Managing our emotions after the loss of a child or pregnancy

The loss of a child or pregnancy can take you to all ends of the emotional spectrum.

Amazingly, a human being can experience almost 34,000 different emotions. And at certain stages of grieving my losses, I think I felt all 34,000 of them.

The complexity of grief and loss means our emotional responses and the stages of grief are often unpredictable.

The Kubler-Ross Model of Grief, and what grieving actually feels like.

The Kubler-Ross Model of Grief, and what grieving actually feels like.

A gentle exploration to understand your emotions, learning skills in how to manage them and using them to your advantage can turn what is often a harrowing experience into a more empowering one. 

The Primary Emotions 

Our Primary Emotions are the body’s first response to stimuli, and are often easy to identify as they are felt so strongly. They are fear, happiness, sadness, anger, surprise and disgust. 

When asked what we are feeling, a more generalised descriptor such as angry or sad often comes to mind, as they are the easiest to access.

The Emotions Wheel 

The Emotions Wheel is an effective tool to enable us to identify the deeper emotions that sit behind a Primary Emotion. With this information, we can more effectively:

  • Uncover more accurate feelings and emotions that better describe our current mood or behaviour during the grieving process

  • Provide insight to help us to process the emotions more mindfully and constructively

  • Allow others to understand and support us more effectively through our grief

The Emotions Wheel

The Emotions Wheel

Using the Emotions Wheel

Ask yourself:

How am I feeling right now?

Looking at the emotions wheel below, identify the feeling you are experiencing today on

the outer ring and rate the intensity of the feeling. 

Weight the feeling with a modifier: just a little, quite, very, extremely. Drill down further to middle of the wheel to unearth what the Primary Emotion is attached to what you are experiencing.

You can also use the Emotions Wheel in the opposite direction.

Start in the middle if you are having trouble describing how you are feeling today. You might be experiencing a whole range of emotions that might be overwhelming you, confusing you or creating stress. Then drill down by moving to the outer edges of the wheel in the same colour wedge, to try and explain your emotions with more depth and meaning.

Ask yourself:

Why are you feeling that way? What is influencing you to feel that way?

How are you letting that emotion come and go in your life, without holding it down,

glossing over it, pretending it’s not there? How does this emotion help you to honour your experience as a mother, or the legacy of your child? 

Try writing this little exercise down as a prompt:

I am feeling:

Which on first thought looked like:

(The Primary Emotion in the centre ring).

I think I am feeling this way because:

Losing a child is the most difficult event anyone can experience. Developing more sophisticated habits around managing, expressing and using our emotions will not only help build emotional intelligence to support ourselves through the loss of our child and pregnancy, but build this skill for our future or existing children.

Emotional intelligence helps us to understand and articulate the emotions that are the most challenging, and heart wrenching.

Ami Summers