All the leaflets they give you after a miscarriage or other kind of baby loss tend to tell you sympathetic but vague things. A soup of words such as ‘profound emotional impact’, ‘bereavement period’ and ‘time to recover’ swim and muddle themselves on the page, while you’re still trying to comprehend what has happened.
Just about managing to cut its way through the white noise and static of shock and grief is a notion that this is something that will take time to heal from. But what is less clear is what this actually looks like. What exactly do you do? What do other people do?
Because these stories are still largely missing from our day-to-day lives, we don’t know what recovery looks like. We don’t yet have collectively agreed home remedies for a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, termination for medical reasons or stillbirth. These things just aren’t there in our cultural subconscious. Not in the way that ‘plenty of hot fluids’, ‘mum’s chicken soup’, ‘put your feet up’ or ‘pull up the draw-bridge’ are for the flu, twisting your ankle or giving birth.
No one sits you down and talks about these common-sense prescriptions, we just know them; they’re imprinted by a whole lifetime of seeing the people around us get viruses, snap and ping their ligaments, and bring home tiny new humans. But with pregnancy loss there is no such framework. Instead, you are left trying to conjure a cure for yourself from thin air. From silence.
I’ve written before about how to feel better after a miscarriage – you can read it here – but this was very much about the immediate aftermath. And besides, that was just what I did, that one time. What works for one person, isn’t always right for another. What I have needed has varied subtly – and not so subtly – after all four of my miscarriages.
So I thought I’d ask around for what other people did. What helped?
This post is the result of all the answers I got, which came flooding in, replying to my question in a huge, generous wave of love; a groundswell of support and a burning desire to make things better for the next round of people going through this. The responses here come from women and men, people from different countries, different sexual orientations, backgrounds, and faiths. The answers I got included big things and seemingly trivial things: from therapy to boxset recommendations. There are things that people did straightaway, in the hours immediately after, and also more long-term distractions and projects – the kind of deep work and boring self-care that we don’t always talk about as much as the sexy, quick-fix solutions.
Whoever you are, whatever the details and circumstances of your loss, I hope you find something here that helps…
75 ways to feel better after baby loss
- ‘I thought I didn’t need counselling, I thought that was admitting I wasn’t coping. But nine months after my missed miscarriage, I had to admit that I wasn’t coping, so I went to a counsellor and they’ve really helped me. Three sessions in and I feel in a slightly better headspace – they’ve helped me with my irrational thoughts, but mostly my fear around whether I’ll ever be a mother.’
- ‘Taking time off work after my miscarriage. This was a difficult one, as I didn’t really want to let on to my office that I was trying for a baby. But in the end I decided I didn’t want to lie about being “ill” and emailed my boss. I had a week off that first time and two weeks off after the second miscarriage. Although physically I was probably find to go in, it helped me get my head together. I just spent a lot of time at home, watching telly, sleeping and going for walks.’
- ‘Desert Island Discs when I need 30 minutes of not thinking about anything!’
- ‘For me it was regular counselling sessions with my husband and also sessions on my own as both were important for different reasons.’
- ‘My biggest help after losing our little girl was getting our cockerpoo puppy. He’s been the best spur of the moment decision we’ve ever made – forcing us to get out and walk, leaving the house come rain or shine, and giving us someone to love unconditionally.’
- ‘Following people on Instagram who post about baby loss’ (This answer came up a lot – if you’ve not yet ventured into the social media community, there are so many brilliant and lovely accounts to follow, too many to list them all here, but a good place to start would be: @ihadamiscarriage @feathering_the_empty_nest @thelegacyofleo @sayingthemword @thelittlebigfierce @uberbarrensclub @ruth_and_her_bear and @itsthefergusons …And me I suppose, I’m on there too: @jenniemonologues)
- ‘Sorting out all my drawers and papers and cupboards. Hanging a new painting on the wall. Finding a sense of control in a small way when you feel like you don’t have any.’
- ‘Cooking a new meal each week from one of our many cookbooks.’
- ‘Finding #babyloss hour on Twitter – often I just lurk and read what other people are saying, rather than join in the conversation, but it helps to see that there are people out there thinking and feeling the same as me’. (To find out more about this weekly Twitter chat – Tuesdays at 8pm – have a look here)
- ‘I had bereavement counselling for 8 weeks through a local children’s hospice’.
- ‘A warm bath!’
- ‘I had six weeks counselling with Cruse, which worked well until I was pregnant again, then I had counselling and went to a support group geared towards pregnancy after loss. After our second son was born, I had EMDR (eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing – a type of psychotherapy) for post-traumatic stress disorder. You can usually self-refer through the NHS’s Improving Access To Psychological Therapies system.’
- ‘I did lots of art and crafts, as a way to distract myself and process my grief’.
- ‘I tried reiki and found it helped to clear out the emotions. I have monthly sessions now.’
- ‘I surprised my partner with a holiday after her miscarriage. Planning it was a useful distraction at a time when I felt so powerless.’
- ‘When I have “moments”, I pray or read posts in online groups or from people I follow on social media.’
- ‘Being by the sea.’
- ‘We planted a shrub that comes into bloom around the time that baby would have been due. I can see it from the house when I want to sit and just reflect on things.’
- ‘Regressing to teenage boyhood and losing myself in mindless computer games was a surprisingly helpful distraction.’
- ‘Since losing our baby, I’ve really got into running and now I’m planning to run a half-marathon for Tommy’s.’ (I did this too – and it felt really powerful to focus on what my body could do for a change, when you can feel such feelings of physical failure after losing a baby. You can read more about it here and here.
- ‘Shutting myself away on the days where I couldn’t face the world and not berating myself for it.’
- ‘We went away to Cornwall for what should have been our son’s due date.’
- ‘After my first miscarriage I bought a bracelet for myself. It helped having a physical reminder to commemorate that little one when there is so little else to show.’
- ‘We went mad buying things for the house after our miscarriage, including two very impractical fluffy cream rugs that I would have told myself it was silly to buy when we were about to have a baby.’
- ‘I went to therapy for nearly a year after we lost our baby. After several months, my therapist suggested that I see a psychiatrist. I finally got some anti-depressants and that was really the turning point for me.’
- ‘Actively seeking support from trusted friends and family – but also mentally letting go of the people who did not get in contact when they knew what we were going through, having had five miscarriages.’
- ‘Sometimes you want to hide away, but other times you want to go out, be spontaneous and be with the people you love. After my second miscarriage we went for a birthday dinner with friends. I’d had surgery the previous day – I’d told some people who were going to be there and they made it clear I didn’t still have to come if I didn’t want to, but actually being surrounded by my best friends, having a gin and tonic, a bloody steak, and a laugh was the perfect distraction.’
- ‘Yoga helped me connect with my body and remember how bad ass it is!’ …‘Yoga With Adriene was very calming for me.’ (Interestingly, SO many people said yoga. I suppose it makes sense because it’s a gentle, calming form of exercise when you feel quite delicate physically).
- ‘We went for a picnic with friends straight after a scan that found I’d had a missed miscarriage. I’m not sure I’d recommend it, but I didn’t know what else to do, and there is something to be said for not being sat at home alone.’
- ‘Petals – the baby loss counselling charity – have been absolutely brilliant for us.’
- ‘Gardening. I’ve found that putting my hands in dirt is really helpful. There’s something about being connected with the earth that just frees my mind.’ (This was a surprisingly helpful thing for me too – especially as someone who could barely look after a supermarket orchid before. I wrote a post about it here, in fact).
- ‘My cat (he’s wonderful) was a huge comfort, as was getting my nails done and a trip to the hairdressers. And eating quite a lot of Haribo Tangfastics!’
- ‘Having counselling made me see that I don’t make a lot of time for myself. Now I try to make enough time for myself to just chill – even if it’s only an hour a weekof “me-time”.’
- ‘Fundraising for the bereavement suite that we stayed in gave us something to focus on.’
- ‘The day after my miscarriage I baked a birthday cake for a friend. I put so much effort into it – I think I poured all that love that had no place to go into it. I went through all my recipe books for the perfect thing and then went the extra mile with decorating it. It was actually really therapeutic.’
- ‘After our fourth miscarriage, we turned off our phones, went home and made ourselves enormous sausage sandwiches, and watched something trashy on TV.’
- ‘Exercise and baking has helped me. It doesn’t mean bad days don’t happenbut it helps them feel less intense and easier to come back from.’
- ‘Spending more time with my little boy, playing more without telling him to wait or worrying about the chores – cleaning was always my therapy prior to losing my baby girl, but now I tend to think it can wait.’
- ‘I spent a day in bed watching back-to-back period dramas – War and Peace, Victoria – after one of my miscarriages. It helped just to shut the world out.’
- ‘The Miscarriage Association forum helped me feel less alone.’
- ‘Being kind to myself. Not judging myself when I can’t do something I used to be able to do – and giving myself permission to say no to things.’
- ‘I watched nature documentaries and read lots of children’s books…so soothing.’
- ‘I did a lot of googling online, searching for articles about miscarriage and other people’s blogs – anything to help me understand what I was feeling.’ (Lots and lots of people mentioned how helpful reading other people’s stories was. I know I was the same. There’s a list of articles on miscarriage that I’ve found and really appreciated here.)
- ‘Focusing on the things I could have control over, like healthier eating, getting outside, exercise and generally doing things that made me feel content.’
- ‘I worked solidly through all three of my miscarriages. After two of my ERPCs I was back working from home a couple of hours after waking up from general anaesthetic. Work felt so important at the time but looking back, it wasn’t as important as resting and trying to feel better. I’ve already decided that if there’s a next time, I’m closing my laptop properly.’
- ‘Sacking off any kind of fertility diet, having caffeinated coffee again, a couple of drinks, and just letting myself “be” for a bit – not taking my temperature every morning to track ovulation, or peeing on sticks. It was actually a huge relief’.
- ‘We went to our local SANDS support group and it was really helpful. At first, I had to work hard to persuade my husband to come along – he was really reluctant – but once we’d gone a few times, he was more keen than I was.’
- ‘After my third miscarriage, my partner and I dug up this really invasive plant in our garden that we’d been meaning to tackle for ages. It took us almost all day to cut it all down and then dig it out from the ground. We took out all our anger and frustration on that bloody triffid…’
- ‘Writing a letter to my lost babies and creating memory boxes for them.’
- ‘Allowing myself to watch Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning. I also went to a gallery the day after my miscarriage and felt quite small in front of a big, big painting. That helped, strangely.’
- ‘After my fifth and most devastating early loss at 10 weeks (I passed the sac intact), I decided to get my first tattoo. I’d never really been interested in them before, but we’d named the baby Robin, so I developed a strong urge to get one of a robin looking up at the full moon with a twinkly star in the sky for each baby we have lost.’
- ‘It won’t be for everyone, but I try to keep a gratitude journal every day to remind myself not everything is shite and life can be wonderful even without a baby at the moment.’
- ‘I wrote, I cried, I listened to Pearl Jam’s “Black” a lot’.
- ‘I went for a long run once the bleeding had started to ease off after my first miscarriage. I’d stopped running altogether while pregnant and my body ached as I did it, so it probably wasn’t very sensible. I also cried the whole way round, but it felt cathartic somehow.’
- ‘I try to enjoy the little things in life and keeping to a routine, even something as simple as having a cup of camomile tea at 9pm every evening with my husband.’
- ‘Taking a break from all things baby-focused for a bit. I planned big things and decided to make the year after our loss the year of house renovations and travel.’
- ‘As well as regular therapy for myself, I actually went back and started graduate school to become a therapist. Knowing how common this is, I wanted to be a part of the group of professionals who I’d relied on to get me through it – the grief I felt was just so complicated and great I couldn’t navigate it alone.’
- ‘Starting acupuncture has helped me through recurrent miscarriage – I go to Emma Cannon’.
- ‘Making sure I had “me-time” like I never did before – candle-lit baths, massages, reading, I briefly took up knitting and even colouring-in (!) Essentially, I think the key is knowing that you’ve just got to do whatever you’ve got to do, and not feel guilty for it.’
- ‘Creating a separate baby loss Instagram account to connect with that community.’
- ‘Listening to podcasts has been a comfort – the Archers is now my guilty pleasure.’
- ‘Buying fresh flowers for my baby girl every week. Since receiving so many when we first came without her, the house seems bare without them. So now I buy them for her.’
- ‘Keep talking. Go to your most trusted people and those that have experienced grief and loss (in any form). I was so caught up in feeling like nobody understood but connecting helps.’
- ‘Reading books on grief – I recommend The Bereaved Parent by Harriet Sarnoff Schiff, Spiritual Lives of Bereaved Parents by Dennis Klass, Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, Grieving Mindfully, by Sameet Kumar, and Kadian Journal by Thomas Harding. I also wish Elle Wright’s Ask Me His Name had been written five years, as that is a must-read.’
- ‘HIIT and spin classes for getting some of my “crazy” out!’
- ‘We ended up getting two mini Rex rabbits after the first miscarriage — a spur of the moment decision (they were three months old and fluffy). More than therapeutic.’
- ‘I kept a rose quartz crystal in my pocket that I could squeeze whenever I needed comfort.’
- ‘Lots of long, long walks. Just being outdoors, be it for a gentle stroll or a run, really helps to lift the fog and clear my head.’
- ‘I ran a 10k obstacle race not long afterwards which was a real turning point in feeling better.’
- ‘Re-reading and re-watching Harry Potter.’ (I promise this one isn’t from me, although I am rather Hogwarts obsessed, I confess. Quite a few people mentioned Harry Potter, and it doesn’t surprise me. I know I’ve turned to it a lot on dark days. People can be dismissive thinking it’s just about silly spells and goblins and stuff, but there’s so much wisdom in there about grief and losing the people we love.)
- ‘Talking, therapy, medication – and being kind to myself.’
- ‘Frequent small treats! I developed a bit of a reward system after our miscarriage. Things like a cappuccino and a posh croissant on Fridays for getting through a difficult work week, or buying a new make-up bag just because.’
- ‘Surfing… it’s magic. Even when it’s as basic as just floating there with a board’.
- ‘We went to see a Planet Of The Apes film just after one of our miscarriages. I found violent action films surprisingly soothing.’
- ‘For me, something that’s helped after our losses is learning not to put things off. I would always think “there’s no point buying that if I’m going to get pregnant soon”, or “there’s no point changing our car now, let’s see what happens baby-wise”. But actually, it just makes you feel worse. If you want to do something – a holiday, a house move, or decorate a room – do it, I say.’
Anything we haven’t covered? Please do share your own in the comments – perhaps we can get this list up to 100…