“Why do I still feel so sad,” my client said. She was crying in my office after losing her baby when she was 16 weeks pregnant.
“I shouldn’t still feel this sad.”
It had been many weeks since her miscarriage, but the emotional scars and pain were still poignant. My client had a hard time feeling like she had permission to have her feelings of grief and loss.
Miscarriage didn’t feel like a legitimate loss for her. There was no funeral. Many people didn’t know she was pregnant. She was walking around with a loss she felt she couldn’t tell others about.
I repeated more times than I could count: “This is a loss. It’s OK to feel this way.”
She had started talking about her pregnancy a few weeks before the miscarriage. Now she had to face those people and tell them what she had lost. She had to face their reaction as well as her feelings. It was too much to bear.
We tried to figure out if it was better or worse if people knew. Her co-workers didn’t know.
She worked in a high-stress job and faced trauma every day. She had to do her job like nothing happened. She couldn’t acknowledge she had been through a trauma too. She didn’t want people tiptoeing around her and making it difficult to do her job. It was a seemingly impossible situation, something she needed a therapist to help her with.
My client may have felt alone, but there are millions of women like her. Roughly one in four women experience a miscarriage. Many of those women don’t get the support they need. Losing a friend or family member engages your support network. A miscarriage brings loneliness and silence.
Why Women Stay Silent About Miscarriages
Most miscarriages happen between six and 10 weeks. At this stage many women and couples haven’t shared the news with family or friends. Talking about a miscarriage means breaking the news of the loss after sharing the happy news of a pregnancy. The grief and pain is huge. Finding the words to express everything that happened is overwhelming.
A lot of women stay silent about their miscarriages because they fear the response they will get. I have heard countless stories from women who have miscarried who hear, “You can try again,” “At least you were only ten weeks” and “Be thankful you already have a child.”
One comment like that is one too many. After hearing something discouraging from a loved one, a grieving woman might choose to shut down instead of facing more hurtful comments.
Women Wonder, “What did I do wrong?”
A lot of women I work with initially struggle with feelings of blame. They frantically search their mind for how they could have caused it. Was it that cocktail before I knew I was pregnant? Did I work out too hard?
Women who have miscarried feel imperfect. Their bodies have malfunctioned. They feel they have let themselves and their loves ones down. Even the word miscarriage implies the woman did something wrong.
A miscarriage is not your fault. Repeat that over and over.
You Are Still a Mother
Like my client above, many women have a hard time knowing how to feel. There is actually no right answer for how to feel. Let yourself feel however you want.
A lot of women struggle feeling their miscarriage isn’t significant. They felt attached to their baby and now the baby is gone. They might have created a future in their mind for this baby. Soon after learning about the pregnancy, a woman can begin wondering whether she is a mother.
Being pregnant makes you a mother. Having a miscarriage doesn’t make you any less of a mother. Sometimes the validation you are a mother makes all the difference. It acknowledges your loss. It makes it real.
You are a mother and you lost a baby. It’s OK to feel how you feel.
The Pros and Cons of Talking About Miscarriage
When you tell people about your miscarriage, you might find many people share your experience. A family member of mine recently had a miscarriage. She had the courage to share her experience with our family. What she found were several family members who had also experienced miscarriages.
This was something no one knew about. Sharing the pain allowed them to connect in this experience and support each other in a beautiful way. Her bravery chipped away the silence a miscarriage can hold.
Not everyone can be so understanding. If there are people you don’t want to tell because you fear their reaction, chose a spokesperson. Your partner, family member or close friend can do the job.
Give them a list of people you would like them to tell. This takes the pressure off of you. It also allows you to spend energy talking to people who will support you.
Find a Ritual to Cope in the Aftermath of a Miscarriage
Miscarriages don’t have the rituals other losses have. The absence of a funeral, a body or a commemoration of life can make grief feel confusing. Creating your own rituals makes your loss feel more real. It honors your loss and can provide a passage for healing.
A simple ceremony can be performed in private, alone, at church, as a couple or surrounded by family and friends.
You don’t have to be a poet or even a good writer to get your point across. These are words to your baby, the child you are mourning.
Jewelry is a beautiful way to honor the loss of a baby. It is an expression of the beauty in life.
Growing something can be extremely healing. A tree, bush, flower, any of these will do. This is a reminder of the life you lost and the fact this loss will always be with you.
Share your story with others. If you have experienced a pregnancy loss, no matter how far along you were, you are not alone. Find a friend, a family member, your partner, therapist or all of the above.