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Grief & Grieving

Things nobody tells you about miscarriage

Experiencing a pregnancy loss is extremely common, yet miscarriage is a topic that remains in the shadows. It is whispered about, but not completely understood, making it all the more lonely and isolating. And because information on miscarriage is scarce, many people wrongly blame themselves.

With the help of your doctor, others who have experienced miscarriage, and supportive friends and family, in time it may become easier to accept that it is a normal—if painful—part of life that affects an estimated 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies. But knowledge is power, and as you face the grief, pain, and heartbreak of miscarriage, it’s good to keep in mind some helpful truths.

People can be very curious—and insensitive

One of the most surprising (and common) responses to miscarriage is for friends and family to assign fault and blame for the situation.

This can be a surprising blow. But even if you already knew that they would likely be curious, hearing questions and speculations about your body and your behavior can do nothing to help you. Remember, you do not have to interact with people who, because of their own ignorance, blame you for what happened.

Often miscarriages are physically spontaneous, and even if yours had extenuating circumstances, you are already probably punishing yourself. It can help if your support system includes someone who can “screen” visitors and callers until you know how they will treat you.

Few of your friends and family will know how to help

And that does not necessarily make them bad people. It is common for friends to be less supportive than we’d wish after a loved one dies, and for those relationships to falter as a result. After a miscarriage, relationships can be especially fraught.

Many people around you cannot manage this level of intensity, and they may feel awkward and embarrassed at their inability to help or to provide the support you expect. Even people who have been through it may have had very different experiences, and feel at a loss to comfort you.

Understandably, it hurts when close friends and family are not able to step up when you need them. It is important not to be hasty in making permanent decisions about these relationships, though.

After some time passes, you may find yourself interested in working it out, or even just allowing yourself to drift back into their orbit again. If not, you have every right to stop investing time in the people who let you down.

You need ample time to grieve

You are going through hormonal shifts as your body adjusts to not being pregnant. At the same time, you are grieving a major loss—and your physical and hormonal changes may intensify the emotions you’re feeling.

Although every pregnancy loss is different, the experience can be intense, frightening, and lonely. Feelings of shock, grief, and loss are common. Both your mind and your body are struggling to make sense of what happened, and that combined force can intensify your feelings of loss and unfairness.

This is often exacerbated by unexpected feelings and others’ surprisingly insensitive behavior. Awareness and acceptance can help you feel more in control of this difficult process.

For many people who experience pregnancy loss, these feelings of intense emotional distress begin to ease after about six weeks, with further healing over the following several months. For others, however, the sadness and despair after a pregnancy loss can linger, perhaps even triggering depression or anxiety, or worsening an existing mental health condition.

If your grief feels unmanageable or you do not have an adequate support system, seeking professional help is a critical step towards positive healing.

Your partner will have a grief journey of their own

Your partner will likely share much of your sadness, but their experience is very different and they are entitled to their own feelings.

When it seems like they just don’t understand, chances are they don’t. But it doesn’t mean they are dismissing you or being intentionally hurtful. If you need them to act (or not act) in specific ways or perform certain tasks, tell them clearly.

Communication is key at this time because of the misinformation about miscarriage that we all receive. Direct conversations are often necessary for couples who are traversing this unfamiliar terrain.

You are not responsible for other people’s emotional needs

Besides dealing with your own emotional and physical journey, you may be expected to manage the attitudes and feelings of your partner, friends, and family. That is not your job, unless you want it to be.

And if people around you are centering themselves or demanding your attention (because they don’t know how to help, or they feel helpless, for instance), it’s completely OK to not take their calls or visits until you’re ready.

Allowing yourself to grieve the loss can help you come to accept it over time. But you don’t have to accept “help” that isn’t helping.

Everyone’s style of grieving is different, and if you and your best supporters can protect you from some of the common (but not often discussed) behavior of others, you may have a measure of peace during your grief journey ●

Grief & Grieving

Grief & Grieving

Grief isn’t a feeling. It’s a process. Everyone experiences it differently, and you are the only one who can feel your feelings. But some understanding may help you come to grips with what you are going through.