced pregnancy loss or stillbirth finds it hard to feel happy when they hear of another woman falling pregnant or having a new baby. You may be overwhelmed with jealousy and anger, and the intensity of these emotions can be shocking.

If someone close to you, such as your best friend or sister, announces they are pregnant, it can be hard to put on a happy face. While no one person deals with their feelings of jealousy the same way, these suggestions may help you to get through this stage of your grief.

Awareness Of Your Feelings

“I was jealous of younger women who were pregnant ‘before’ me.” — Cassandra

Being jealous of another woman’s pregnancy or baby doesn’t mean you wish she wasn’t pregnant or holding her newborn. It doesn’t mean you wish they weren’t happy or excited about this new person coming into their life.

Being jealous means you wish you were pregnant or holding your own baby. It’s very normal for you to feel sick, upset or even angry upon hearing someone is pregnant. It’s a reminder of your own loss. It doesn’t make you a bad person to have these feelings.

Being aware of your feelings goes a long way to helping you find ways to cope with them. Expressing or even feeling jealousy and anger towards other people isn’t seen as a socially acceptable thing to do, even if you’ve experienced a terrible loss. Looking after yourself and allowing those emotions to be experienced helps you to move past them when the time is right.

Accessing counseling with someone who specialises in grief may be helpful. You might want to join a support group of other women who have experienced pregnancy loss. Often being in the presence of others who ‘get it’ will help you to see your feelings are normal.

Be Honest

“I got really upset when others got pregnant, especially when they didn’t “try” and it was “an accident”. — Erin

People who are suffering from cancer are allowed to talk about how they feel and how their experience has changed them. We empathise with a person in a wheelchair when they express a desire to walk again. Women who have experienced pregnancy loss tend to feel they can’t be honest with how black their emotions are, in case it upsets their pregnant friend.

Often talking to people about how you feel in an honest way can help them to understand why you don’t seem to be happy they are pregnant. Opening up can help them to see you are happy they are having their baby, but it reminds you that you aren’t having yours.

Avoidance As Needed

“I felt like everyone around me was pregnant. At the park, the supermarket, work, my friends. I took it very personally.” — Bec

It can seem like the world is suddenly full of pregnant women and newborns when you have suffered your own loss.

If staying away from a pregnant friend or relative is what you need to do, then do it – especially if your loss is very recent.

Everyone has a different trigger point.

Some women can handle seeing friends who have already had their babies. Others might be very sensitive to those who are due at the same time their own baby was due to be born. You may feel able to catch up on the phone or via email but not in person.

Many women find seeing new babies very hard, and choose not to visit the new addition in their friend’s family after the birth.

It’s usually better to tell your friend or relative (or have your partner talk to them) that you need time and space to adjust and to come to terms with the news. It will get easier with time, but with honesty, you may be able to avoid major triggers until you are ready.

Baby Related Events

“I could not look at photos of other people’s babies. I didn’t go see my nephew when he was born. It hurt too much.” — Kellie

It’s common for women to have a baby shower when they are getting close to their due date. This can be a very difficult event to attend, and it might be easier to avoid all of them, except those who are closest to you.

If you think you are likely to be upset by your sister’s baby shower, you might suggest that you do something special with her one on one, rather than spending the afternoon surrounded by baby gifts and games that focus on birth.

You might be invited to a first birthday for your friend’s baby. There’s likely to be lots of little kids and people you don’t know (and don’t know your story). Conversations that start with “how many children do you have?” or even “are you planning on babies?” can really set you off.

It can be easier to take the step of seeing pregnant friends and meeting new babies one on one rather than in big groups.

Being Happy

“Triggers happen. It’s not that I wasn’t happy for others, it was more that I was reminded again of my own circumstances.” — Genie

For some women, having a close friend or loved one who pregnant is the best healer. They are excited and happy and you can remember exactly how that feels, and want them to have the joy of being pregnant and preparing to meet their new baby.

Being positive about other people’s pregnancies can seem impossible to some. Women who have experienced pregnancy loss would not wish anyone to go through the same pain and grief. Remembering the happiness and excitement you felt when you discovered you were pregnant will not make the pain of your loss disappear, but it can make it easier to focus on the blessing that your friend’s pregnancy is for her.

Trying to force yourself to feel something that you don’t doesn’t help you or anyone around you. If you are overwhelmed by intense emotions following a pregnancy loss, seek support from an understanding doctor, midwife or an organisation that deals with this special kind of grief.

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Sam McCulloch enjoyed talking so much about birth she decided to become a birth educator and doula, supporting parents in making informed choices about their birth experience. In her spare time she writes novels. She is mother to three beautiful little humans.

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