First of all, we are so sorry that you’ve experienced a loss that has brought you to this page. We and so many women in similar situations all over the world grieve with you and want to remind you that no matter how you feel, the truth is that this is not your fault.
Experiencing a pregnancy loss means that you are probably feeling more sadness than you ever thought possible. Having a miscarriage can be very difficult. The emotional impact usually takes longer to heal than the physical recovery does. Allowing yourself to grieve the loss can help you come to accept it over time.
What are emotions I might feel after a miscarriage?
Women may experience a roller coaster of emotions such as numbness, disbelief, anger, guilt, sadness, depression, and difficulty 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:
- trouble sleeping
- difficulty concentrating
- loss of appetite
- frequent episodes of crying
- broken or suffering relationships with family or friends
- self-harm/suicidal attempts or actions
The hormonal changes that occur after miscarriage may intensify these symptoms.
The Miscarriage Grief Process: What should I expect?
The grieving process involves three steps:
Step 1: Shock/Denial
“This really isn’t happening; I’ve been taking good care of myself.” “Maybe the doctors are wrong…maybe I’m still pregnant.”
We’re not going to lie to you, it’s going to be a difficult thing to accept. Talk with your doctor about what this might look like physically for you. When will your hormone levels return to normal? How long might you still have symptoms for? This may give you more guidance into what to expect, and talking about practicals surrounding the situation may feel cold, but it may give you more to grasp at as you try to understand what this means for you.
Step 2: Anger/Guilt/Depression
“Why me? If I would have…” “I’ve always wanted a baby so bad, this isn’t fair!” “I feel sadness in my life now more than ever.”
You may feel angry – angry at your doctor, your partner, yourself, God, your situation…you name it. Maybe you think the doctors could have done more, or you’re angry that your partner isn’t consoling you in just the right way, or that he’s not as torn up about it as you are. If you have strong spiritual beliefs, you may yell at God or be angry that “He let this happen.”
But most of the time, you’re angry at yourself. You might even feel guilt and question if it was your fault, as if you could have done more. The incredibly important thing we want you to know is that with miscarriage, it’s not your fault. As hard as it is to hear, it is a natural occurrence, and even if you were doing all the right things, it may still happen anyway.
When something goes wrong, we all stretch to find someone, something to blame. With miscarriage, there’s not really anyone or thing to blame, and it leaves us grasping for some way to make sense of what happened, leaving misplaced anger and guilt. And as you’re experiencing all these confusing emotions, all of this can lead to depression.
The one thing we can tell you is to get help. Talk about what’s going on with your partner, a trusted friend, a counselor, or a spiritual leader or mentor. If you’re not ready to talk, write it down. If you’re angry, write a letter and get it out of your system. Listen to some music, cry in the shower, go for a long walk with your dog (if you have one). Find some way to experience these strong feelings but in a safe way.
Step 3: Acceptance
“I have to deal with it, I’m not the only one who has experienced this. Other women have made it through this, maybe I should get some help.”
This is what this expected roller coaster of emotions has led to: this is real, isn’t it? This is really happening. Once you get to this point, you are ready to look this in the eye and figure out how to live with your loss. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you’re okay with what happened, that you’re not still experiencing a million emotions – it simply means that you confirm in your mind that this is real.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy from this point on, it just means that you know and understand what you’re dealing with. This is the time that a lot of women and their significant others are able to seek counseling or support groups, or are able to open up about their experiences.
Each step takes longer to go through than the previous one. There are unexpected and sometimes anticipated triggers that lead to setbacks. Examples of potential triggers include baby showers, birth experience stories, new babies, OB/GYN office visits, nursing mothers, thoughtless comments, holidays, and family reunions.
How can I survive my pregnancy loss?
Respect your needs and limitations as you work through your grief and begin to heal.
As you work through this difficult time:
- Reach out to those closest to you. Ask for understanding, comfort, and support.
- Seek counseling to help both yourself and your partner. You don’t have to face this alone.
- Allow yourself plenty of time to grieve and the opportunity to remember.
How Women and Men Grieve Differently:
Generally, women are more expressive about their loss and more likely to seek support from others. Men may be more action-oriented, tending to gather facts and problem solving, and therefore often do not choose to participate in support networks that consist of sharing feelings. This does not mean he is not grieving. Often men bury themselves in work when they are grieving.
Parents experience different levels of bonding with a baby. The bond between a pregnant woman and the baby growing inside her is unique. A woman can begin bonding from the moment she has a positive pregnancy test. Bonding for the father may start as he experiences physical signs of the baby, such as seeing an ultrasound picture or feeling the baby kick.
However, especially for men, real bonding may not develop until after the baby is born. This is why men may seem less affected when the loss of the baby occurs early in pregnancy. These differences may cause strain in your relationship as you try to come to terms with the loss.
You can help your relationship to survive by:
- Being respectful of and sensitive to each other’s needs and feelings.
- Sharing your thoughts and emotions by keeping communication lines open.
- Accepting differences and acknowledging each other’s coping styles.
Understanding Your Healing Rights:
Healing doesn’t mean forgetting or making the memories insignificant. Healing means refocusing.
You have the right to:
- Know the facts about what happened and potential implications for the future. Seek answers to your questions, look at the medical records, and take notes.
- Make decisions about what you would like to do with your maternity clothes and baby items. Others might try to make quick choices for you; instead, use others to help you figure out what option is best for you.
- Protect yourself by avoiding situations that you know will be difficult. Set realistic goals for yourself. For example, focus on coping throughout each day rather than the entire week.
- Take time to grieve and heal. There is no set time allotment for healing nor is it something that can be rushed.
- Receive support even though this may not be easy for you. If you feel out of control or overwhelmed, consider seeking help from a counselor, therapist or support group to help guide you through the grieving process.
- Be sad and joyful. It is okay to feel sad at times but the key is to not let it control you. Others have survived their grief, and in time you will too. Do enjoyable things because laughter and joy are healers. Remember that celebrating bits of joy doesn’t dishonor your loss.
- Remember your baby. Healing doesn’t mean forgetting or making the memories insignificant. You may want to name your baby. Some women find comfort by doing something tangible like planting a tree, selecting a special piece of jewelry with a birthstone, or donating to a charity. On the anniversary you may want to share a special time with your partner.
Helpful Websites and Books:
- Parents or other family members who have experienced the loss of a baby between conception and the first month of life can receive a free March of Dimes bereavement kit by contacting the Fulfillment Center at 1-800-367-6630 or at [email protected]
- Other Helpful Websites:
- Helpful Books:
- Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart — by Shelly Marks, Marie Allen
- Miscarriage: A Shattered Dream — by Sherokee Isle, Linda Hammer Burns
- Surviving Pregnancy Loss: A complete sourcebook for women and their families — by Rochelle Friedman and Bonnie Gradstein
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. March of Dimes.
2. Miscarriage Support Auckland Inc.