Grief and Loss Associated with Miscarriage & Problems With Fertility –How Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy Can Help
On the 17th July, I was the guest speaker at the Nottingham Miscarriage Support Group talking about how Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy can help the grief and loss associated with miscarriage and problems with fertility. Here is that talk:-
- Psychotherapy can help you to understand and work through the feelings of grief and loss you may feel – you are not going mad!
Miscarriage, Stillbirth and problems with Fertility are losses. They are losses of what you thought you were going to have;
- The dreams you dreamt and hopes you hoped when you saw that little elusive blue line on the magic and oh-so important stick
- The life you thought you were going to have and maybe had planned for years
- Very importantly, the loss of your baby – to you it almost certainly won’t feel like “just a foetus”, not a collection of cells not far gone enough yet, to coin other phrases that some (thankfully only some) doctors are prone to using. To the vast majority of women it is their baby – their baby!
- The loss of control over your body which seems incapable of doing what you want it to do; surely what it’s supposed to do
- Potentially for some, the loss of the belief that life will go exactly as you planned, first time around, no problem. The initial loss of that illusion can be very scary indeed.
Therefore, of course you are going to grieve. We all grieve slightly differently, there is no set or right way to do it. You might find yourself sobbing uncontrollably or unable to cry at all or feeling incredibly angry or exhausted or that you haven’t a right to feel bad because you may already have one child – or – all or none of these things. Generally though, grief goes through stages. These are:
Denial> Anger > Depression > Bargaining > Acceptance
Often they are represented as above i.e. in a linear form – in a straight line and you start with Denial and end with Acceptance. However, for a lot of people it doesn’t work like this.
Grief is Circular.
You can feel OK for weeks on end and then hear a song, smell a certain odour or meet a friend who doesn’t know what has happened and asks you about it and there you are, right back in any one of the stages. Usually, though you only stay here briefly but it may take you by surprise because you just weren’t expecting to feel like that!
2. Psychotherapy can enable you to be kind and compassionate to yourself when you’re feeling terrible and when other people are telling you that you shouldn’t be feeling what you’re feeling…
Unfortunately, I hear women often say things like:
“I shouldn’t be feeling like this now – it happened weeks ago and I’m still such a mess.”
“I should be able to get over this now – it’s not as if anything really terrible has happened to me – look at all those poor women in Afghanistan/China/wherever there’s been some natural disaster. I’m pathetic.”
“My husband says I should be getting over it. He’s fed up of me going on about it”
“My mum said that he’s not going to want to try for another baby if I keep having a face like a wet kipper. I’ve got to pull myself together or he’ll leave me.”
These comments display a lack of understanding for the processes involved in any kind of loss – and the feeling of loss can happen when there is ANY change in our life. As a species we don’t tolerate change well at all. These comments also heavily use that dreadful word – should.
Should serves only to keep us where we are and helps nobody.
In therapy, we focus on what you need, what you want, and what you can do that will serve you best in your life right now, not what you should do.
In doing the above, you learn to be kind and compassionate towards yourself and to have empathy towards you. Sometimes, having empathy for you is the hardest thing to do!
3. Sometimes, problems with fertility, pregnancy or birth can highlight and trigger other unresolved emotional issues we have. By looking at our beliefs about ourselves and the world, we can sort out what is just a story we’ve either told ourselves, or someone else has told us about us and what is more based in reality.
We will look at the beliefs you were told about yourself and about pregnancy and fertility etc from several important sources – your Parents/Extended Family, Your Current Partner, Society (the cultural expectations you are exposed to), Friends/Colleagues, Schooling/University and Religious Groups/Hobbies etc.
When we have done this, we will see if there are any common themes (you may be surprised!); look at how these are serving or not serving you and then look at how we can rewrite those to help you feel the way you want to feel about you.
REMEMBER – The beautiful things about working with our emotional stories in Psychotherapy is that stories can been rewritten – they are narratives that have been put together and can be thrown up into the air and put together again in a different way. Therefore, we can change the narrative of our stories and sometimes even the endings!
How Can Hypnotherapy Help?
I no longer do hypnotherapy by itself as I find that some clients have been through huge traumas and are looking for hypnotherapy as a “quick fix”; some magic hour which will take all the pain away. However, I do value hypnotherapy as it can work incredibly well with self-esteem, relaxation and self-belief in conjunction with a period of psychotherapy.
Hypnotherapy works because our subconscious mind is by far the most powerful part of our mind. It ‘remembers’ everything that has ever happened to us. It could be described as a filing cabinet where every experience, every emotion, everything that has happened to us is filed, and the contents of these files are very influential in our behaviour. However, it’s a very influential filing cabinet that we don’t necessarily have the key to. We can’t go through those files and say to ourselves “hmm…that’s an idea that’s past it’s sell by date; that’s a belief that began when we were only 3 and it doesn’t help me now I’m an adult”. Beliefs that are inappropriate or unhelpful to us and memories that are traumatic or disturbing can still be having a huge effect on us, causing us to think and act in ways that just aren’t helpful in our lives now. But we can’t see them. Most of the time we don’t even know that they are there!
One of the reasons why we can’t ‘unlock’ our subconscious mind is because our conscious mind is so very busy. Some of my clients have described their everyday conscious mind as having lots of voices and thoughts and images going round and round all day; others have said that it feels like the M25 is going through their head all the time. Hypnosis allows all of this business; all of this noise to be turned off so our subconscious mind can focus and ‘hear’ what is important to us. Therefore, the Hypnotherapist can talk to our subconscious mind and make suggestions to allow us to see those locked away memories and beliefs in a different light.
Help you to relax and with any anxiety you may have
Help with phobias or weight loss
Help you with the stories you or others have told you about you – our self beliefs
How kind and compassionate you are to yourself is linked to the words you say to yourself in your head. One thing that works well is this: when we have explored the beliefs that don’t serve you we can do a blackboard visualisation exercise whilst in hypnosis – visualizing those beliefs (and others that you may find that you didn’t even know you had!) rubbing them out on the blackboard and starting again with other beliefs. This can be incredibly self-affirming and nurturing.
We all need things in our life that are self-affirming and nurturing and we certainly do if we are experiencing miscarriage or other problems with fertility and pregnancy.