From the moment I learned I would miscarry our first baby, 12 excruciating days passed before it actually happened. The doctor gave me all of the standard options after confirming the pregnancy would not continue and I chose to miscarry naturally on my own. This meant I had to wait for my body to process everything and catch up to what my mind already knew was going to happen. I was having a missed miscarriage, a term I had never heard of before that experience in my life. In that span of time I would also experience anticipatory grief, another thing thing I didn’t understand until I lived through it during those twelve days.
Anticipatory grief occurs before a loss takes place. Most commonly it can be seen when there is an impending terminal illness, or in the later stages of life anticipating someone passing away. It is not often thought of in this context but that was exactly what I was doing. I was grieving the loss of my baby before my body let go. I was learning how to let go.
When someone experiences a loss, especially with something very visible, people understand what it is they are losing. When they can see it they understand how to give compassion and space for grief. While people understand there is a process to grieving after a loss has taken place, it is less understood to see the grief before the loss has happened. But in that space in time, your brain is processing what is going to happen and could be going through any of the multiple stages of grief that occur. Even though it is doing this ahead of time, it is likely that it will be repeated again after the loss has taken place as well.
Because of its lack of visibility, anticipatory grief is generally more silent and something we keep to ourselves. While most grief is focused on the past, anticipatory grief is mourning the loss in the future.
Even the most stoic person is not immune to anticipatory grief. Having the knowledge that a change is coming which involves death can be a heavy concept to process. Knowing that you will lose something or someone important will weigh on your thoughts and can bring up intense feelings, even if you think it wont.
Anticipating a loss is an important part of experiencing that loss. With my missed miscarriage I was given the knowledge that it was coming from an external source – my doctor. With that knowledge I had to mentally process what was happening/going to happen before my body showed any signs of letting go of the pregnancy. There were no physical indicators just the knowledge we learned from the ultrasound to show that our baby’s heart had stopped beating. With those twelve days I was able to understand what was coming, even though I didn’t know when.
Forewarned is not always forearmed. Even when we know a loss will take place, it doesn’t always mean that the time after the loss will be any easier. What preparation you offer yourself will make a world of difference during the time after the miscarriage takes place. Be kind and gentle with yourself. The way you go through this moment in life will be unique to you and what you need.
If you have recently discovered you are having a missed miscarriage and need support through the waiting period, reach out to me. I’ll coach you through it and offer you tools to help you through the experience.