Pregnancy can come with ups and downs, and some twists and turns are more difficult than others. Case in point—ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg attaches itself somewhere other than the uterus, where a baby normally grows. This occurs in about 1 out of 50 pregnancies.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Does Grief Look and Feel Like After an Ectopic Pregnancy Loss?
- How Can You Deal With Grief After an Ectopic Pregnancy?
- How Can You Help a Loved One Deal With Grief After an Ectopic Pregnancy?
Ectopic pregnancies typically occur in the fallopian tubes, which can be incredibly dangerous to the pregnant person and the baby. As such, in most cases, these need to be terminated. Whether or not the pregnancy was wanted or planned, this unexpected loss can still bring heavy emotions and sadness.
Pregnancy loss, in general, isn’t discussed enough, considering how many people are affected by it. This is even more true for ectopic pregnancy. It’s important to discuss how to deal with ectopic pregnancy grief so that people get the support and information that they need in this difficult time.
What Does Grief Look and Feel Like After an Ectopic Pregnancy Loss?
Grief from a pregnancy loss can be confusing and is usually unexpected. Unlike the death of an older person, where you’re able to celebrate their life and share memories, pregnancy loss occurs during a time when you’re expecting a new life to come into your world.
Ectopic pregnancy can be especially tricky because although it can be a life-threatening situation, you may still be stuck with the decision of whether or not to terminate the pregnancy. This decision and the aftermath can bring up feelings of shame and guilt, or feeling like you could have done something else—even though it’s very much out of your control.
After terminating an ectopic pregnancy, you may go through the five stages of grief. These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You might not move through these in a linear way. You could bounce back and forth between different stages, but with time will reach a place of healing.
While many people don’t associate grief with pregnancy loss, it’s a very common reality. Coping with a miscarriage can feel isolating and confusing. You may get a bit of support initially and then feel sort of left in the dust. This is why it’s so important to reach out to your community, loved ones, and support system.
How Can You Deal With Grief After an Ectopic Pregnancy?
Grief and loss in their many forms are a part of life. Knowing how to deal with it or help a loved one with it is necessary so that you can keep moving forward in your life. Let’s look at how to deal with grief after an ectopic pregnancy.
Rest and time off
Grief can be exhausting. It often requires rest and hibernation before you’re ready to go back out into the world. Rest can look like taking time off of work, spending extra time at home, or even going on a relaxing vacation.
You may feel like you need to rush to get back to your “normal life,” but there’s absolutely no rush. Permit yourself to take as much time to rest and recover as you need and can. You may even want to see if your employer offers bereavement leave or if you qualify for medical leave.
The other reason why it’s so necessary to rest after an ectopic pregnancy is that your body is recovering physically. After the termination of an ectopic pregnancy, your body still experiences a similar hormonal change that you would after an abortion or miscarriage. This is a form of postpartum, which requires some rest.
Rest is a form of self-care. When you’re going through anything intense, like ectopic pregnancy, self-care is a way to become grounded and focus on yourself for a bit. Self-care is anything that allows you to take time to focus on your healing and well-being specifically.
Here are some ways you can practice self-care after ectopic pregnancy:
- Take a bath or relaxing shower
- Get a massage
- Take some deep breaths
- Taking naps
- Practicing yoga or gentle stretching
- Spending time in nature
- Cuddling with pets
- Eating your favorite meals
- Spending time with loved ones
- Getting out of the house for a minute
There are so many ways to practice self-care, but don’t put pressure on yourself to do everything. If it feels like it will be nurturing and nourishing, go for it. If not, try something else.
See a therapist or counselor
Whether or not you’re experiencing mental health issues, a counselor or therapist can help you sort through whatever emotions are coming up, make sense of the experience, and help give you practical tools to manage intense emotions when they surface.
There are mental health providers who specialize in perinatal bereavement care – aka supporting people through different kinds of pregnancy loss, including stillbirth, miscarriage, abortion, and ectopic pregnancy.
Some different kinds of providers you can see are licensed psychologists and therapists, counselors,
Find group support
No matter how loving and supportive your friends, family, and partner may be, they may not be able to relate to you in the way that you need right now. This is why it can be so helpful to find a support group.
Support groups allow you to find community with people who are going through or have been through a similar situation. While each person’s experience is different, it can be incredibly healing to find common ground and share what tools have helped each of you.
Even if it’s challenging to find a support group specifically for people who have experienced an ectopic pregnancy, you can still join a miscarriage support group or another kind of pregnancy loss group. This group may be in person or online.
You can ask your medical provider or look on social media to see if there are any support groups in your area. Another option is to find online support groups. Here are some examples:
It might feel like you’re alone, but you’re not. There are other people you can relate to and bond with over this painful experience.
How Can You Help a Loved One Deal With Grief After an Ectopic Pregnancy?
It can be so difficult to see a loved one deal with grief after an ectopic pregnancy. You might feel like you want to make their pain stop, or to fix everything and make it better, but some things are out of your control. That being said, there are still things you can do to help support your loved one while they move through the most difficult parts of their grief.
Here are some ways to help a loved one deal with grief after ectopic pregnancy:
Offer kind words
It can be difficult to know the right thing to say when a loved one is going through grief. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing; just let it come from the heart and be about them, not about you.
Here are some kind words you can offer to your loved one:
- “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. You did nothing wrong.”
- “I’m here for you no matter what you need.”
- “You and your family are in my heart.”
Avoid phrases like “It wasn’t meant to be,” as these can be hurtful even when said with good intentions. When offering kind words, be clear, concise, and loving.
Make yourself available
You might feel like you need to go above and beyond to support your loved one as they heal from their ectopic pregnancy loss, and that’s beautiful. However, the biggest thing you can do is simply make yourself available to them.
Make yourself available to listen to them, to hold them as they cry, to lounge with them while they rest, and simply be present while they go through the motions of grief. They might feel isolated and alone right now or have difficulty reaching out for support. This is why it can be so essential to go out of your way to make yourself available to them.
Acts of service
Acts of service is a term coined in the context of the five love languages theory. But it’s beneficial for people who are going through grief and loss, too. Acts of service mean taking care of small details that make your loved one’s life easier.
Performing an act of service means going out of your way to do a chore, errand, or small “act of service” for your loved one. When you’re in the midst of grief, even the smallest things can feel overwhelming. Doing an act of service for your loved one helps take the load off of them a little so that they can focus on their healing.
Here are some acts of service you can give to your loved one:
- Getting groceries and snacks for them
- Walking the dogs
- Watching children so that they can nap
- Bringing their favorite meal to them
- Giving them a foot massage
- Running a bath for them
There are so many different kinds of acts of service. If you’re unsure what your loved one needs, just ask. Keep in mind that they might have trouble or feel bad asking you to do something for them, so sometimes it’s nice for you to take the initiative as long as you know it’s something that they would be comfortable with.
Grief After an Ectopic Pregnancy
Grief can come up through all different parts of life, including pregnancy loss. Although people don’t often discuss it, pregnancy loss affects so many people, including you or a loved one.
If you experienced an ectopic pregnancy, know that you will get through this grief. Keep resting, seeking help, and asking for the support you need. If you have a loved one who is going through this, do what you can to take care of the small details in their daily lives and be available to provide love and support.
- “Ectopic Pregnancy.” Pregnancy Complications, American Pregnancy Association, 2021. Americanpregnancy.org.