When a miscarriage occurs, so many emotions are present, for both the mother and the father. Many are despondent over the sudden loss, angry about why it was their baby, lonely, as miscarriage is a topic not talked about openly, just to name a few of the many feelings. One of these prominent emotions is grief, which often accompanies a miscarriage.
There are multiple stages of grief, but it is not always in a straightforward order. One day, you may feel close to your “normal,” the next day you may feel like bursting into tears, swearing and screaming into your pillow. The day after that, you may not even have the energy to leave your bed.
It is okay to have these feelings.
Grief is how we deal with our losses; it is a natural part of life. The more you can understand about how grief may appear in your life, the better you will recognize it, as well as know how to handle the grief.
What is Miscarriage?
A miscarriage, or a spontaneous abortion, happens when a pregnancy is lost and ends before twenty weeks. According to March of Dimes, eight out of ten miscarriages occur prior to twelve weeks, and thirty percent of pregnancies result in a miscarriage. There are different risks for pregnancy loss and types of miscarriages, which can be found here.
Unfortunately, miscarriage is common, and with the statistics shown from March of Dimes, at least one out of four women will experience a pregnancy loss. You yourself may have experienced a miscarriage, and likely someone you know has been through a loss. It is a very difficult and sorrowful experience for many women and men, especially if the pregnancy was one that was anticipated and already loved.
What is Grief?
Grief is how we deal with any loss, whether it is a miscarriage, the death of a friend or family member, being laid off from your employment, ending a marriage or relationship, or even receiving a diagnosis that you did not want to hear from the doctor.
There are five stages of grief. With these stages, there is no specific timeline for each phase. Some may skip a stage of grief and others may experience a phase repeatedly. It depends on the type of loss, in this case, miscarriage, and how it has impacted you. It is important you know that your feelings through these stages are normal.
The Five Stages of Grief… What Does It Look Like?
The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
o Denial is when it is difficult to grasp the loss.
o Even though a miscarriage has already happened, you may feel like there is still a possibility that the pregnancy is still there.
o You may attempt to distract yourself from the miscarriage with a hobby, housework, your job… anything to get your mind off the loss.
o You may avoid talking about the miscarriage. If you do talk about your loss, you may say things like, “I’m okay” or “everything is fine” when it may not be.
o You may not want to be around anyone, even your partner, and separate yourself from family, friends, work, and other activities in your life.
o Anger can present itself as self-blame. You may feel like it was something you did to cause the miscarriage and you may be angry at yourself.
§ If you feel this way, know that it is very unlikely that the miscarriage resulted in something you did. Miscarriage happens on its’ own and usually cannot be stopped once it has started.
o If you are religious, you may be angry at God.
§ “Why was my baby taken away?”
o You may be angry at your OBGYN or family doctor at how they could not do more to save the pregnancy.
o You may be angry at friends and family. They may have unintentionally said something to upset you after the loss.
§ People do not mean to be hurtful during this time. Many times, they do not know what to say, and end up saying something wrong.
o You may just be angry at the world. It does not matter really who it is – you are just furious.
o Bargaining can be used to mentally avoid a miscarriage. Intense thoughts come into play during this stage.
o If you are religious, you may try to bargain with God and make promises.
§ “If I get pregnant again soon, I will come to church more often.”
o You may spend time scouring the internet on why this miscarriage happened and what you can do in the future to prevent it happening again.
o You also may have “if only” types of thoughts.
§ “If only I knew I was pregnant, I would not have gone to Universal. I rode roller coasters all day long.”
§ “If only I didn’t miss four days of my prenatal vitamins, I would still have a pregnancy.”
§ “If only I didn’t have a sip of my spouse’s wine, then my baby would still be in my belly.”
o Remember, it is very unlikely that the miscarriage resulted in something you did. Miscarriage happens on its’ own and usually cannot be stopped once it has started.
o The depression stage goes beyond the typical feelings of sadness. It is more than crying for a little while and feeling well enough to go on about your day. Depression lingers.
o It may be difficult to focus on everyday activities, such as a job, housework, or even taking care of your other children.
o You may feel like being pregnant or having children is not a possibility in your life.
o Seeing a celebratory post on Facebook of someone you know announcing their pregnancy may trouble you.
o It may be difficult to be around babies and young children in your life, such as nieces and nephews.
o Depression in grief can become clinical depression. It is important to keep in close contact with your doctor and your support system during this stage.
§ If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, text or call 988.
o Acceptance is when it is easier to handle the events of the miscarriage.
o The sadness of the loss may be with you for the rest of your life, but it is not as debilitating as it was before.
§ It may be easier to look at baby items at the store.
§ Seeing other babies may not be as painful.
o Acceptance does not always come right away. This stage may not come until another baby is in the picture.
o It can take years to reach this stage. It is important to surround yourself with people who love you and are there for you.
These examples of what can happen in each stage may not be what you or a loved one experiences exactly. Ultimately, if you feel like your feelings are abnormal or potentially harmful, reach out to your doctor and your support system.
How Do I Manage My Grief?
In the days following the miscarriage, there is a huge hormonal shift in the woman’s body, as she is adjusting physically and mentally to no longer being pregnant.
Depending on the relationship and personalities between you and your partner, the grief experiences you both have may not be the same exact length of time. There may be some tension in the relationship after the miscarriage.
It is important for you and your partner to communicate where you are in your grief, how the two of you are feeling, and to be there for each other.
Additionally, other ways to handle grief during this time include:
o Taking care of yourself – showering, stretching and yoga, getting at least seven hours of sleep, and eating healthy (fruits and veggies).
§ Do not feel bad about self-care. It is important to make you a priority during this time.
o Feeling your emotions – if you need to cry, scream, or sit in silence, that is okay.
o Taking time away from work to process the loss.
o Having something to remember your baby, such as a bereavement bear.
o Journaling about your feelings on the day to day.
o Creating a schedule and sticking to it – a routine that you can follow every day to give yourself a sense of regularity.
§ Wake up, eat, journal, shower, and sleep at the same times each day.
o When ready, getting in touch with friends and family, as well as other people in your support system.
o Getting involved with a support group for parents who have experienced a miscarriage.
If you have not experienced a miscarriage, but you know someone who has, this is how you can be supportive:
o If you can help in any way, give your assistance.
§ Do they need a meal train?
§ Do they need gas cards?
§ Can you watch their other children for an evening?
o If they are ready and willing to discuss their feelings with you, try not to talk too much. This is not an easy experience for them to talk about, and it is a natural response to fill the awkward and uncomfortable air with chatter. Try to listen more than speak.
o Saying things, such as, “you can always try again,” “it wasn’t a real baby,” “they are in a better place,” “they’re in God’s hands now,” ignores the impact of the miscarriage on your loved one’s life. You may mean it to be compassionate, but it can come across as hurtful. Be careful of your word choice. If you are not sure what to say, it is better to say nothing and just be there for them.
A miscarriage is one of the hardest experiences for a mother and a father. Sadly, it is something that happens often, but due to the sensitive nature of a pregnancy loss, it is not regularly talked about. Grief is normal during this time. It is important to recognize where you are in the grief process, know how to take care of yourself, and understand how to help others you care about during their time of grief.
It is okay to not be okay.
If you or someone you love needs a bereavement bear, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: text/call 988