I wasn’t surprised I was tired the week surrounding the miscarriages of my children. I had doctor appointments, surgeries, and face-slap grief to attend to. But at four weeks post-loss with my body readjusting back to normal life, I started to wonder: Why am I still so tired?! I was eating well, I could attend to many of the daily needs of life again emotionally, but everything felt so much more exhausting than before. What was wrong with me?!
Processing emotions, navigating relationships and rebuilding hope make you tired
One of the things that we often don’t allow for in the weeks post miscarriage or pregnancy loss is the exhausting nature of processing emotions. Suddenly we see the world in a different light. Newborn babies and pregnant women around us heighten our emotions and we have to face our immediate pangs of pain. We have to change our thought processes. (Oh, yes, I no longer need that stroller I have in my Amazon cart…oh, no, I don’t have any plans next Summer because that was the time I was keeping it free for the birth of my baby…). All this takes extra mental effort.
Navigating relationships, people who know, people who don’t, and processing their reactions and potential to say the wrong things, all this requires extra emotional effort which leaves us unexpectedly tired.
Before the physical miscarriage takes place we may also have had a period of time knowing our baby was at risk but we had fought with prayers and hopes. Once our fears are confirmed, however, and a miscarriage happens, we can quickly become overwhelmed by learning the new language of a world we never expected or wanted to be in. In the weeks after the physical healing has taken priority, our minds and hearts are still dealing with a truck-load of emotions, experiences and traumas that have to be processed. And processing takes extra energy making us extra tired!
‘Grief makes one so terribly tired’ – The Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey.
Although grief is tiring, it shouldn’t be overwhelming for week after week and there are things that we can do to help:
1. Recognize that tiredness is normal and show yourself compassion.
Being kind to yourself and allowing yourself extra time to rest is important. Don’t have the same expectations for yourself in this season. Around a holiday season, for example, we have to find spaces in our normal lives for present buying and wrapping and office parties etc and have to cut back on non-essentials. In a season of grief, we need to cut back on non-essentials and prioritize and schedule self-care. It may mean minimizing your workload, adding a nap into the afternoon, taking a long bath or finding time to talk to a counsellor or an understanding friend. Grief is like carrying around many potentially explosive packages – we have to take the time to defuse each one and let them go with different rituals. Some people find prayer one of those helpful rituals, whereas others prefer writing about their grief or finding ways to commemorate their child.
2. Be creative with rest.
Rest whenever you can. Make it a top priority. Get early nights, fit in naps (in the car at lunchtime if need be!), and find ways to take ‘two-minute vacations’ to relax. Play a soothing piece of music and allow yourself a moment to breathe deeply whilst it plays. Try tensing and relaxing each of the muscles in your body to help you identify tension points. A professional massage or one from your partner may help.
3. Build spiritual strength.
As well as building emotional and physical strength we may also need to build spiritual strength. Our spirit is the source of our core beliefs about how the universe works and what we put our faith into. When something earth-shattering happens to us, it is normal for our worldview and faith to be questioned. We need to take time to come to a place of peace again in our inner being or the lack or peace will cause stress and tiredness.
Personally, I needed to take time looking my faith and decide if I still believed in my heart that God was a benevolent being who cared about me. It was very unsettling but as I took the time to look at what I said I believed and examine why, I actually became much stronger in my faith in a benevolent God. Before I had believed it blindly, now I can tell you why I believe it to be true wholeheartedly! Another part of building spiritual strength for me was deliberately taking time to connect with God through meditation and journaling prayer. There were times when I found praying very difficult and I turned to the prayers of others to give me words I didn’t have. I also asked those around me to pray specifically for me when I was having a hard day and those prayers often released tension and brought a strengthening to my spirit.
Click here for prayers resources (there is even a prayer for those who aren’t sure that God exists!).
4. Practice self-care
One of the ways you can be kind and compassionate to yourself is by taking time to practice self-care. Use a list of life-giving ideas and pick one for each day and schedule it in. You can come up with your own list or you may like to take a look at the free pdf download that I have put together for new subscribers with 10 self-care ideas post miscarriage and pregnancy loss. Get your free copy here.
Finally, tiredness is a normal part of grief, but be aware that anemia, a low red-blood-cell count, can be another common cause of tiredness in women post-miscarriage, especially if a lot of blood has been lost. As well as eating an iron-rich diet, see your medical doctor for blood tests if you are concerned.