Miscarriages occur frequently within hundreds of thousands of families each year. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, 10%-20% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage each year—for many of those women, it’s their first pregnancy that ends in a loss. And while the actual miscarriage can take a few hours or days, the grief that follows can affect women and their families for months to come.
Regardless of which of your pregnancies has ended prematurely, we know the pain of this experience can be more overwhelming than you might have expected. You’re probably trying to rationalize this event, but the truth is, miscarriages happen for a range of reasons and none of them are your fault. Friend, we encourage you to spend time really believing that truth because it will help catalyze your healing. This loss was not your fault.
Today we’ll talk about mourning miscarriages. This is a unique experience that affects entire families, but the reality is that the overall pain is more acute for you as the woman. You were looking forward to spending nine months bonding with your child in the most intimate way possible. Even if the pregnancy ended very early, the love you have for your baby was likely already deep and strong; as a result, you’re probably experiencing a number of things.
What Can I Experience After A Miscarriage?
You’re likely feeling a number of extremely deeps and painful emotions, accompanied by physical symptoms stemming from those feelings:
* Difficulty concentrating
* Loss of appetite
* Frequent episodes of crying
* Trouble sleeping
The hormonal changes that naturally occur after a miscarriage can intensify these symptoms. As you continue through this period of grief, here are some ways you can encourage healthy expressions of grief and healing without losing yourself along the way.
Recognize That You And Your Partner Will Grieve Differently
Let’s start with the elephant in the room—your partner and family. You’ve probably felt a disparity in the way you and your boyfriend or husband are responding to this loss. You may be experiencing or expressing emotions more intensely than they are, which can make you feel alone in your suffering.
Remember, women are typically more expressive about their loss while men tend to be more action-oriented and respond by problem-solving instead of emotional expression. This doesn’t mean he’s not grieving—many times, men simply bury themselves in their work when experiencing emotional pain.
Additionally, your bond with the baby is unique; you probably started to feel love for the baby at the sight of the positive pregnancy test. On the other hand, your partner likely wouldn’t feel much closeness with the baby until he can physically connect with the baby in some way, such as feeling the baby kick or seeing an ultrasound.
Don’t Neglect Your Relationship
These differences in the way you and your partner experience expressions of grief can introduce hurt into your relationship as you both work to recover from the loss. Your relationship with your partner is worth investing in and protecting. Continue working at growing a deeper relationship with your boyfriend or husband because the grieving process will be less difficult if you’re doing it together, united as a family.
1. Accept that you both will grieve differently. Differences in coping styles aren’t inherently wrong, so encourage an open environment where both people are allowed to cope in a way that feels comfortable and natural to them.
2. Continue to share your thoughts and emotions by keeping communication lines open. Nothing adds distress and division to a relationship like lack of communication. Even when it’s uncomfortable or it feels like you’re talking a lot, be vulnerable with your partner as often as possible. When you both know where each other are at physically and emotionally, it makes it easier to mutually respond to and care for each other.
3. It’s important for you both to be respectful of and sensitive to each other’s needs and feelings. Each day might bring a fresh wave of emotion and physical symptoms of grief—validate each other daily and be present, even when it’s hard to empathize.
4. Go on dates. These dates don’t need to be extravagant or in pursuit of a specific goal. Just make sure you carve out time and space to be together in a close, undistracted way. We recommend easy outings like a movie, walk, or dinner to get out of the house and out of your typical environment. These outings can sometimes be tough but can also turn into sweet moments where you can love each other richly and be reminded that you’re not alone in your suffering.
Don’t Ignore Your Grief
Any time a body goes from being pregnant to not being pregnant, there is an extreme shift in hormones that can affect brain chemistry. Know that your grief may peak immediately after your miscarriage as the pregnancy hormone (hCG) has drastically dropped and feelings of sadness typically accompany such a drop. On a hormonal level, this level of grief may continue even after your period returns and your body recovers. So even if you wanted to suppress your grief your body isn’t designed to return to normal after such a loss.
You can also expect to feel triggered into sadness when you least expect it. You may find reminders in the places where you least intend them to be. Seeing other pregnant women, babies, playgrounds, doctor’s offices, advertisements for baby-related items all may bring you to tears even when you feel strong. This is normal, uncomfortable, and sometimes messy. But you can’t fully heal from this loss without facing those feelings.
So the first step to tackling your emotions is to recognize them and validate them. Your feelings are normal and they may not play out like another woman in the same situation so don’t compare yourself to others. Allow yourself to experience the pain in your own way and at your own pace.
Feel your emotions—don’t suppress them, don’t try to will them away, and certainly don’t ignore them. Cry. Take a day off work if possible. Take a hike or a walk to pray and be angry at God for a bit. Every moment is different and requires a different expression of grief because it's common to feel fine one day and overwhelmed the next.
Take Care of Yourself
In the thick of your sadness, you might begin to feel depression as well. Some of the symptoms of depression may lead you to want to isolate yourself from others or make it nearly impossible to eat, get out of bed in the morning, or find happiness in the things you used to enjoy doing.
As much as you can, take care of your mind, body, and spirit during this season. Here are a few things you can do to maintain overall health while you recover from your loss. You may not be able to do all of these things all of the time, but try to do them with your partner or as a close friend or family member to hold you accountable to those things:
* Sleep: You might suddenly find yourself struggling to maintain a regular sleep pattern, yet, poor sleep can leave us feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, and even angry on top of your grief. So try new techniques to fall and stay asleep like noise machines, changing your diet, meditation and prayer, or small doses of melatonin. If you’re still struggling to sleep well, see your general practitioner.
* Eat well: You may not have much of an appetite for a while but try to continue eating healthy, well-balanced meals. This ensures your body and mind stays fueled with the rich nutrients so you can physically cover faster.
* Avoid 'numbing' the pain: It’s tempting to think it’ll be easier to cope with your loss if you don’t feel much in the weeks and months that follow. Drugs, alcohol, or risky behaviors might seem like a great way to forget the pain for a while but avoid it as much as you can. The reality is, you might feel better for a moment, but much worse when the numbness wears off.
Spend Time With Those You Love
A big part of self care is spending time with people you’re close with. But when you’re in grief, it can feel easier and safer to avoid other people. But isolation can worsen your sadness and depression. When you have the energy to do so, invite a friend over to go to them to do something easy and simple. Watch a movie, play a game, go for a walk and set the expectation that you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to. Just make sure you connect with people who love and know you well and can provide the kind of support you need at this time.
When it comes to spending time with loved ones, it’s important to remember that people don’t always know what to say after someone they love has experienced a great loss. Many will want to talk about your baby and make room for them in conversation and through your experiences. Others will worry that bringing your baby and your loss in conversation will upset you.
There’s no easy way to live in the tension of these situations. As awkward as this can be, let the people in your life know what you need. That’s the only way they’re going to know how to best care for you moving forward.
Talk To Someone
Don’t just rely on your own ability to process your emotions and recover after a miscarriage. While therapy is becoming less stigmatized and more widely accepted, it can still be difficult for many families to acknowledge their need for counseling while enduring collective trauma. Even if you believe you’re handling the loss really well individually and as a family, getting professional help periodically can help you objectively evaluate how you’re doing and how you can continue grieving in healthy ways.
We recommend checking in with a family counselor after a miscarriage and being open and honest about how you’re coping. Find someone you trust, maybe from within your faith or ethnic community who understands how a miscarriage can stir up different emotions based on who you are and what you believe. Make sure your partner can attend, and your other kids if possible. While multiple miscarriages may occur in a woman’s lifetime, learning how to cope with a first loss can help encourage healthier coping for other losses.
Commemorate your loss
For most women, finding a way to commemorate this kind of loss helps them find a way forward. No matter where you are in your grieving process, you can start thinking about items, words, Bible verses, or even dreams you had for your baby that you can use to commemorate their short lives. These small items or rituals can help you properly say goodbye and find peace and comfort in the short time you had with them.
According to Tommy’s, an organization that researches the causes of baby loss and offers care and support for grieving families, here are some ways you can remember your kiddo:
* Keep ultrasound photos, your pregnancy journal, and any health notes in a special baby box.
* Press and frame any flowers you receive, then scattered those frames across your home.
* Write about your experiences; you can write in your journal or even write a letter to your baby.
* Light a candle for your baby on anniversaries or other memorable dates, or during Baby Loss Awareness Week.
* Buy something special in memory of your baby, like a toy or jewelry.
* Plant a tree or flowers at home, or in a local garden of remembrance.
* Have a funeral, ceremony or memorial service for your baby. You could have it just for you and your partner or ask close friends and family to come too.
Don’t Rush To Get Pregnant Right After
Grieve and heal, my friend. Don’t rush to try for another baby, regardless of the external circumstances. Whenever you do feel ready again, we encourage you to talk with your partner, close friends, or counselor to share where you are. They’d be able to help you discern whether or not you’re really ready or moving too quickly. You should also keep talking with your community if you’re averse to getting pregnant again! You might be understandably nervous about having another miscarriage but know that most women who miscarry go on to have a healthy pregnancy the next time around.
You should also talk to your doctor to understand what’s best for you. In general, the first menstrual period occurs four to six weeks after a miscarriage and it’s typically safe to conceive after a normal menstrual cycle. Sometimes, you might be advised to have medical tests first to determine the cause of your miscarriage. Do your due diligence before trying again to ensure your mind and body are both ready to carry a baby!
Friend, we’re so sorry for your loss and want to be here for you to support you and your family. Our clinics are staffed with licensed professional counselors who can help you process through this incredibly tragic loss. Click the button below to schedule a free appointment to come see us. We’re here for you.