Of all the things a woman may go through, miscarriage may be one of the most poorly understood. You may feel terribly sad, yet alone, because some of the people closest to you simply don't grasp what you're going through.
They may want to empathize but not know how to relate, especially if they haven’t experienced a miscarriage themselves. They may not comprehend how real your baby was to you.
Here is a brief look at the very real grief that can happen after miscarriage and suggestions for how to move through it.
Recognizing Grief After Miscarriage
Many women blame themselves for miscarriage. The truth is, most miscarriages are outside your control. Try not to add to your grief by blaming yourself.
You may need time to heal emotionally after you lose a baby to miscarriage. It is very normal to grieve, not just for your baby, but also for all of the dreams you had for you and your child.
Grief takes different forms for different people. You might feel:
- Unable to concentrate
You may find it difficult to be around families with healthy infants for a while. Even after you think you’ve moved on, grief can return without warning. The baby’s due date or Mother's Day can bring back old feelings of sorrow and longing. Some women have a resurgence of grief when they get pregnant again.
How long and deeply you grieve depends upon many different things. For example, grief can be worse if you miscarry later in your pregnancy because you had more time to get attached to your baby. It’s possible your grief will be deeper and take longer to work through if you were quite far along in planning for your baby, for instance if you picked a name or decorated the nursery.
Getting Support After Miscarriage
Grief may make you feel like retreating, but try to get the support you need right now and in the future.
Support each other. Your spouse or partner may be grieving as well, even if it is hard to recognize. For instance, you may be angry and they may feel numb. Or you may need to talk, while they can’t find words for their feelings. If you're not connecting, seek the help of a counselor who can help you understand and support each other.
Consider a support group. You may find comfort and healing in a support group with others who have also lost a child to miscarriage. Your hospital or doctor may be able to refer you to a nearby support group. The group Share: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support (www.nationalshare.org) lists support groups in many states.
Find what works for you. Grief has a way of lasting longer than you think it will. You can give yourself time, you can talk to understanding friends and family, but you can’t rush the grief process. Consider planting a tree, giving to a charity, or finding some other way to memorialize your lost baby. Some women try to get pregnant again soon after they miscarry. Others lead support groups or talk to other women who have had the same experience. If you go easy on yourself and stay open, you will find something that works for you.
Take care of yourself. Treat yourself with care. You don't need to reassure anyone that "everything is OK." You don't owe long explanations about why and when this happened. And you don’t have to tell everyone you know.
How to Tell Others
There's no right way to tell people about your loss. Remember that members of your family -- or even close friends -- may have their own feelings about the news. You even may want to do it in different ways, depending on who you’re telling.
Say it in person. If you want hugs and emotional support, tell the people you most trust to comfort you in person. You know best who this might be.
Say it in writing. You might find it easier to write notes or send email messages to certain family members, friends, or co-workers. Explain briefly what happened, and be honest about what you need in terms of support. And, if it's OK with you, let them know that they can ask questions.
Get a friend to spread the word. Another approach is to have someone else communicate the news for you. Maybe a trusted co-worker can tell the people you work with. And your sister or mom can make a round of calls to the rest of your family. If there's something in particular you want said, or left unsaid, just let them know.
Telling children. If you have children, telling them may be hard for many reasons. Depending on their ages, they may have trouble understanding what's happened. Use simple, honest words. You might say something like, "The babies weren't able to keep growing." Saying that mommy lost the babies or that the babies are sleeping can be confusing for a young child.
Children may also grieve but not know how to handle it. Be alert to changes in behavior, encourage questions, and assure them that they are not going to die. It may help to share a children's book about death and loss.
Be Prepared for Different Reactions
You can expect a range of responses from the people you tell. Some may know just the right thing to say and do. Others may not, so try to be prepared.
No response. It may seem hard to believe, but people often have no idea what to say in the face of grief. Maybe they’ve never been through a loss like this and truly can’t imagine what you are going through. Or they may be afraid they'll say something to worsen your pain. Sometimes, people just have a hard time handling grief or dealing with death. It may bring up their own feelings that they don't want to face. If you don't get a response, try to remember that people do care about you -- even if they are silent.
Cliched condolences. Some people may say things that make you feel worse, not better. "It will go better next time" or "I know how you feel" may make you feel as though your grief is being swept under a rug. Most people don't mean to be insensitive. They may not understand that simply saying something heartfelt like "I am so sorry about your miscarriage" or "I know how much you wanted these babies" is all they really need to say.
Downplaying your grief. Everyone goes through grief differently. And not everyone understands the impact of a pregnancy loss. Try to be honest about how you feel. If they still don't understand, seek out support from those who do.
As you go through this process, try to stay open. You may find you receive support from people and places you least expect.