As a loss parent, I frequently hear from friends and acquaintances who are experiencing pregnancy loss. I can offer my words of support, but I often wish that I had something more. There are a few books that I have sent newly bereaved parents in the past, but each has covered only a specific aspect of the experience and couldn’t accomplish everything I would hope to say. In Unexpecting: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss, I have found my new go-to book for anyone experiencing the loss of a baby in pregnancy or infancy. This new book was written by Rachel Lewis, a strong advocate for bereaved parents and founder of the Brave Mamas community.
In this book, Rachel gives a beautiful gift to the pregnancy and infant loss community. She says everything I would wish to say to everyone who is experiencing this type of loss.
She discusses the immediate effects of loss, addresses the ways that grief carries on and the multifaceted impact of pregnancy/infant loss on a bereaved parents’ life, and explores the idea of moving forward with one’s loss as a part of them. Throughout the book, Rachel shares parts of her story, her experiences, and her emotions, and she also integrates words and experiences from many other loss parents. There is something so powerful about hearing these collective experiences in addition to Rachel sharing vulnerably about her own.
The book incorporates information from experts in specific fields. Each section has a series of journal questions to allow readers to do additional reflection and processing of their experiences as they read, and each chapter ends with a loving, beautiful letter from Rachel addressed directly to the reader. This book can provide guidance on how to navigate decision-making surrounding pregnancy loss, can help to know what to expect or anticipate how one may feel as time goes on, and can help one understand the feelings that they are having. It even provides guidance on responding to hurtful things people say after loss.
Unexpecting felt like reading all the blog posts, online articles, and support group comments in the pregnancy loss community wrapped up in one book.
It is perfect as an immediate resource or within the first few months to a year after a recent loss, but I also gained something from reading it even 4 and 5 years after my second trimester losses. Rachel’s words resonated so well with my experiences of grieving. I found myself tearing up, nodding along, and feeling all of my experiences validated as I read each chapter.
One of the most powerful aspects of Unexpecting is the way that it centers on helping the reader navigate their feelings, meeting them wherever they are.
In one of Rachel’s letters to the readers, she writes, “Here you are not alone. And here you are welcome, exactly as you are.” This rings true throughout the entire book. The reader is given permission to figure out their own emotions and have them be theirs, not needing to be exactly like anyone else’s. For example, Rachel shares very authentically about her struggle with faith after loss, and she does so in a way that is approachable and helpful for those who are religious and who are not religious. Additionally, she makes room for readers who may or may not try to conceive again after a loss.
She gives permission to skip parts of the book that do not apply, and also creates room for things such as faith, helping a living child grieve, pregnancy after loss, and parenting after loss to be present for readers for whom these topics are relevant or central to their grieving process. While many pregnancy and pregnancy after loss books seem to be written to an audience of women, Rachel incorporates the experience of all parents throughout the book, and she also includes a specific chapter on father’s grief. Unexpecting makes a clear effort to be inclusive of many different loss experiences. The author holds space for the reader to be true to who they are throughout the book.
Loss parents who read this book will without a doubt feel validated, loved, and supported.
It feels like a big, warm hug from Rachel but also from all loss parents and the community as a whole. This overall sentiment of validation and love leaves the reader with a feeling that they are not alone, that their experiences are normal, and that they are understood. I can’t imagine what more we as a community could ask for in a resource such as this one.
Get a copy of Unexpecting: Real Talk on Pregnancy Loss for yourself or as a gift. Available at Amazon, Bookshop, and Target.
About the Author
Rachel Lewis is the founder of Brave Mamas, an online community offering support to thousands of bereaved moms. Rachel is a well-known contributor to Still Standing Magazine and Pregnancy After Loss Support. She’s the creator of Unexpecting: A 4-Week Grief Workshop for Pregnancy Loss for couples. Her work and family have been featured by the Today Show, Upworthy, AdoptUSKids, and Babble. Rachel has experienced the loss of five pregnancies, as well as the unique grief of reunifying a foster son with his birth family. Learn more at The Lewis Note. Follow Rachel on Facebook and Instagram.
This book review of Unexpecting contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using these links, you also support PALS without it costing anything extra for you — a total win-win!