October 10, 2018

Moving Forward After a Miscarriage or Stillbirth: Healing Your Broken Heart

By Pam Vredevelt

When you lose a baby during pregnancy, not only do you have to accept the fact that you’re not going to bring your baby home, but you also have to deal with massive hormone shifts and unpredictable emotions that hit you like a wave you never saw coming.

Contents

Chapter One

Healing Your Broken Heart After a Miscarriage

Tears streamed down my face as I choked out the questions:

How can this be? What happened to my baby? Why isn’t there a heartbeat?

The doctor said he’d know more after labor and delivery, but those answers never came. There was no obvious medical reason for our baby’s death. 

During the year that followed I was flooded with feelings of overwhelming sadness, guilt and anger.  I’d never experienced all-consuming grief before.

I had no idea where to start or how to heal my broken heart. My husband and I grieved differently, which left us both feeling very alone in our pain.

People around me meant well and sincerely wanted to help. They tried to say the right things, but they often made matters worse. Sometimes their unsolicited advice was like salt in a wound.

I know how dark and lonely grief can be. No one told me the path would be this confusing, this steep, this rocky, or go on so much longer than what “they say” it would.

I made some mistakes along the way that didn’t help my healing. I wish someone had warned me.

But you don’t have to make the same blunders I did.

When life cracks your heart wide open, you’re prone to run and hide. And why wouldn’t you? You are biologically designed to give birth, become a mother and raise children. That’s why this kind of loss rocks you to the core like nothing else.

When you lose a baby during pregnancy, not only do you have to accept the fact that you’re not going to bring your baby home, you also have to deal with massive hormone shifts and unpredictable emotions that hit you like a wave you never saw coming.

Grief is overwhelming because you’re dealing with a reality you don’t want to embrace. At times you feel guilty for even wanting to feel better – like it somehow betrays the precious life you’ve lost.

It may be difficult to believe that you’ll ever experience joy again, but you can and you will.

Remember, God specializes in things we think are impossible.   

There’s no better time than now to give your heart the proper care and attention it needs. And there’s no better place to be than with people who have been right where you are – who know the healing path and who can help you stay the course into brighter tomorrows.

There’s no need to travel alone.

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Chapter Two

Don’t Deny Your Grief

It’s hard to see it through the pain of losing a baby, but denying or glossing over your grief doesn’t allow you to remember him or her with love. It doesn’t help you become the courageous, confident and healthy woman you truly want to be.

After the loss of your baby, every moment can be a struggle.

There are big moments, like when you’re caught up in thoughts about the future you were planning. And there are little moments, like when you’re simply walking through the house and something sparks a memory.

Suddenly you’re reliving your loss all over again, facing the reality that your baby and your dreams for your little one are gone. It can feel like another piece of your heart has been ripped away.

No wonder we want to cover up our heartache like we bandage a skinned knee.

And why wouldn’t we rather conceal it, numb it or ignore it? After all, chocolate, shopping, movies and – you name it – are far more fun. Can’t we just put the pain behind us, forget the past and get on with life?

I’m glad you asked.

You always have choices. You get to choose how you deal with your loss. As you consider your options, please keep this in mind:

What you resist, persists.

It’s hard to see it through the pain, but hanging on to sadness, anxiety, guilt and anger doesn’t honor your baby. Denying or glossing over your grief doesn’t allow you to remember him or her with love. It doesn’t help you become the courageous, confident and healthy woman you truly want to be.

Grief is a fierce force that must be reckoned with sooner or later.

When you continually avoid grief, you unintentionally sign up for days of discontent, clouded by the pain you resist. Buried feelings have a high rate of resurrection. It requires enormous energy to hold grief at bay.

However, when you choose the healing path through grief, pain becomes a new opportunity for positive transformation, spiritual refreshing and newfound meaning.

Here’s the good news: With the proper care and attention, your broken heart is designed to heal.

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Chapter Three

Inviting God Into Your Pain

The loss of your baby tests your faith. When all you can see is your grief, it’s easy to lose sight of God. Will you invite Him to join you in your deepest pain?

When your dreams crash into reality, a season of mourning begins.

Losing your baby touches every part of your life. Your view of yourself. Your relationships. Your hopes and fears about the future. Your beliefs about life and death … and God.

Sudden loss makes you starkly aware of the uncertain nature of this world. You have no idea what’s around the next bend.

It’s common to enter this dark place pitifully unprepared. I know that I did. Following the sudden death of our baby – and, years later, our 16-year-old son – I found myself thinking, I feel so lost and lonely.

Those around you seem to be clipping along just fine, even though your world is upside down. You doubt that they truly understand.

Grief is hard, emotional work. A shattered heart doesn’t have the get-up-and-go to put on a pleasant face and make small talk. A gray fog sets in and clouds your perception. It’s difficult to think straight, focus or even remember words. Sometimes you don’t have the energy to care about anything beyond the basics of daily survival.

The loss of your baby also tests your faith. When all you can see is your pain, it’s easy to lose sight of God. If you’re like many of us, you probably wonder why God didn’t write a happier ending to this part of your story.

In the confusing throws of grief, you’re faced with critical choices of the will:

  • Will you give death the final say and allow it to diminish you?
  • Will you invite God to join you in your deepest pain?
  • Will you open your heart to others or try to light your own way?
  • Will you make time to rightfully grieve?
  • Will you believe God’s promise to make all things new?

Like a row of dominoes, the loss of your baby sets off a series of important questions, lessons and discoveries. It also paves the way for long-lasting transformation and new beginnings.

During the most painful years following my losses, I spent long hours alone with God – reading, reflecting and filling journals. We grieved together.

Tireless yearnings in my heart longed for heaven. It seemed like I lived with one foot in this world and one foot in the next, poised between faith and doubt, relief and regret, hope and great sadness.

I knew one thing for certain: I wasn’t capable of turning my mourning into dancing. Nope. That one was way beyond me. I knew that if it ever happened, it would be a God thing.

In our quiet conversations together, the space between heaven and earth narrowed. Glimmers of hope sporadically pierced through. Gentle whispers inspired fresh insight, meaning and awareness of God’s kindness. 

The courage to face my fear started showing up in daily, sometimes hourly, doses. I decided to reframe that four-letter word and make it work for me: Face Everything And Rise. (Feel free to post it on your mirror.)

I’m delighted to tell you that my heart did mend. Oh, I’m still vulnerable, and triggers still bring tears. But that’s OK. Dry eyes only exist in heaven.

In spite of my tearful spells, joy bubbles over more often than not. That doesn’t mean my life is perfect. Far from it. But it does mean that life is full of magnificent delight in the midst of the difficult and messy. 

God knows how to care for His own. We exited the valley of grief together.

God would love to do the same for you. After all, anything valuable that I’ve gained and passed along to you is evidence of His goodness.

Talk to a Counselor

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Chapter Four

A Letter to Chloe: Processing Your Grief After a Miscarriage

The grief of a pregnancy loss can challenge the deepest sense of who you are, your connection with others, with life and with God. My daughter and I have discovered that processing our pain in writing helps ease the hurt.

It’s hard to know where to begin when a miscarriage shatters your heart.

The presence of pain means that there is more right with you than wrong with you. The more you love, the more you hurt. You hurt deeply because you love deeply.

A pregnancy loss can disrupt everything. Overwhelming grief challenges the deepest sense of who you are, your connection with others, with life and with God.

My daughter, Jessie Vredevelt Schultz, knows this grief firsthand. Her baby Chloe passed from the womb into heaven when Jessie was 13 weeks pregnant. By writing a love letter to Chloe, Jessie showed us how to embrace the sanctity of life, honor loss and look forward with hope.

Like Jessie, I, too, have suffered the pain of loss. My first pregnancy ended at my fifth month, when my doctor could no longer detect a heartbeat. Years later, my world came crashing down again when our 16-year-old son passed away after he was hit by a car.

 

As the poet Maya Angelo put it: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

I think King David agreed. Do you know that 78 percent of the Psalms are songs of lament? David passionately pours out his heartbreak, heaves hard questions at God and downloads his grief with a pen.

This isn’t someone who sugar-coats, stuffs or pretends. He is shamelessly real.

Why do I find that so encouraging? Here’s why: It gives me permission to be authentic and emotionally honest.

I find it fascinating that more chapters in the Bible are devoted to the life of David than any other human being. He was strong in spirit, incredibly creative, highly esteemed and obviously far from perfect. He also experienced the painful loss of a child.

David regularly practiced something that current brain science says promotes emotional healing and spiritual renewal. We see it repeatedly in the Psalms: In David’s darkest hours, when it’s impossible to imagine things ever improving, he writes about his suffering with raw, uncensored honesty.

The beginnings of his psalms ring with sorrow and abandonment. He doesn’t belittle or shame himself for his emotions. He simply lets them be what they are.

Jesus displays a similar pattern in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:41-43), and it’s OK to give yourself permission to do the same (Hebrew 4:16).

Slowly but surely, David’s tone shifts. His blues begin to lift. His eyes move from looking down to looking up. He transitions from brooding over his dreadful circumstances to declaring his trust in God, right smack in the middle of his anguish.

His external conditions don’t change, but his inner well-being does.

My daughter and I have discovered that processing our pain in writing helps brings healing. It slows us down to better listen to our hearts, gives our grief a voice, and helps us hear the still small voice inside whisper, “Peace.”

Would you like to move forward on your healing path? You can do so by writing a letter to your baby.

Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Approach writing with an attitude of radical acceptance. How you feel is how you feel. This is a no-judgment zone.
  • Remind your inner critic that it’s OK to be honest.
  • Open up and give grief a voice. This is a personal way of honoring the baby you lost and preserving the memories around his or her brief life with you.
  • There are no rights or wrongs. Simply tell your baby what you’d like him or her to know. You might consider sharing: your feeling right now and your thoughts about seeing him or her again; gratitude for what you’ve learned; and how you and others are different because of his or her life.
  • Take your time. There’s no rush. Feel free to write your letter over several days, adding words as new thoughts surface.
  • Consider reading your letter to a safe friend.

Never underestimate the power of a love letter.

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Empty Arms

With the warmth and compassion of a Licensed Professional Counselor and writing as a mother who has suffered the loss of a baby and a 16-year-old son, Pam Vredevelt offers sound answers and advice. As an expert in love and loss, Pam gives reassuring comfort to any woman fighting to maintain stability and faith in the midst of devastating heartbreak. Empty Arms: Hope and Support for Those Who Have Suffered a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Tubal Pregnancy is the essential guidebook for anyone suffering the agony of losing a baby.16
Book

Copyright © 2018 by Pam Vredevelt. Used by permission.

About the Author

Pam Vredevelt
Pam Vredevelt

For more than 25 years, Pam Vredevelt has been a professional counselor in private practice. She is also a popular conference speaker and a best-selling author of 14 books, including Empty Arms and Letting Go of Worry and Anxiety. Pam and her husband, John, have two children. Learn more about Pam at her website, pamvredevelt.com.

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