Miscarriages are a common but dreadful experience that every expecting couple fears. When they occur, they do so suddenly, usually without warning. In their wake, it can be difficult to identify and handle the feelings that follow.
How one person experiences grief, won’t be the same for another person experiencing the same thing. Everyone experiences grief differently and handles it in their own way.
In this guide, we look at how you might experience your grief, and what steps you can take to make it more manageable.
Express Your Feelings
It’s common to bury feelings of grief or sadness. Social situations don’t always lend themselves well to intense emotions. While you’re in grief, however, your socially conditioned notions of what is polite should not necessarily factor.
If you feel sad, be sad.
“I’m ok,” needn’t be a phrase that falls from your lips if it isn’t true. By acknowledging your feelings you develop power over them while also opening yourself up to the potential for help.
Use Your Support System
Pregnancy loss is private and personal. Many people avoid talking about their experiences with a miscarriage—either because it’s uncomfortable for them, or because they fear it will be uncomfortable for their loved ones.
Difficult though it may be to discuss, using your support system is an important step in grief management. For one thing, it’s therapeutic to discuss important issues with people you care about. Just the knowledge that there is a network of people out there hoping for you to pull through your difficult life experience can be enough to help you in your darkest hours.
Perhaps just as importantly, talking about your feelings gives you the opportunity to benefit from other people’s experiences as well. Miscarriages are very common—up to 15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage which means there is a good chance you know someone who has been in the same position you are in now.
Pregnancy complications and difficulties that don’t result in a miscarriage are also very common, meaning that no matter what, someone you know will probably be able to relate to your situation.
Politics Don’t Matter
Unfortunately, pregnancy can be a fraught political territory no matter what side of the aisle you find yourself on. If you lean left, you may feel obliged, or even encouraged to dismiss your experience as the loss of a fetus. If you lean right, your instincts or social circle might encourage you to treat it the way you would any loss of a family member.
Politics can’t matter here.
Instead, try to be as honest and open with yourself as possible as you consider your feelings. There is no right or wrong way to frame a miscarriage in your mind. As Sarah K. Price, of Virginia Commonwealth University, puts it,
It doesn’t matter how long you were pregnant: the sense of expectation starts immediately. It also doesn’t matter if you conceptualize your experience as the demise of a fetus, the loss of a pregnancy or the death a baby.
Whatever you feel about the situation is correct.
Names Can Help
It may seem strange to name your lost pregnancy, especially retroactively but doing so can be an important part of the grief management process.
Dr. Price says,
It will help give you a physical reminder of something lovely because the name and the hopes and the expectation that you have been holding onto are also lovely and deserve to be celebrated.
The name can be just a word that passes between your spouse and wider family circle. Or it could take the form of a plaque, a tattoo, a piece of jewelry. Some form of a reminder that the pregnancy mattered to you and that you won’t forget it now that it’s gone.
Expect Delayed Grief
Miscarriages happen so suddenly that the emotional experience often lags behind the physical one. Dr. Price says, “It’s important to recognize that there will be a time to acknowledge and experience and that might seem “out of sequence” when it happens.”
People only have so much emotional bandwidth. Perhaps you’re too stunned to experience the pain of your loss. Perhaps there are too many other obligations dividing your attention—work, other children, etc.
There are many reasons why miscarriages might result in numbness or a simple delayed emotional response. It’s ok when this happens.
The key is to give yourself permission to be sad, even if the feelings come months after the situation that produced them. Grief is grief whenever it happens. Take care of yourself.
Therapy may not be the traditional response for miscarriages. For many, however, it should be. Grief management specialists are trained to handle and help you navigate intense emotions. Seeing a therapist, even temporarily can help you to both express your feelings clearly, and develop the skills you require to cope with them.
It’s also worth considering that therapy can take many forms. For example, studies have shown that companion animals are an effective way to cope with difficult situations. Try anything and everything that might help. What works for one person might not work for the next so explore your options thoroughly.
For the religious, spiritual guidance is often a valuable step in the grief process. If you already attend a religious institution, consider speaking to a pastor. Your spiritual community may also feature support groups that frame the loss in terms that are copacetic with your feelings and belief.
While no group, spiritual or otherwise, should be allowed to frame the situation for you, this recourse may be a valuable way to interpret the loss in terms that are familiar and comfortable to you.
It Will Be Hard
No matter what, expect dealing with your miscarriage to be difficult. For most people, it is. Give yourself permission to feel sad for as long as it takes. And, as time begins to erode your grief, give yourself permission to feel better as well.
Grief management is a fluid, sloppy experience. Navigate it with emotional honesty, and the support of your community, and you will find that even the darkest nights break for dawn.
This content is made possible by Andrew Deen.
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