9 ways therapy can support experiences of pregnancy & infant loss

Experiencing the loss of a pregnancy or a baby is an incredibly challenging and emotionally devastating journey. The profound grief, confusion, and pain that accompany these types of losses can feel overwhelming. During these challenging and distressing times, counselling and psychotherapy offer essential avenues of support, providing solace, understanding, and guidance for navigating the complex emotions and experiences that arise.


The journey of pregnancy and infant loss is unique for each person, with the emotional impact often extending far beyond the immediate loss itself. Counselling and psychotherapy can play a vital role in recognising the complexity of this grief. By accessing therapy, there is the power to create safe, non-judgmental spaces where individuals can freely express their emotions, process their grief, and find a sense of healing amidst the pain.

How can counselling and psychotherapy help?

Here are nine ways that counselling and psychotherapy can support experiences of pregnancy and infant loss:

1. Support

One of the primary reasons why support is essential lies in the nature of the grief experienced during pregnancy and infant loss. Unlike other types of grief, these losses often carry unique complexities, including feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame. The weight of societal expectations, cultural beliefs, and personal hopes and dreams can make the grieving process even more challenging to navigate alone. This is where professional support becomes invaluable.

Counselling and psychotherapy provide a dedicated space where individuals can share their emotions, fears, and struggles without fear of judgment or stigma. Counsellors and psychotherapists can offer empathy, compassion, and understanding, providing a safe and confidential environment for individuals to explore their grief journey.

Support in the form of counselling and psychotherapy can also help individuals feel less alone in their experiences. The isolation that often accompanies pregnancy and infant loss can be profound, as friends, family, and even well-meaning individuals may struggle to understand the depth of the pain. In therapy, individuals can find solace in the presence of a compassionate professional who acknowledges and validates their emotions. This validation helps individuals realise that their grief is real and that there are others who have walked similar paths, fostering a sense of connection and understanding.

2. Creating a safe space

In counselling and psychotherapy, the therapeutic relationship forms the foundation of creating a safe space. Skilled and compassionate therapists create an environment where individuals feel heard, respected, and supported. It is a space where they can be vulnerable, allowing their deepest feelings to emerge and be acknowledged.

The safe space provided by counselling and psychotherapy helps to break the silence and isolation that often accompany pregnancy and infant loss. Individuals can speak openly about their experiences, fears, and doubts without the need to filter their emotions or conform to societal expectations. 

Within this safe space, individuals are free to explore their grief in their own unique way and at their own pace. Counsellors and psychotherapists recognise that grief is a deeply personal journey, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. By providing a non-judgmental environment, counselling and psychotherapy allows individuals to embrace their grief, honouring their personal process without feeling pressured to conform to societal expectations of "moving on" or "getting over" their loss.

The safe space created in counselling and psychotherapy also extends to the exploration of complex emotions such as guilt, anger, and resentment. Often, individuals may experience conflicting emotions that are difficult to navigate alone. Counsellors and psychotherapists can help facilitate a deep dive into these emotions, providing guidance and support as they untangle the complexities of their grief. Through compassionate listening, validation, and gentle challenge, individuals can be assisted in gaining a greater understanding of their emotions, ultimately facilitating healing and acceptance.

3. Validation and normalisation

By validating the emotions associated with pregnancy and infant loss, therapy helps individuals feel seen and heard. This validation is essential because grief can be an isolating experience, often marked by feelings of loneliness and misunderstanding. Empathetic presence and validation create a sense of connection and understanding, alleviating the sense of isolation and normalising emotional responses.

Counselling and psychotherapy can allow individuals to explore and make sense of the complex emotions that may arise during the grieving process. They provide a space where individuals can explore feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, or even relief without judgment. By normalising these emotions, individuals can be supported to understand that their feelings are natural responses to a significant loss and that they are not alone in experiencing such emotions.

This can also extend to the validation of the individual's unique experience of pregnancy and infant loss. Each person's journey is personal and influenced by various factors such as cultural background, religious beliefs, and previous life experiences. Therapists understand the importance of honouring these individual differences and tailoring the support provided accordingly.

4. Grief and loss education

Grief and loss education can provide knowledge and information about the grieving process, the various stages of grief, and common emotional, physical, and cognitive responses to loss. 

By guiding individuals through the stages of grief, such as shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, counsellors and psychotherapists can help you  recognise that these emotional responses are normal and part of the healing process. Understanding that grief is not linear and that it can fluctuate over time allows individuals to navigate their own unique grief journey with greater self-compassion and patience.

Grief and loss education also helps individuals become aware of the physical and cognitive manifestations of grief. Individuals may experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, or sleep disturbances. Cognitive responses, including difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, or even questioning one's own sanity, can also occur. By learning about these common experiences, individuals can alleviate feelings of confusion or self-blame that may arise.

Counsellors and psychotherapists can also help individuals understand the complexities associated with these losses, such as the dreams and expectations tied to parenthood, the bond formed during pregnancy, and the profound sense of loss when those dreams are shattered. By acknowledging the unique challenges of pregnancy and infant loss, individuals can feel validated in their grief and find solace in knowing that they are not alone in their experiences.

Education about grief also extends to dispelling myths and misconceptions surrounding the grieving process. Society can often impose unrealistic timelines for healing or expect individuals to "move on" quickly. Counselling and psychotherapy challenge these societal expectations, empowering individuals to embrace their own pace of healing and honouring their individual grief journey.

5. Emotional expression and processing

Emotional expression and processing are fundamental components of grief work. Counselling and psychotherapists create an environment where individuals feel comfortable sharing their feelings without judgment or fear of burdening others. This safe space allows individuals to openly express their pain, sadness, anger, guilt, and any other emotions that may arise during the grieving process.

Through verbal communication, individuals can articulate their emotions, thoughts, and experiences. This process of emotional expression can provide relief and catharsis, allowing a release of pent-up emotions and opportunities to experience a sense of lightness.

In addition to verbal expression, depending on the counsellor or psychotherapist, there may also be opportunities to employ various therapeutic techniques to facilitate emotional processing, such as somatic focusing, or creative mediums such as painting, drawing, or sculpting using object work. These non-verbal forms of expression can tap into subconscious thoughts and emotions, providing a different platform for individuals to process their grief.

6. Coping strategies and skills

One of the goals of counselling and psychotherapy can be, if required, to equip and advise on practical tools to manage grief and cope with the emotional, physical, and cognitive challenges that arise. Counsellors and psychotherapists can work collaboratively to identify and develop coping strategies that are tailored to unique needs and circumstances.

For example, one coping strategy commonly advocated for in therapy is the practice of self-care; encouraging individuals to prioritise their own well-being by engaging in activities that bring comfort and solace, such as exercise, journaling, mindfulness, or pursuing hobbies. Self-care activities can provide moments of respite and allow for emotional release, promoting a sense of balance and overall well-being.

There may also be guidance around relaxation and stress reduction techniques. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery are just a few examples that can help manage the physical and emotional tension associated with grief. Learning and practising these techniques can provide a sense of control over emotions and promote a greater sense of calm and peace.

Counselling and psychotherapy may also introduce strategies for managing triggers and reminders associated with loss. This can involve creating boundaries with certain people or environments, developing grounding techniques for moments of distress, or finding ways to honour and remember a baby in a meaningful and positive manner.

7. Relationship and family support

The experience of pregnancy and infant loss can strain relationships and create unique challenges for couples or families. Each person may have their own way of grieving, and these differences can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or conflicts. 

In couples' therapy, for example, partners can be supported to navigate through the unique dynamics of grieving together. Couples can be assisted in developing strategies for supporting each other, maintaining emotional connection, and finding ways to honour and remember their baby as a couple. It can also be a space to address any relationship challenges that may have arisen as a result of the loss, such as changes in intimacy, communication patterns, or future family planning.

In addition to individual counselling and psychotherapy, support groups specifically tailored to pregnancy and infant loss can be immensely valuable. These groups provide individuals with an opportunity to connect with others who have gone through similar experiences, offering a sense of community and validation. Sharing stories, exchanging coping strategies, and receiving support from individuals who truly understand can be empowering and healing.

A counsellor or psychotherapist may also provide education and resources to help loved ones better understand the grieving process and ways to support those who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. This education can dispel misconceptions, reduce stigma, and foster empathy and compassion within relationships and families.

8. Providing a sense of meaning and purpose

Experiencing pregnancy and infant loss can leave those affected questioning the purpose and meaning of their lives. Counselling and psychotherapy play a crucial role in helping individuals find a sense of meaning and purpose amidst the pain and grief, fostering healing and growth.

Finding meaning and purpose in the aftermath of pregnancy and infant loss is a deeply personal and individual journey. A therapeutic relationship can provide a compassionate and supportive space for individuals to explore their beliefs, values, and personal identity. Through this exploration, individuals can begin to make sense of their loss and find meaning in their grief journey.

Accessing counselling and psychotherapy can also assist individuals in reframing their experiences and understanding that their loss does not define them solely as a grieving person. By acknowledging the pain and honouring the memory of their baby, there is scope for finding a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.

Counselling and psychotherapy could also provide ways to create meaning and purpose moving forward, such as finding ways to contribute to causes related to pregnancy and infant loss; participating in awareness campaigns or supporting organisations that provide support to families experiencing similar challenges.

9. Continued support and follow-up

The journey of pregnancy and infant loss is not a linear process. It involves ongoing healing, growth, and adjustment. Counselling and psychotherapy can provide continued support and follow-up care, ensuring that resources and guidance needed throughout the grief journey are there when required. 

By recognising that grief does not have a set timeline and can resurface at different stages of life or during significant milestones, continued support and follow-up sessions allow individuals to check in with their counsellor or psychotherapist and process any new emotions, challenges, or changes that may have emerged since their initial therapy sessions.

Regular, consistent therapeutic sessions can help individuals maintain their progress, reinforce coping strategies, and address any new or evolving needs. This ongoing therapeutic relationship fosters trust, empowerment, and a sense of continuity in the healing process.

Accessing a continuing therapeutic relationship can also help in navigating significant events or milestones that may trigger grief reactions. Whether it's anniversaries, holidays, or other important dates, it can help individuals develop strategies to honour their baby's memory, navigate potential triggers, and find ways to engage in self-care and self-compassion during these times.

Continued support and follow-up care also ensure a consistent source of validation and understanding. This ongoing validation helps individuals feel seen, heard, and understood, fostering a sense of connection and healing.

To conclude, experiencing pregnancy and infant loss is an incredibly challenging and painful journey, but it is not one that has to be faced alone. Counselling and psychotherapy provide a crucial source of support, guidance, and healing for those navigating the complexities of grief.

By seeking professional support, solace can be found in knowing that the grief is valid and is witnessed. It is important to emphasise that seeking professional help is not a reflection of a lack of strength or resilience. In fact, it is an act of self-care and empowerment. It also demonstrates that healing and growth are possible even in the midst of profound loss. The path to healing may not be linear, and setbacks may occur, but with continued support and follow-up care, navigation of the ups and downs of grief can be supported.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by this type of loss, please be encouraged to reach out to a qualified psychotherapist or counsellor who specialises in pregnancy and infant loss. Seeking support is a courageous step towards healing.

While the pain may never fully disappear, therapy can help those affected find meaning, support and a renewed sense of hope. Reach out to a professional today and take the first step towards healing and reclaiming your life amidst pregnancy and infant loss.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Sandbach, Cheshire, CW11 1BA
Written by Lyndsey Adderley, MBACP
Sandbach, Cheshire, CW11 1BA

I specialise in working with parents and care experienced people. My approach is rooted in compassion, empathy, and cultural awareness. I believe in providing a safe and non-judgmental space where clients can explore their emotions, develop coping strategies, and work towards creating a more fulfilling life.

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