The fact that miscarriages can be common likely provides little to no comfort to you if you've experienced one yourself. While your doctor may have tried to reassure you that you did nothing wrong and that sometimes "these things just happen," it doesn't take away the pain and hurt you are experiencing right now. Coping with a miscarriage and the loss of a child is something no person wants to imagine.
We want to start by saying we are truly sorry for your loss and the hurt you are experiencing. This can be an incredibly challenging time where you feel alone as you work to process your loss while the rest of the world moves on with what seems not a care in the world.
Emotional healing from a miscarriage generally takes much longer than physical healing. So, we encourage you to embrace the grieving process as you work through processing your loss.
The Grieving Process
The grief that comes with a miscarriage and the loss of a child can feel overwhelming. How this shows up in life can vary widely from one person to the next. But it's important to understand that there is no right or wrong way to grieve your loss.
The grieving process often these people in and out of several different stages. These stages sometimes occur in a different order, and it's possible to move back and forth between them multiple times. The common stages of grief include the following.
When first learning of a loss, it can be hard to comprehend and accept. Even if you knew you were expecting a baby for a short time, you likely experienced many emotions. You imagined what it would be like and feel like as your pregnancy progressed. And, you imagined adding a new baby to your life.
Learning that the future you imagined will not happen as you thought it would can lead to denial. You may feel confused, shocked, and numb. You may keep yourself distracted by staying busy with other things all the time, so you don't have to think about it. Or, you may also find yourself reassuring others that you're "fine" while doing your best not to think about or talk about the loss.
The next stage of grief is anger. As the reality of your loss sets in, you may struggle with varying levels of anger that can show up in several different ways.
You may find yourself frustrated and angry with yourself, your partner, and your doctors. You may find that you feel resentful toward other parents and those who are experiencing healthy pregnancies. Many women feel angry that their bodies failed them at such an important time.
The bargaining stage can be related to the anger stage of grief. You may be hit with feelings of guilt and shame over your loss. Insecurity may sink in. You may find yourself thinking things like, "If only I had…" or "I should have…."
Worrying and overthinking is common in this stage of grief as you work to try to understand why it happened or how it could have been prevented.
As you begin to accept the loss of your pregnancy and child, it can be normal to move into the depression stage of grief. You may find yourself wanting to withdraw from others. You may be hit with feelings of helplessness, sadness, and overwhelm.
In addition, you may experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, changes in sleep and appetite, and crying.
Acceptance does not mean that your loss doesn't matter to you or that you don't continue to experience feelings of sadness about it. However, it means that you can be present in the current moments and accept the reality of what is happening. There is also a level of self-compassion that can arrive when you reach the acceptance stage of grief.
It is not your fault
While self-blame is common during miscarriages, we want you to know it's not your fault. There are many reasons why miscarriages can occur, and often people never know why it happened to them.
Allow yourself time to heal and process the experience that you've had. Do not feel pressured to move through the stages of grief in a certain period of time. However, if you are feeling stuck in your grief or unable to move forward, we encourage you to reach out for help from a licensed mental health professional.
Be aware of triggering events
As life continues after your miscarriage, it can be helpful to know that certain events may feel triggering to you. For example, attending baby showers, holding newborns, or arriving at what would have been your due date, can be challenging events that flood you with difficult emotions.
It's okay to avoid attending events that may be too difficult for you right now. For example, if you need to skip a baby shower for a friend or family member, it doesn't mean you don't love them and aren't happy for them. But it may feel overwhelming to attend, so it's okay for you to skip it.
Remember that people grieve differently
Each person has the right to grieve in their own way. However, that doesn't mean it might not be frustrating for you to experience that when dealing with your own grief. For example, it is common for partners to experience and show their grief differently than one another. This can feel upsetting if your partner seems unimpacted by the loss.
Men don't typically show the same level of emotion as women do over a pregnancy loss. They have not experienced the physical pregnancy themselves, making it difficult to understand exactly what the woman is experiencing. They also don't have the same struggle of grieving the feeling that their bodies failed that many women experience.
However, studies have found that eight weeks after a miscarriage, men are still impacted by their loss. In addition, their grief is generally impacted by the length of the pregnancy and if they were present for an ultrasound before the loss.
It can be helpful to talk with your partner about what you’re feeling and experiencing while also asking them how they are feeling. While some people won’t be as comfortable talking about it, having these conversations can be helpful as you move forward and grieve individually and together.
It’s also important to remember that outside of your partner, you may not grieve your loss the same way that others do. You may talk with other women who have experienced a miscarriage and find that some had a harder or easier time moving through the grieving process. This does not say anything about you or them since everyone experiences and grieves the loss in their own way. Don’t feel pressured to keep up with others or like you don’t care enough if you reach the acceptance stage before others.
You get to control what you share and what you don’t
Sometimes, there is an added layer of difficulty when grieving a miscarriage. Depending on how far along you were in your pregnancy, others may not have known you were expecting. That means you may be dealing with your grief silently while others have no idea what you are going through.
You get to decide what you share and what you don't with others. You may find it helpful and healing to be able to talk about it with others. It may also be helpful for others to know what has happened so they know why you aren't acting like your typical self. But you also have the freedom not to share your situation with others if you don't want to. This is a personal decision that you may want to speak with your partner or a therapist about to consider the pros and cons.
Consider creating a miscarriage memorial
You may find it helpful to find a way to honor your child even if you didn’t have a chance to meet them and hold them in your arms. There are many different ways you can do this, which can vary with what stage of pregnancy you reached. A few ideas include:
Naming the baby
Holding a memorial service
Making or buying a piece of memorial jewelry
Planting a tree or special plant in your yard
Adding a memorial statue to your yard
Buy a special item like a pillow, stuffed animal, or ornament
Look for what helps you and feels right for you and your partner.
You may experience anxiety about trying again
When you've lost a child through a miscarriage, it's common to feel fear and anxiety around trying to conceive again. You may be worried that you won't be able to get pregnant again, or you may worry that a future pregnancy will end in a miscarriage as well.
If you become pregnant again, you may find that you are highly sensitive to every pain, cramp, or weird feeling. You may find it difficult to enjoy the moments you so desperately wanted the first time, like ultrasounds and hearing the heartbeat because you fear what may happen.
Speaking with your partner, close family or friends, and a therapist can help you work through your anxiety about trying again or becoming pregnant.
Support is available for you
Dealing with any loss is difficult. If you are struggling with your feelings and emotions after a miscarriage or worried about trying again, we want you to know that help is available. You are not alone in this journey, and there are others who understand what you're experiencing on some level.
You may find it helpful to speak with a family member or friend. You may also find it helpful to join a support group. There are options in-person and online where you can connect with others who have experienced a miscarriage and understand how you feel.
The NEST Clinic also has licensed mental health providers available who specialize in reproductive and maternal mental health, including pregnancy, infertility, and loss. If you would like to be matched with a therapist, please complete the contact form here or call us at 651-425-9297.