From the top of the hill, it’s easier to let go of thoughts and to see them for what they are – just thoughts that pass

Here’s some ideas I had to defuse from after my first miscarriage

An early miscarriage is less of a big deal as the physical part is over quickly

WRONG – there’s a loss of hopes and dreams, shattered beliefs about pregnancy necessarily ending in live birth, other people’s emotional responses, real or imagined and the world continuing like nothing has happened and a sense of being expected to do the same since nobody knows what’s happened due to the no pregnancy news before 12 week scan convention – just for starters.

The expectation of silence – not helpful for me. In my view it is there as much to protect others from not knowing what to say or do to support a woman who has lost a pregnancy as it is to protect women themselves. I also don’t like the implication of shame that goes with silence and in turn of stigma associated with shame. I’ve had my emotions bubble over in social situations many times due to pregnancy loss and because of other people not knowing I’ve had my husband brush it off to them as ‘my hormones’. I’ve even done it myself. Doing so made me feel even more shame and frustration. We often compound our suffering when we try to avoid our feelings and thoughts or to hide them and adhering to that rule compounded my suffering.

So what is defusion?

It is the concept that distress is caused by fusing with an idea that is unhelpful to us, where this prevents us seeing a situation clearly and making a free choice to act differently and more helpfully and kindly to ourselves. So for me, I was fused with the idea that other people’s feelings mattered more than mine, that their need to be protected from possibly feeling awkward for a moment mattered more than allowing myself to be honest that I was sad about my loss.

So if we know defusion would help, how do we do that?

For me, writing thoughts down helps me get some space from them. Hence the blogging enthusiasm – if you’re reading this, maybe it helps you too?

I also love nature and the outdoors. Metaphors can also help give you space from difficult thoughts. One of my favourite strategies is to lie on the grass watching clouds, imagining difficult thoughts floating away on the clouds. Alternatively I also enjoy watching crashing waves when my emotions are strong, imagining that the difficult thoughts are crashing over on the waves, passing over.

It also helps to remember that thoughts and feelings are just that. They are passing experiences which come and go, if we let them. We can choose to engage or let go of any thoughts that come. It takes practice to let difficult thoughts go, but I’ve found it gets easier – especially if I try a few different strategies on the same thought.

I also find art and craft can help get space from difficult thoughts – maybe writing ideas down and decorating a jar to put them in, or painting a thoughts as a blob of colour, or as a monster or cartoon character.

Exercise can also help. I love to run, and letting the thought be there while sprinting often works for me in that feeling an endorphin hit while running with a difficult thought breaks the emotional load linked to it and therefore leads to defusion.

It can also help to imagine a difficult thought in a cartoon character voice, high pitched and squeaky, or fast, slow, loud or soft. You can try saying it over and over again until it is just meaningless sounds.

sharing my experience with someone else for me though was key to defusing from my idea that other people needed to be protected from my feelings. I was surprised how many women I knew had miscarried – and just hadn’t talked to me about it before I brought it up. I’ve also yet to talk to anyone who has found it awkward – I’m sure there are people who would, but my mind just offered that thought and the evidence has yet to support it.

A link to a highly recommended self-help book about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that is available as a PDF online with lots more ideas related to defusion and of course many other ACT concepts:

Published by Mummy ACT

Qualified Clinical Psychologist blogging about pregnancy, miscarriage and parenting in the early years using tools from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Compassion Focussed Therapy during a pandemic

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