Miscarriage – Honor the loss and begin to move forward
If you were rejoicing over a positive pregnancy test just weeks or months ago, coping with a sudden and unexpected miscarriage can be difficult. Miscarriage is a term used for a pregnancy that ends on it’s own, within the first 20 weeks of gestation. Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Studies reveal that from 10% to 25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriages. Miscarriage isn’t something that many women talk about, possibly because their loss feels too personal or because they feel the subject is taboo.
Pregnancy loss is devastating, no matter when it happens or what the circumstances was. Whether your loss was at 6 weeks or 26, you’re likely to go through a flood of emotions. Women may experience a roller coaster of emotions such as numbness, disbelief, anger, guilt, sadness, depression, and difficulties in concentrating. Even if the pregnancy ended very early, the sense of bonding between a mother and her baby can be strong. Some women even experience physical symptoms from their emotional distress. These symptoms include fatigue, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, and frequent episodes of crying. The hormonal changes that occur after miscarriage may intensify these symptoms.
However, with time it heals. The emotional impact can usually take longer to heal than the physical impact. Allowing yourself to mourn your pregnancy loss can help you come to accept it over time.
Understanding the grieving process:
After a pregnancy loss, you might experience a range of emotions, including:
- Denial: At first, it might be impossible to grasp what happened. You might find yourself in shock or disbelief.
- Guilt: You might wonder if you could have done anything to avoid the pregnancy loss. Miscarriage is something that happened to you, not something you did. Try to bear in mind that many miscarriages happen for no reason. It is very unlikely to have happened because of anything you did or didn’t do.
- Anger: No matter what caused your loss, you might be angry at yourself, your spouse or partner, your doctor or a higher power. You might also feel angry at the unfairness of your loss. Sometimes with those close to you or with friends or other members of the family who are pregnant or who’ve had a baby.
- Depression: You might develop symptoms of depression — such as loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, changes in eating or sleeping habits, and trouble concentrating and making decisions.
- Envy: You might intensely envy expecting parents. It might suddenly seem like babies and pregnant women are everywhere you look.
- Yearning: You might experience feelings of deep or anxious longing and desire to be with your baby. You might also imagine what you would be doing with your baby now.
- Acceptance: Don’t hang on, teetering on the brink of that darkness – let go, fall into it and begin the grieving process. You have been a mother since you conceived. The loss of your baby doesn’t make you less of a mother, nor does an early loss ‘count less’.
Each step takes longer to go through than the previous one. There are unexpected and sometimes anticipated triggers that lead to setbacks, such as anger or guilt creeping back after you thought you had moved on. Certain situations — such as attending a baby shower or seeing a new baby might be difficult for you to face. That’s OK. Excuse yourself from potentially painful situations until you’re ready to handle them. Take time to grieve and heal. There is no set time allotted for healing nor is it something that can be rushed.
Move toward healing – Hope for the future
Healing doesn’t mean forgetting or making the memories insignificant. Healing means refocusing. Many women who experience pregnancy loss has gone on to have successful pregnancies. Once the pain of your grief subsides, you and your partner can talk about whether to attempt another pregnancy and, if so, when you’d like to try again. Another pregnancy might yield feelings of sadness for your earlier loss — but it might also inspire hope for the future. However, if the depression seems prolonged or you’re having trouble completing your usual daily activities, consult a grief counselor or other mental health provider for professional support.
Here are some suggestions to make your healing a little easier.
- Make your own decisions. Friends or loved ones might suggest clearing out all reminders of your baby, such as maternity clothes or baby items — but the decision is up to you. If you are not ready to pack things away, take as much time as you need.
- Take it slow, take your time to ‘get over it’. Grief affects everyone differently. Don’t anticipate a certain length of time before you feel ‘normal’. Go with what works for you in the moment. Don’t rush. If you need, seek professional help to get through this.
- Take care of yourself. Get adequate rest, eat a healthy diet and include physical activity such as Yoga in your daily routine. Along with yoga, you can also practice meditation for a couple of minutes daily to uplift your mind and thoughts. Meditation helps your mind unwind and feel more calm and relaxed. Don’t turn to tobacco or alcohol to soothe your pain. Take medication only under your doctor’s guidance.
- Try not to let distance grow between you and your partner. Don’t expect your spouse or partner to cope with grief the same way you do, your partner may react to the loss in a surprising way, and you may not like it. One of you might want to talk about the baby and express emotions, while the other might prefer to withdraw. If it irks you that your man doesn’t cry and act depressed, remind yourself that it doesn’t mean he’s uncaring. He’s probably just dealing with things in a different way. Be open and honest with each other as you deal with your feelings.
- Seek help from others. Join a support group. Sharing with others who have experienced pregnancy loss, either in person or online can be comforting. Friends or relatives; it really doesn’t matter, you need women you can trust, women you can cry with. Because no matter how sympathetic a man is, a woman will understand you in a very different way, and part of the healing lies in fully comprehending the loss, all its implications, navigating the train wreck and beginning to get a little perspective. A spiritual adviser may be another good source of advice or counseling.
- If you can, tell people what’s happening. People will probably find it hard to hear, but they will at least then understand why you are (probably) not functioning to par. Friends and loved ones might not know what to say or how to help. Tell them when you need their support. If you want to talk about the baby or if you would like help keeping the baby’s memory alive, let your friends and loved ones know how you feel.
It’s particularly important to support the other grieving partner during a miscarriage. Let her know that no matter what happens, whether you go through another miscarriage, or you can’t get pregnant, or you decide to do fertility treatments, or you hope to adopt—you are going to get through it together, and you will work through everything together. Hardship can either rip couples apart or bring them closer.
Feeling in the dark about what happened, what to expect and what your next steps can make the situation even tougher. But keeping your partner and health care practitioner in loop about your feelings (both physical and emotional) can help you get through the difficult time. Try to remind yourself that you can become pregnant again and give birth to a healthy baby. For the vast majority of women, a miscarriage is an one-time event and actually, an indication of future fertility.
Image credit: uq.edu.au