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Unexpectedly Pregnant and Grieving What Might Have Been

Have you recently received a positive pregnancy test result that you didn’t want or anticipate?  Any person facing a situation like yours has three options available to her: abortion, adoption, and parenting.  Each alternative comes with its own set of processes and risks, challenges, and benefits.  Each has the potential to lead you down a different life path.  Although the future is impossible to predict, maybe you’re sensing that any one of your options would require you to give something up.  Your pregnancy journey may involve a process of grieving what might have been, which can be hard to stomach.  Know that it’s possible to identify and lean into your own best outcome in spite of this.

As you contemplate your next steps for this pregnancy, do you find yourself grieving a future that you seem to have lost?  Whether you’ve already made up your mind about your pregnancy options, or remain undecided, this may be a feeling that’s gnawing on you today.  Avenue Women’s Center is with you and for you.  We understand that an unexpected pregnancy journey can be (and usually is) complex and emotionally painful- no matter what outcome is reached in the end.  We’re here to be your caring advocate and ally every step of the way.

Learn more about Avenue!  We’re a limited medical clinic with six locations in Chicagoland, and we’re passionate about equipping women to make informed, empowered pregnancy decisions.

Grief and the Pregnancy Journey

The word “grief” typically describes the process of coping with the death of a loved one.  However, it’s possible to grieve any kind of loss.  According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Grief can accompany any event that disrupts or challenges our sense of normalcy or ourselves.” The realization of an unexpected pregnancy can definitely fit into this category, as can any potential pregnancy outcome.  Let’s say, for example, that you’ve decided your next best step is to schedule an abortion.  If parenting is something you’ve wanted for your life (albeit, not right now), you may be grieving the idea of becoming a mom in the near future.  If you’re planning to parent and are realizing this will probably affect your college experience, you may be grieving the freshman year lifestyle you were looking forward to.  With any pregnancy option, there’s something to lose (and perhaps something to gain).

A Slippery Slope

Grief is a normal part of life.  Grieving “what might have been” can be a healthy part of your pregnancy journey- to an extent.  However, it’s important to note that fixating on missed opportunities could become a slippery slope.  Remember that you’re always going to have an idea of, “what might have been” through any difficult decision or challenge that you face in life.  Because this notion exists in your imagination, it can be easy to over-romanticize.  There’s a better approach.  Balance your grief with an acceptance of reality, and focus on your next steps in the present, using the information available to you.  Our compassionate team can support you in this process by providing reliable information about your pregnancy, options, and resources.  Your story is far from over!  You have (or can acquire) everything you need to step into the future with confidence and reach a regret-free outcome.

Coping with Grief

There are many constructive ways to manage grief.  Coping well with your painful emotions surrounding this unexpected pregnancy will equip you to navigate your next steps with greater clarity and confidence.  Here are some tips for coping with grief from Cleveland Clinic.

  • Take good care of yourself. Be attentive to your mind, body, and spirit.  Get a healthy amount of sleep, exercise, and eat wholesome meals.  Prioritize mediation and rest.
  • Keep consistent routines. Your “sense of normalcy” has probably been interrupted by the loss or losses you’re experiencing.  Stick to your regular, healthy habits.  This will help you to manage your emotions.
  • Pay attention to your feelings. Process your emotions, and express them in ways that feel natural.  Resist the temptation to avoid your feelings by busying yourself.
  • Reach out for support. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself.  Lean on the trustworthy, supportive people in your life.  There’s never any shame in reaching out for professional help if you sense that this is something you need.

Keep in Mind…

If you’re still feeling torn between pregnancy options, it may be a little too early to grieve what might have been.  Make sure you have peace of mind about whichever pregnancy outcome you decide to pursue… whatever losses it may involve.  If you don’t feel ready or something is holding you back, it’s okay to pause.  You can always seek out more information and support, and give yourself more time to process, to reach a conclusion you feel confident in.

The future often has a way of surprising us- in positive ways as well as negative.  Your pregnancy outcome could bring good things and opportunities that you never anticipated.  Remember this as you navigate the days ahead.  Avenue Women’s Center is here to help you cope every step of the way.  We’d love to be a part of your support network and to equip you with the tools you need to make your best pregnancy choice.

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Cleveland Clinic.  (2023, February).  Grief.  Retrieved from:

The information provided here is general in nature.  It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center.  If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention.  Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.