Understanding the Grief Process


We often experience many moments of joy with the help of Dr. Rob and the rest of the CNY Fertility Family, whether it be in Syracuse, Rochester, or Albany.  However, sometimes there are low moments of pain and grief.  This is unfortunately natural in the world of fertility and creating families.  Although we would love for the joy to stay, we unfortunately cannot control what happens.  So what do we do when we experience a loss?  We have to grieve.  (Please note this is not just for those who have experienced a miscarriage, grief can occur with everything from the initial diagnosis, to a negative pregnancy test.)
The grief process is different for everyone, and there isn’t a set timeline or protocol to follow.  It is extremely individualized and is completely dependant on the needs of those experiencing pain.  According to the Kübler-Ross model, there are typically 5 stages experienced during the grieving process:

  1. Denial: This occurs with the initial shock of the situation.  It may occur when you first hear ‘I’m sorry but the test was negative’ or when you first discover you need help creating your family.  Naturally we will say to ourselves, or even out loud ‘No, it can’t be.’ or ‘I know you are wrong, check again’.  Our mind resorts to denial initially to protect ourselves from the reality of the situation.  We find ourselves grasping for any sort of flaw in what we are being told, in order to prove to ourselves that it isn’t true.  Once the denial lifts and we begin to absorb what has happened, we tend to recognize our loss and the impact it will have on our lives.  In the case of a miscarriage you may begin to think of what the child’s life would have been like, and the plans you had made for your family.  This leads us to the next stage in grief, anger.
  2. Anger:  After denial of the situation and the beginning realization of the loss, it is common to feel angry.  Angry with yourself, those around you, and quite often God, or whatever spiritual being you associate yourself with.  The anger comes when we realize our plans have been changed, and we will not have the life we imagined before the loss.  During this stage it is common to feel angry towards those that are closest to you, even your spouse.  You may feel they are not grieving properly or at all. This is ok, they may be in a different stage than you, or they may manifest their feelings differently.  It is extremely important to realize that they are grieving, and they are in pain, it is just not the same as yours.  It is also important to note that men and women often experience a drastically different grief process.  After the anger subsides it is common to begin the stage of bargaining.
  3. Bargaining:  Often bargaining occurs with the self, or with God.  You may find yourself saying ‘Just let me have my child back’ or ‘Please just tell me what I can do to fix this situation’.  Although we know we cannot change what has happened, this is another defense mechanism of the mind, body, and spirit to make absolutely sure there is no reversing the situation.  This is similar to denial in that we are not ready to accept the loss.
  4. Depression:  During the fourth stage, depression, we begin to realize and acknowledge the loss.  This is the most painful stage and it can feel like it will never end.  Often we can experience not just emotional and spiritual pain, but actual physical pain as well.  This stage is the acknowledgement of the loss, and the recognition of the emptiness felt.  It is often accompanied by crying, feelings of abandonment, and wanting to withdraw from others.  This is an incredibly important time of the grief process and it is not recommended to ‘cheer the person up’ or try and distract them with other things.  To truly mourn the loss, it is important to feel the depression, as difficult as that may be.
  5. Acceptance:  Once the depression lifts, you may feel a lift in your spirits as well.  It is not that you have forgotten what has happened, or that you are any less upset about the loss.  Instead, acceptance signifies that you have grieved, and felt each step of the grieving process and now you are looking for hope and a way to remember while moving on at the same time.  Common ways to describe this stage are ‘I can’t change what happened, I have to learn to live with it’ or ‘I will never forget, but I need to be able to live as well’.  This is a time where you may want to be alone again, and that is OK.  It can be difficult to navigate these new feelings of ‘being OK’.  You may feel guilty about trying to conceive again, or about taking some time for yourself.  This is a stage of balancing grief, with life.  While you may accept what happened and feel a little more comfortable about moving on with your life, it does not mean that you have forgotten, or that the pain will go away.  You will still feel the pain of loss, however it will not be as intense as it was in the beginning, and you will be able to place it in better perspective now that you have accepted the situation.

While you are reading through the above stages, they may appear to make sense chronologically.  However, remember that everyone grieves differently and in different stages.  You may experience depression before anger, or you may skip a step completely.  However it occurs is right for you.  The important part is that you feel each step.  As painful as it is, that is the only way to fully acknowledge and accept the loss you have experienced.  You will also be able to mend the relationship with yourself, your spouse, family, and God (if this is appropriate) while you grieve, because unfortunately relationships can suffer as well during a loss.
If you are experiencing a loss please constantly remind yourself that your grieving process is unique, and is best for you.  Also, remember that we are always here for you and you have a large family here at CNY to support you.
Please visit our online message boards at www.cnyfertility.com and www.cnyhealingarts.com to meet other patients experiencing similar situations to yours.  We also have our monthly support groups at each office location.
If you would like to talk more about loss and the grieving process, please don’t hesitate to contact me, I am available via email and phone.  If you would like ideas on how to honor your loss, please visit this article:  Honoring A Miscarriage