I have been asked by a few people how I do so well at managing my anxiety, grief, and fear after losing three babies and being pregnant with another one. The short answer is: I don't. When I got that question over the weekend I literally started laughing. If people think I'm good at keeping it together after everything I've shared, I don't know that I want to find out what their idea of falling apart is. For the sake of full disclosure (even though I don't have to), I want to share what I do to deal with all the feelings. There is no shame in my recovery, and I will be the first to tell you that it is a constant work in progress. If you're looking for ideas or just to know you're not alone, then welcome. Because I feel like i've tried pretty much everything.
Since the second we found out we lost Carter, I have allowed myself to feel every emotion. If it looks like I've got a brave, happy face on, it's more than likely because I had a meltdown the night before. Meltdowns can consist of a few tears, loud sobbing, or angry outbursts. Sometimes a combination of the three. I allow myself to really feel my grief, because how am I going to live with it for the rest of my life if I can't live with it today? When I'm sad, I let myself be sad. But also, I let myself be happy too. If something is funny, it's okay that I laugh! Emotions are supposed to change, that's what is so fun (I guess?) about them. I don't need to be sad or happy all the time, and that's not healthy for me anyway. Feeling out my grief has helped me work through everything.
Exercise is probably something that helps too, but I honestly couldn't tell you right now. We got gym memberships a couple months after we lost Carter, and I enjoyed it. It gave me a place to get my energy out and essentially make myself so tired that I almost didn't have the energy to grieve. Sometimes though, if we went to the gym when I was already upset, it would backfire, and I would end up trying to push myself so hard that I started crying at the gym. We tried to go to the gym after we lost little bean, but it pushed my social anxiety limits, so we stopped going.
I have always been an emotional eater, and that definitely has not changed with all our losses. If I want ice cream, I eat ice cream. I try to do everything in moderation, but some days you just need to have a junk day. It's kind of like having a meltdown: let it out, and the next day will be better. So I eat the ice cream, then I eat better the following days.
A couple weeks before we found out we were pregnant for the third time, my doctor put me on an anti-anxiety medication. I feel like I should be afraid to tell people this, but I'm not. I guess it's because it's better to have me functioning well than not at all. I don't think there's any shame in asking for a little extra help. At the same time, he suggested that I start seeing a grief counselor. My thought was that if the medicine helps me function at a higher level, then I can go through therapy and learn the tools I need to stay at that level of functioning once I stop taking the meds. The majority of loss moms I talk too have also been put on some sort of medication, especially to get through subsequent pregnancies. I noticed a huge difference in my anxiety right after I started the medication, but have noticed a few setbacks since getting pregnant again. Like I said though, I am not ashamed! If this is what it takes to get me out of bed today and be the kind of person others can stand being around, then I will take it.
Having some sort of routine really helped immediately after each loss. Brandon and I had discussed how we could work together to prevent or minimalize post-partum depression, so when we lost Carter, it was almost like we were prepared. We opened the blinds every morning, showered every day and changed out of pajamas, and tried to go outside to see the sun for at least a few minutes each day. It wasn't necessarily a schedule, but it all helped. Routine after the other two losses was easier, because I was working. Now that I'm not working, I still do all the same things as before, and try and do certain things (like shower) at the same time each day.
Open communication with others has really helped too. Brandon is my go-to person for everything, but especially my emotions. I can share anything with him, and vice versa, even when we are feeling impatient with each other. We've gotten really good at taking a step back and recognizing that when we are angry or upset, it usually can be traced back to missing our babies. I think it is so important to communicate with your spouse or partner after any hard time. I don't expect Brandon to be my counselor, by any means, but he is my husband, and being so open with our emotions only brings us that much closer. I've had to learn to have hard conversations with other people, especially when my gut instinct is to just punch them. You can't just go around punching people (no matter how much we'd like to) so learning how to have those conversations with people has allowed me to set boundaries that I need for my own mental health.
I don't know if any of that made sense, but it's just something I have been thinking about for the last few days. I am obviously not a grief expert, nor am I licensed to give out this information and say that it will help you (because I don't think emotional eating is something most counselors would suggest), but I hope that it helped in some way. What has helped you work through a difficult time in your life? When it comes to overcoming grief, I will take all the suggestions I can get!