Experiencing a miscarriage is a unique type of loss. Unlike other significant losses, it is often experienced in secrecy and isolation. Many couples might not have even shared that they were pregnant, and then feel uncomfortable mentioning that they lost a child, since most couples now wait until twelve weeks before sharing with families and friends, just to make sure that the baby is okay.
This practice is not only common with couples who have had a previous miscarriage, but with those who are pregnant for the first time, or even have had successful births. The recent sharing by Mark Zuckerburg, founder of Facebook, about his wife Priscilla’s current pregnancy and also their previous miscarriages, has hopefully opened the door for couples to share their fears and their grief.
Unlike Other Kinds Of Grief
The grief is often misunderstood by others. For instance, the message that grieving couples might hear or perceive from others is that having a miscarriage could not possibly be as painful as losing a baby. But this could not be further from the truth. A miscarriage can be every bit as emotionally devastating.
Moms and dads will have had plans, dreams, and a special connection with a future baby. Because of some of the misconceptions about how miscarriages are emotionally experienced, the couple may choose to grieve quietly and alone.
Some couples even avoid talking with each other about their shared pain. Often, anxiety, depression, bursts of anger and all-pervasive fear may develop. This then may be further exacerbated if the couple is not experiencing support from others.
The grief of a miscarriage may mirror “traditional” grief, in that overwhelming sadness, feelings of loss, and anger are experienced, however this type of grief is often compounded by guilt. Parents, and especially mothers, feel as if they have “done something wrong”, and they could have somehow prevented the death – possibly by not exercising as strenuously, or not eating cheese, or any number of reasons.
However, most miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities, as many as 70%, according to Charles Lockwood, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida. It seems to be nature’s way of correcting for either an extra chromosome or chromosomal defects.
Concerns Between Couples
Any type of grief can be hard on a relationship, however miscarriages especially can cause added friction between couples, with perhaps one person feeling more grief and seeing a lack of understanding on the part of the other.
Many moms may experience the grief differently and more acutely, as they had felt the baby grow within them, and don’t understand why their partner doesn’t feel the same sense of loss. It’s also possible that one person feels as if they need to be the “strong” one in the relationship in order to be supportive. It’s important, though, for both people in the relationship to be able to express their feelings in a safe way and to be able to express feelings at all – whether that be anger, sadness, or a mixture of the two.
Additionally, sometimes a couple may decide, even as they deal with the sadness surrounding a miscarriage, to try for another baby. And this can bring even more added pressure to the situation, especially for couples who’ve struggled with fertility issues.
As you move through the grieving process, and start to feel comfortable with the idea of having another child, it is important to know that this doesn’t mean that the other baby has been or will be forgotten. You deserve to be well, and moving past grief doesn’t mean forgetting. A memorial or ceremony of some kind may help to serve as a reminder that your baby has not been forgotten.
It’s important to reach out to at least one person in your life that is emotionally safe. Emotionally safe means someone who can hold the space for your feelings, really hear your experience, and empathize. Setting boundaries with people who you do tell is vitally important.
For example, if a friend or family member says something like “you’ll have another child”, then let them know that this is not only not helpful to hear, but that it is minimizing your experience. You can say “I know that you’re trying to be helpful and that’s your intention, however what you just said really hurts me and please don’t say something like this again.” It is statements like this from seemingly well-meaning people that often cause a couple to keep their grief to themselves.
If the grief seems overwhelming, or if it has turned into longer-term depression or anxiety, it may be helpful to speak with a professional therapist.
A licensed psychotherapist who specializes in grief or depression will be able to you work through your emotions, while providing a safe place for your feelings.
At Nassau Guidance and Counseling, we have worked with many couples who have experienced miscarriages at all stages of their journey, and we would welcome the chance to help you through this difficult process.