Do you have a partner yet feel alone in your pregnancy after loss journey?
I have met so many wonderful, caring partners. There are men and women who attend my support group alongside loss mamas, and it’s clear by their presence that they want to support their partners in a very real way.
And, yet, they can’t or don’t. Maybe they aren’t that comfortable showing sadness or vulnerability. Maybe they have had past losses or traumas that feel too real when asked to think about their baby who died. Or, maybe due to personality factors and style of grieving, they simply cannot be in the same place as you. Sometimes you can find someone else to lean on. But, sometimes you can’t, and that is when things can feel so, so dark. You may question your relationship. You may question yourself for choosing a partner who can’t fully be there for you when you are most in need.
I continually hear recurring themes from couples who are grieving differently:
“I am still so sad but my partner seems to have moved on.”
“He just handles it differently. He likes to stay busy and over-scheduled, perhaps as a way to avoid thinking about what happened.”
“He just doesn’t get it. I want to talk about our baby and what happened and he just shuts down.”
“She really wants to understand what I am going through but feels like she’s in a different place as the non-gestational mother.”
“How can my partner carry on as if nothing has happened? He goes out with friends and has fun while I am at home crying.”
In pregnancy after loss, there are new and old things to worry about.
The “usual” anxiety of pregnancy plus fear of losing again may leave you feeling like you need even more from your partner than before. It can feel very lonely to bear the grief alongside the hope all by yourself in a new pregnancy.
Even if your partner is attending all your prenatal appointments with you, they may not be able to verbalize their feelings about being pregnant again. There are no magic solutions. However, some clients have shared that connecting in nonverbal ways has helped pave the way back to better communication and connection. Sometimes, physical intimacy can help as can shared activities that you both enjoy.
Sometimes, your partner doesn’t know what to say and may be feeling pressure to say the “right thing” when you just want him to say something! Give him permission to be imperfect, or just ask him to listen. If he can agree to just listen then perhaps the chasm between you won’t feel as large. One couple I saw kept a journal they passed back and forth where they’d each write down their feelings about their pregnancy after loss. In this way, there was less pressure to talk but each party could gain insight into what the other was thinking and feeling. Partners are scared, too, in pregnancy after loss and can sometimes disappear when you need them most.
You may have to get creative.
Talking with a couples therapist well-versed in perinatal loss may help. It can feel really lonely being a relationship where you feel like you are stuck in grief while your partner has moved on. Chances are good that your partner is struggling, too, but is less adept at expressing that struggle. A trauma such as pregnancy loss or the loss of a child can exacerbate long-standing issues in couples that were already entrenched prior to any pregnancy, so you may wish to sort these things out with a professional.
Just know that you are not alone. Other PAL mamas have struggled too with partners who weren’t fully supportive or partners who tried but missed the mark. Rely on friends or family when you can. Visit us here at PALS and post in one of our online support groups if you are feeling the need. We are here to help.