How to reconnect with your partner after pregnancy loss

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Pregnancy loss can have a profound effect on your relationship. For some, it can be a life altering event bringing you closer, and for others, it can lead to the end of your relationship.

When you lose a baby it can be difficult to cope. There is no handbook that gives you instructions on how to grieve. You may feel like you and your partner created this baby together, so grieving should be a joint process.  However, for many couples this is not the case. People grieve differently; how you process grief, when you process grief, and when you get to the acceptance stage of grief. You most likely felt different the minute you realized you were pregnant, connecting with your baby early on in your pregnancy. Research shows that for many first time fathers, a man does not consider a pregnancy a baby and himself a father until he holds that baby in his arms. www.webmd.com

You may feel emotionally disconnected from your partner when you are processing pregnancy loss, and you may also feel physically disconnected from your partner. It is common that you may also feel physically disconnected from your own body. You may find it difficult to be physically comforted by your partner or may have difficulty being intimate. This is common after you experience pregnancy loss. 

Reconnecting with your partner can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Here are a few things that can help you reconnect with your partner after pregnancy loss.

1. Reconnect with yourself - Before you will be able to reconnect physically with your partner, you need to reconnect with yourself. This can be done using mind-body techniques to reconnect you to your body. Two mind-body techniques that I use in my work include progressive muscle relaxation and the body scan. These exercises are both helpful to identify where in the body we hold pain, grief and stress from the trauma of a pregnancy loss and where we are disconnected. 

2. Communicate - This may not sound difficult in theory, but in practice can be difficult. Discuss your feelings about the loss with your partner and accept that they might not understand and that they may feel different about the loss of your baby. Tell your partner if it is difficult to connect physically. Explore feelings about being intimate and what that means for each of you. You may feel like being intimate again will lead to a subsequent pregnancy that you are not ready for. Your partner may just be trying to comfort  you and connect physically. Identify triggers that lead to feeling disconnected. Continue to check in about how you are both feeling.

3. Honor your loss - Find a way that feels comfortable to grieve your loss. Create a ritual that you can do with your partner to honor your loss together. It is important to find at least one way that you can honor your baby and sharing this with your partner is a great way to reconnect.

 4. Seek help - If the above ideas do not work and you are still finding it hard to reconnect there is help. Psychotherapy can help you reconnect to your partner after a loss. Remember to be kind to yourself. Pregnancy loss is a complicated loss and there is no one way to navigate it. 

For more resources on reconnecting with your partner please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com.

Honoring your due date

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Your "due date". 

If you have experienced an early pregnancy loss, you might be overwhelmed with emotions when thinking about these two words.  It might feel like a deadline for you or a last hurdle you are waiting for to move from depression to acceptance. You might even feel that your due date will be the time that you start letting yourself grieve. If you have experienced an early pregnancy loss an upcoming due date might be weighing heavily on your mind. According to clinical psychologist Kirstin Bouse, via www.essentialbaby.com, "Commemorating your baby's due date isn't just a way to reflect on how important your baby was to you, it's also a vital step in the grieving process."

While everyone must find the best way to grieve and honor their baby on their due date, here are some ideas that have helped others:

1. Find something that memorializes your baby.  You may find that it is healing to have something that memorializes your baby. You may find that a piece of jewelry that you can wear is meaningful- an initial, name, date or symbol can be printed on necklaces, rings or bracelets to help you remember your baby. You might find that getting a tattoo would help you to honor your baby. Other ideas include a statue, stuffed animal, plaque, or plant are ways that you might honor your baby. You might find it to be healing to create a memory box adding any pictures, poems, toys, outfits, or other momentos that help you to remember your baby.

2. Donate. Whether this is your time or money, you may find comfort in making a donation to a charity in honor of your baby on his/her due date. Donating can be a wonderful way to not only memorialize your baby but to also help others.

3. Surround yourself with family and loved ones. You may fine it helpful to surround yourself with loved ones on this day. Those who know and will help you to honor your baby. It may be helpful for you to talk about it with others, to have a celebration in your baby's honor or simply to just be surrounded by love.

4. Spend time alone. You may find it comforting to be alone.  You may want time to process what this day means to you by yourself. You may not want to talk about the day. You may find it comforting to write about your baby or use art to process your feelings about the day.

5. Take a vacation or a staycation.  You and your partner may enjoy taking time off from work to go out of town or to have a mini vacation in town. It might help you to celebrate the day by making some happy memories or it just might be a good distraction to get through the day.

These are a few suggestions that have helped others. Everyone grieves differently and you have to find what is right for you. If you are having a hard time processing your grief or are feeling stuck there is help.

For more information about grieving after a pregnancy loss please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com

 

Surviving the holidays after early pregnancy loss/miscarriage

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In 1963, Andy Williams sang, "It's the most wonderful time of the year."

If you have experienced an early pregnancy loss you may feel differently. The holidays can be a difficult time of the year for many, but can be especially difficult if you have experienced a  miscarriage.

You may be dreading parties because people do know and are uncomfortable about what to say or  people do not know and are asking when you are planning on starting or growing your family. Or maybe you are dreading opening holiday cards of pictures of friends and family with their children or you may be dreading sending out your own without your child. 

You might be celebrating the anniversary of your loss, a due date or your child's first holiday. Perhaps you were waiting for Christmas to announce your upcoming birth. You might have already made plans for what this holiday would look like with a new baby.  It is easy to feel triggered around the holidays when much of it is centered around family and children.

Wherever you are in your journey, and whatever stage you are at in your grief, here are a few ideas to help through the holiday season.

Tips for getting through the holiday season after an early pregnancy loss:

1. Get extra support - You need additional support during this time. Whether this is doubling up on support groups,  additional therapy sessions or just making plans with those that support you and your loss. If you are  religious, this may include attending services or seeking support through other church members. 

Support groups for miscarriage in the Madison, WI area:

https://www.kullcounselingmadison.com/miscarriage-support-group/

http://www.bereavedparentsofmadison.com

2. Say No - You do not have to do everything. It is okay to say no, whether this is to a party, a family gathering or sending out holiday cards. You especially do not need to do anything that triggers you or that is not a good space for you right now.

3. Practice kindness - During the holidays you tend to practice gratitude and kindness towards each other. Practice kindness and gratitude towards yourself. You may feel like you should be over your grief by now or that you were doing so well and that you took a step backwards-be patient with yourself. Do extra self care during this season: cooking, going for a walk, yoga, practicing mindfulness, reading a book, talking to a friend, or going on a date with your partner are just a few ideas.

4. Honor your baby - you may find it comforting to start a tradition to remember your baby during the holidays. This may look like buying an ornament that honors them or lighting a candle on your holiday to honor their presence. It could be volunteering or buying a gift for someone in need. Whatever this may look like for you, if you want your baby to be part of your holidays you can do it and let the important people in your life know what you need to honor your baby so they can support you.

Please remember if you are grieving a miscarriage you are not alone. If you need help during the holidays, Kull Counseling can help. Please contact  608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com for more information.

When pregnancy after a loss doesn't feel like a rainbow

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You've experienced a perinatal loss and now you are pregnant again. The response of some people may be "I am so excited" or "I feel so lucky to be pregnant after a loss" but what if that isn't your response?  What if your response sounds more like "I am terrified or nervous" or "what if it happens again?". 

A rainbow baby is defined as a baby that is born after a miscarriage or stillbirth. In life a rainbow appears after a storm. The storm is perinatal loss and the rainbow is your beautiful baby that has emerged from the darkness (Urban Dictonary). While being able to get pregnant after a loss can be a relief and joy, it can also bring about a mixture of emotions.

Here are some common emotions that you may experience during a rainbow pregnancy:

Anxiety- Many couples experience intense anxiety during a pregnancy with a rainbow baby. After a loss your sense of security is gone. You may worry constantly about the health of your pregnancy. Women can have difficult times attaching to their pregnancies depending on physical symptoms for reassurance or worrying at the absence of them. You may feel like you will jinx the pregnancy if you start to plan for a baby; telling family and friends you are pregnant, buying items to bring the baby home, picking out names or even just getting excited about the pregnancy. Simple check-ups at the doctors office can turn into anxiety and nightmares. Even every day tasks can seem daunting as you worry about how it will effect the well being of your pregnancy.

Depression- You may feel intense feelings of sadness about your loss. You may have guilt about feeling happy or sad. Some couples wait until they have processed their loss before they start trying again, while others may start trying right away. Whether or not you waited to start trying again, getting pregnant again can bring such a sense of relief but it can also bring up feelings of sadness that you may have thought were gone. 

Grief- While you might have felt that you processed your grief from your loss, a pregnancy after a loss may bring up some of your grief again. It can feel like this pregnancy is supposed to replace your loss. You may struggle with honoring the child you lost while also honoring the child you are pregnant with. It may be an internal struggle to sit with your feelings of grief while also being happy for the new life inside of you.

If you are feeling mixed emotions about being pregnant again, you are not alone. How you feel about your pregnancy may change each day if not each hour. Anxiety, Depression and Grief are common emotions but so are Happiness, Relief and Hope. 

If you experiencing intense emotions during your rainbow pregnancy you are not alone. For counseling services please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or email julie@kullcounselingmadison.com. For information on support groups please contact Bereaved Parents of Madison,

How to support someone suffering from anxiety

Anxiety is our body's natural response to a perceived threat. We all experience anxiety now and again when dealing with the stressors of life. However, many people experience such severe anxiety that it interferes with daily life and makes it extremely difficult to perform at work, maintain relationships; or start/finish tasks.   

The following highlights some common signs of anxiety and some questions to ask yourself to determine if your friend, family or loved one may be exhibiting those signs.

Common signs and questions to ask yourself to determine if a loved one has anxiety

1. Worry - Do they worry a lot? Do they worry about things they have little control over? Are they uncomfortable in situations that they cannot control?

2. Irritability - Do they feel keyed up, sometimes on edge?

3. Stress - Do they have a hard time feeling calm or an inability to relax?

4. Rumination - Do they have a hard time letting go of things- ruminating on something that was said or done a while after the incident occurred.

5. Negative thinking - Does this person have a lot of negative self talk or view of the world?

If these symptoms sound familiar, your loved one might be suffering from anxiety. The good news is you can help! Below are several Important tips to being a helpful and supportive ally, including several things to avoid when trying to support someone with anxiety:

1. Be a support person. Let this person talk to you about their feelings and emotions. Try not to judge what they are saying. 

2. Learn about about anxiety. The more you know the more you can be supportive. If you find anxiety frustrating, imagine how this person might feel. Think about a time when you felt anxious and how that felt. Imagine feeling that way every day or for prolonged periods of time.

3. Encourage the positives. Suggest positive coping skills such as: regular exercise, meditation, mindfulness, balanced nutrition, avoidance of caffeine and alcohol. Reinforce rational thinking and  help them try to avoid thoughts that are irrational.

Are you worried you may say the wrong thing? To help guide your conversation below are some hurtful phrases along with some more encouraging ones.

Hurtful-

"You should try to relax." "Don't worry about it." "Please try to calm down."

Helpful-

"How can I help?" "I am here to talk if you need someone." "I noticed that you did x even though you were really worried about it, I am proud of you."

Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out because you won’t say the ‘right” thing. By talking to someone who is struggling with anxiety, you are already taking an important first step in making them feel heard, supported, and understood.

If someone you love is suffering from anxiety and needs help please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com.

5 things no one tells you about a miscarriage

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A miscarriage is defined as the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will have a miscarriage. While many women have a miscarriage, it still remains a taboo subject, and can be very isolating for a woman to go through. 

5 things no one tells you about a miscarriage:

1.  It is a major loss - Going through a miscarriage is a major loss; whether you were 4 weeks pregnant or 20 weeks pregnant. Every woman has a different reaction and experience with miscarriage, and needs time to process and grieve what they have gone through.

2. The physical process can last weeks, if not months - Some women will miscarry at home while others will require medical interventions. Miscarriages can last weeks before they are completed. Because hormones are in the body some woman can continue to experience pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and weight gain. Once a miscarriage has completed it can take months for a woman's body to acknowledge they are no longer pregnant.

3. The mental process can last longer - Miscarriages are tough to deal with and can make you feel alone. People will try their best to support you and help you through your miscarriage, but may not understand what you are experiencing. In addition many people do not feel comfortable discussing having a miscarriage, which can make it feel isolating when you are experiencing one.

4. Your partner's grief will be different than yours -  It can be difficult to understand how your spouse or significant other feels.  Everyone experiences grief differently. While your grief can be different it is still possible to support each other. Open communication is key in understanding your partners grief.

5. It's okay to want to try again - Medical providers have different recommendations on when you can start trying again. Some for medical reasons and others for emotional/mental readiness. No one can tell you when you will feel ready to try again. It is something that each person will have to assess for herself. 

Each person's experience with miscarriage is completely unique and there is no "right way" to process grief. Not every person that experiences a miscarriage will need extra support, but if you feel like you need support through a miscarriage please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com. 

Facebook-helpful or hurtful

Facebook comes up at least once a day in my counseling sessions. Social support and distraction can be two positive coping mechanisms for dealing with anxiety. Facebook helps us to reconnect and stay in touch with family or friends. It also provides an "in the moment" distraction to take our minds away from uncomfortable feelings. While this all sounds pretty good there are other effects of using Facebook, and other social media platform.

When someone posts a picture on Facebook they are taking just a small snapshot of their life. Sometimes looking at others' pictures of their perfectly orchestrated photos can leave you with feelings of insecurity, inferiority, sadness or jealousy. Sometimes going onto social media can lead you to a downward spiral of spending hours a day torturing yourself with other people's "happy" lives.

The moral of the story is that social media can be a great tool if you use it right. Connect with others, keep in touch. If you find yourself feeling down or stressed from using social media it might be time to log off.

If you are interested in hearing more about healthy ways to deal with anxiety/or stress please contact Julie C Kull, LCSW at Kull Counseling, LLC. 608.239.4807.

 

Anxiety toolbox

I recently had the pleasure of presenting an anxiety toolbox to the Counseling Staff at Edgewood College. I co-presented with Meagan Geurts of Megan Geurts Counseling. As the Fall semester is about half way over the students are well into mid terms and some even looking ahead to finals in another month. This is also the time of year that anxiety starts to peak with students.

Meagan and I were able to discuss some techniques that we use in our sessions to help our clients. One of my favorite tools that i discussed is 4 square breathing. It is a great exercise that can be used in the moment with anxiety.

4 square breathing looks like this: breath in to the count of 4, hold to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4 and hold to the count of 4. Repeat until you feel your heart rate begin to come down and your breathing slows down.

When I teach relaxation techniques in my session I remind my clients that it takes practice to learn a new skill. I encourage clients to practice 2-3 times a day for 1-2 weeks.

What techniques do you use to decrease anxiety?

For more techniques to help you cope with anxiety please contact Julie C Kull, LCSW at Kull Counseling. 608.239.4807

How to choose a therapist in Madison, WI

The idea of starting therapy can be a daunting one. Therapy is a very personal process and after a client's readiness for change, your therapeutic relationship can be one of the most important factors on whether or not psychotherapy/counseling is successful for you. Choosing a therapist is not like choosing a primary care doctor. It is someone that you will plan on seeing weekly for months and possibly years. So what should you look for when choosing a therapist? Here are some important things to look for when choosing the therapist that is right for you.

1. Initial Interaction-  From the initial phone call how does this person make you feel?  Do they return your message when they say they will? How do they act on the phone? In person? Is this someone that you can see yourself opening up to? Is this someone you want to spend time with? When you are in their office are they giving you their full attention? Are they engaged?

2. Experience-Has the therapist worked with the issue that you are seeking help for? Have they been successful at helping clients? How can they help you?

3. Cost/Investment- Have you thought about how you will pay for your sessions? Do you need/want  to use insurance? Do you know what  your mental health benefits are?Do you know what your deductible is? If you are not using insurance have you thought about what therapy might cost?  Are you prepared to make an investment in your self?

4. Therapy style- This may be their style of therapy ( e.g., theories they draw upon) but I think that even more important than this, is approach. Are they direct? Are they collaborative? Are the sessions going to be therapist led or client led? What theory or style of approach will work for you and make you most comfortable. Can they provide you with what you need? You may want a therapist that is gentle and client led sessions..but is that what you need?

5. Availability-Is this someone with a full practice and a line outside the door? Will this person be able or willing to respond to you if you are in crisis or have a need to contact your therapist outside the session. Does that matter to you?

Each therapist is very different as is each client and in Madison, WI you have plenty to choose from.  I encourage you to contact a few therapists before making a choice on who you want to see on a regular basis. Over and over I have heard clients say that yes they have been to therapy before usually years ago but that their therapist wasn't a match. Please take the time to find someone that is a good fit for you.

For more information on finding the right therapist or for therapy resources in Madison, WI please contact Kull Counseling, LLC.