Coping with the Heartbreak of a Miscarriage
Miscarriage seems to be a taboo topic that few people talk about, but in reality, 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. The stigma makes it difficult for couples to talk to family and friends about their loss. Recovery starts with couples understanding and dealing with the challenges of the heartbreak of miscarriage.
The Emotional Toll
Women who experience a pregnancy loss will feel a deep sadness and a roller coaster of emotions such as depression, disbelief, guilt, numbness, rage, and difficulty paying attention. Miscarriage also causes hormonal changes in the bodies of women that could intensify emotional turmoil. Men will not only grieve in their own way, but they also hurt at seeing how the miscarriage has upset their partners.
Physical symptoms caused by emotional upset
- Crying spells
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of appetite
- Problems sleeping
The Grieving Process
Women feel a strong maternal bond with their baby, even when the pregnancy ends early. Women who experience miscarriage go through a grieving process - not only for their loss, but the loss of their hopes and dreams for having a family in the future. Everyone grieves at different rates, with some people needing more time to healing than others. The pain they experience can be as deep for an early miscarriage as for a stillbirth. It is normal for women to want to cry, feel exhausted, and feel like a failure.
Grief has several stages:
- Shock, denial that the miscarriage occurred
- Anger that the miscarriage happened to them, especially if they thought they were taking good care of themselves, feeling the situation is unfair
- Guilt and self-blame where women are concerned that they may have done something wrong that caused the event
- Jealousy of other women who are pregnant or have given birth recently
- Depression may interfere with a couple’s ability to cope with day to day tasks and may even require treatment by a mental health professional
- Acceptance of the miscarriage, realizing that other women go through this and that support is available
Each step takes more time to process than the previous steps. Women who have miscarried may be triggered by baby-related stories and events such as baby showers. Sometimes other people may make thoughtless comments about babies that are hurtful. Women must accept that they may be oversensitive and limited by their emotional state for a while.
Strategies for Dealing With Miscarriage
Recognizing that miscarriage is a family experience: Miscarriage is often presented at a women’s issue, but the loss of a pregnancy can have a profound effect on the men as well, and, at times, the older offspring who know what happened.
Talking to each other about the miscarriage
Couples may find it helpful to talk to each other about their emotions and thoughts about shared loss. Counseling can also support couples during this difficult time. It may take some time to recognize and acknowledge how they feel, but communication lines should be kept open. If women are not ready to talk, they should say so, and affirm that they will let their partner know when to broach the topic. Some men are not only grieving their loss, they are grieving for their partners' state.
Some men are fearful that they will upset their partner if they bring up the miscarriage and avoid talking about it.
Women are more likely to talk about their loss and seek support from others than men. Some men may choose not to become involved in support groups or counseling, even though they are grieving inside. Men tend to look for facts and solve problems on their own, and may deal with their grief by burying themselves in work. Men and women in this situation need to accept that their partners have different coping methods.
Partners tend to turn inward while trying to deal with loss, and away from their partner. This can cause significant stress in the relationship. Partners may take their anger out on their partner, but should apologize if they do to preserve the relationship. Couples counseling may help them to work through their grief.
Sharing the miscarriage with other people
Couples may have different ideas about how widely they want to share the news of their pregnancy loss. They may withdraw from family or friends for a while, telling loved ones that they will talk about this when they are ready. When couples approach family and friends regarding the miscarriage, they should be mentally prepared for insensitive responses, awkward silences, or hurtful remarks. Some people have no idea what couples go through, and will tell them to just move on and get over it. Couples should not be upset by ignorant people and focus on the more positive relationships in their lives.
Couples going through this loss should have people in their lives that are comforting, understanding, and supportive. The couple will probably need to set boundaries for friends and family about how comfortable they feel about hearing about other people’s pregnancies or miscarriages.
Taking time off
Sometimes, couples may want to create some free time away from their situation and get away from it all. They may take time off work or make changes in their routines. Their emotional pain from the miscarriage must be dealt with and worked out at some point. Trying to get pregnant again right away, running from it, or using food or alcohol to fill the void will not work in the long run. Time is needed to regain strength and heal emotionally.
Seeking support: Couples may find support from other couples who have had the same experience or a support group. Professional counseling may also help. There are also a number of support organizations that have helpful information online.
There are steps that couples who have experienced miscarriage towards healing.
- Find out exactly what happened, how the miscarriage will affect their future ability to concieve, and get answers to medical questions
- Decide what to do with maternity clothes and baby items, or ask a friend for help on the best options to get rid of these items
- Avoid difficult situations that may trigger their grief, if possible
- Cope the best way they can, facing life one day at a time
- Give themselves time to grieve and heal, taking as much time as needed
- Be prepared for and accept that relapses into grief and other emotions related to the loss will happen
- Give themselves permission to move on and be happy again
- Seek professional help such as counseling or a support group if they feel overwhelmed
Research Reveals Coping Challenges and Strategies for Families Experiencing Miscarriage, Indiana University
After A Miscarriage: Surviving Emotionally, American Pregnancy Association
Dealing Emotionally with Miscarriage, Women’s Health
16 tips to cope with a miscarriage, Maybe Having a Baby
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for information purposes only and are not a substitute for medical advice.
© 2014 Carola Finch