Miscarriage is incredibly difficult. Grieving the loss can feel like being stuck in an abyss of sadness that is swallowing you whole. As we begin to emerge from this pit of heartache, it can be hard to fathom the idea of trying to conceive again. How do I muster up the courage to be vulnerable to my fears and the possibility of perhaps another loss?
Back when I lost my twin pregnancy at 17 weeks, the idea of trying again felt impossible in those first few months after our loss. Eventually, with the passage of time and the three-step process I offer you below, I was able to take that next step in our fertility journey: I chose to pivot from IVF to international adoption.
I learned that courage and resilience never leave us, no matter how lost we might feel. Rather, they get dimmed by unfortunate events that occur in our lives. But hope is possible.
Here’s how to cope with trying to conceive after miscarriage, so you can tune into your inner self and find the courage to move forward.
1. Grieve your loss
Every loss, whether it is a negative pregnancy test, an unsuccessful assisted reproductive technology (ART) cycle, or the loss of a pregnancy is a loss that needs to be grieved in a way that suits your individual needs. In all of these instances, you are grieving the loss of your expectations, hopes and dreams, in addition to the unborn child. There isn’t a magic formula for how long and in what way someone should grieve. It is an individual process that you need to honor for yourself.
One of the main keys when dealing with grief is to take the time to fully grieve rather than suppressing your emotions. It can be extremely scary to face your emotions, especially the immense sadness brought on by grief. However, the catharsis that comes from this true expression will give you the freedom and permission to heal, and to eventually move on to the next step.
If the thought of facing your grief alone is too overwhelming, seek help from your partner, family or friends, as well as reaching out to a therapist on a digital therapy platform. It can be extremely helpful to know that you are not alone and have support.
2. Pause and reflect
After grieving your loss, take some additional time to pause and reflect on your needs and your next steps. Often when we grieve, we only address the immediate emotions of the loss and perhaps begin again before we are fully ready. Take some time before you start trying to conceive again to focus on your physical and emotional needs. Reflect upon what you need to fill your bucket and take those necessary steps to feel energized, nourished and ready to start again.
In addition, this pause and reflection can be applied throughout your fertility journey; sometimes a pause to reassess your path can be helpful. Many of my fertility-mindfulness clients (myself included) continued along the same path without taking the time for periodic reevaluations. Sometimes the overwhelming desire to have a baby makes it hard to take stock of our situation or ask the right questions of ourselves: Is this still working for me? Can I keep doing this or do I need to make a change?
This time that you have after a loss and before you begin trying to conceive again can be a time to consider what your next steps might be based on several factors: your mental, emotional and physical well-being, financial costs, your age, your willingness to continue along the same path versus trying a different route, and many other considerations.
3. Stay present
After taking the time to fully grieve your loss, and then to pause and reflect, you’ll know in your heart when you are ready to start trying to have a child again (if that is what you choose). As you take the next steps in your fertility journey, it is important to try to stay present rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about all the what-ifs of the future. Staying present will help you take it one step at a time, rather than trying to see the whole picture at once, which can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
One way to stay present during your fertility journey is to practice mindfulness techniques. Some examples of mindfulness techniques include:
- Breathing exercises (Try the box breath: Breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, and hold your breath for four seconds. Repeat this cycle a few times until you feel calmer and more present. The best part about this technique is that you can do it anywhere—while you wait in the doctor’s office or while you are getting your blood drawn—and you’ll immediately feel more relaxed.)
- Cultivating gratitude
- Repeating affirmations or words of support
- Practicing meditation
Each of these techniques will help ground you in the present moment and tune into your inner calm.
When we face unthinkable loss, it can feel like we will never have the strength to move on. Remember that it is OK to grieve your loss in your way and at your own pace. After you take the steps laid out above, you will rekindle your inner strength and find the courage and clarity to start again on your own terms.
A version of this story was originally published on Sept. 23, 2020. It has been updated.