Living with Grief After Pregnancy Loss

We, the staff of Michigan Medicine, wish to extend our condolences to you on loss of your pregnancy. We are aware that families vary widely in how they experience pregnancy loss. For some it is the death of a son or daughter and the loss of a future. For others, it may solely be the loss of a pregnancy. No matter how you experience this loss, it is normal to feel many emotions.

Other Grief Information

This page is intended to provide information and support following a pregnancy loss. For information and support related to the death of an adult visit Grief Support Following the Death of a Loved One on UofMHealth.org. For information about the death of a child, visit Grief Support Upon the Death of a Child on MottChildren.org.

Pregnancy and Newborn Loss Booklet

Pregnancy loss can be one of the most difficult experiences you may ever face. While many may think you should be able to quickly move on from your loss, it may seem to you that you will never smile or feel like yourself again. Yet many who experience pregnancy loss put on a “mask” and go about their daily duties trying to hide their pain and grief.

Grieving the Loss of a Pregnancy or Newborn Booklet: This booklet was written by our bereavement program with contributions from bereaved parents and is available for you to view or download. View or download the Grieving the Loss of a Pregnancy or Newborn booklet.

Grief Reactions

“Grieving is as natural as crying when you are hurt, sleeping when you are tired, eating when you are hungry. It is nature’s way of healing a broken heart.” – Doug Manning

Initial Grief Reactions

Be patient. Grief reactions come and go, and can show up over many months and years. Most grief reactions begin to soften over time. However, bereaved parents honestly share that as a parent, you never “get over” the loss of your child but you learn to adjust to life without their physical presence. Every person’s timeline is different. You may experience a multitude of emotions including. 

  • Anger: This can be a confusing but a common reaction to a loss. It is a way of feeling helplessness and frustration about your loss and a recognition that you have less control over life than you thought.
  • Shock or Denial: It is hard to believe that the world has really changed because the life you were anticipating is no longer. We try to pretend that nothing has happened, that this can’t be real.
  • Numbness: This is a way we block out the overwhelming feelings of pain and loss.
  • Confusion: This can show up as absent-mindedness, forgetfulness, trouble putting thoughts in order.
  • Sadness: Some people cry a lot, others not so much. Tears are a way of releasing stress hormones that build up in our bodies.  However, the amount a person cries is not an indication about love the person held during the pregnancy.  
  • Guilt: This is the feeling that not enough was done to help, or that things were taken for granted.     
  • Relief: If things had been difficult during the pregnancy or difficult information was learned during the pregnancy about medical status, this can be a normal expression of the mourning process, one that is experienced frequently, but rarely shared.

Physical Symptoms of Grief

Typically, these symptoms go away over time:

  • Change in appetite, either overeating or undereating
  • Low energy level or fatigue, even when there has been no physical activity
  • Stomach upset or headaches
  • Sleep disturbance, either sleeping a lot or inability to fall asleep

Ways to Cope

  • Express your feelings.Talk to a friend, write in a journal, somehow vent your feelings.
  • Seek caring people. This could be a support group, family and relatives, or just someone who has the ability to listen like a professional counselor or therapist.
  • Avoid making major life changes such as moving or changing jobs for the first 6 months to a year if possible.
  • Make sure to take care of your own health. Eat well and exercise. Even a brief walk can be very beneficial.   
  • Be patient. It may take months or years to begin to accept your loss.

(Adapted from Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: J. William Worden)

When to Seek Additional Support

If you are experiencing thoughts or feelings that include the following:

  • Life isn’t worth living
  • Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it
  • Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
  • Are having difficulty trusting others since your loss
  • Are unable to perform your normal daily activities

If you are experiencing any of these emotional and physical responses and they become extremely difficult, unbearable, intrusive or are hindering your ability to function on a daily basis, please seek out your doctor, mental health provider, or spiritual leader and let them know how you are feeling. They can assist you in addressing your grief.

You may also contact Michigan Medicine Depression Center at 734-936-4400 or the Psychiatric Emergency Room of your local hospital.

Michigan Medicine Psychiatric Emergency Services is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be reached at 734-936-5900.  If you do not live near Michigan Medicine, you can call your local Emergency Room or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Contact Us

The Office of Decedent Affairs (ODA) is part of the Michigan Medicine Department of Social Work. The ODA is the centralized point of contact at Michigan Medicine for ongoing questions and concerns before, during, and after the death of a loved one. The Children’s and Women’s Bereavement Program is part of ODA. 

To contact the Office of Decedent Affairs, call 734-232-4919 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You may also email the ODA office at SocWk-ODA@med.umich.edu.