Grief After A Miscarriage: Coping with the Loss of A Pregnancy

October 01, 2020

Going through a miscarriage is not easy.  And while the reasons for that are many, one of the biggest mental health hurdles surrounding pregnancy loss has to do with the fact that, for most women, the grieving process involves grief over the intangible.

“Grief in other experiences is often about grieving the past. Miscarriage is about grieving of the future,” explains Dvora Entin, LCSW, PMH-C, a maternal mental health specialist based in Philadelphia, PA.

 

 

Miscarriage also tends to be particularly painful because it’s too often experienced privately, leaving a lack of formal “space” to grieve, she explains. Many women also struggle with simply allowing themselves the time, space, and permission to mourn the loss of a pregnancy—complicating the issue even further.

But the loss is a common experience and being able to talk about it can be helpful. Early pregnancy, in particular, happens in about 10 percent of known pregnancies, and about one in four women experience a miscarriage over the course of their life.  

This week, Chrissy Teigen 34, joined a long list of celebrities who have broken a social taboo in recent years to speak out about pregnancy loss. Others include the former first lady Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Celine Dion, Brooke Shields and Kirstie Alley. The disclosures have resonated with many women as miscarriages are still largely spoken of in hushed tones.

“What nobody tells you is that miscarriage happens all the time, to more women than you’d ever guess, given the relative silence around it,” Mrs. Obama wrote in “Becoming,” her 2018 memoir. “I learned this only after I mentioned that I’d miscarried to a couple of friends, who responded by heaping me with love and support and also their own miscarriage stories.”

 

 

This National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, whether it’s you or a friend going through the process, here are some ways to grieve the loss of a pregnancy:

 

Give Yourself Permission to Grieve

Entin notes that often, women who experience miscarriage don’t feel as though they are allowed to grieve. But giving yourself (and a partner) the space to recognize that your pregnancy was very real to you is crucial, she notes. “I often tell women to start with the permission to be a mother—even if you are already a bereaved mother,” she says. This simple acknowledgment can start the process of finding ways to memorialize and honor the experience, she notes. 

 

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Last year I experienced two miscarriages🍃 I was sad. I was depressed. I felt broken and ashamed. I couldn’t understand why my body wouldn’t do what it did with Orion. I had to learn that miscarriages are *very* common. Although that doesn’t make them any less painful. It was comforting to know I wasn’t alone or broken. I also had to grasp that there are so many reasons they happen. For me, I was dealing with so much pressure and stress that my body was like: “Naw, sis. What I’m not doing is carrying a child through this.” I get it now. I needed to be where I am today—safe at home and professionally at peace✨I know that’s not the cure for every woman dealing with loss, but I hope my testimony brings some comfort in knowing things can work out and they are not alone...or broken. We did not plan this birth, but God/universe knew we wanted and needed this little #wombfire soul👶🏾 Sending love to all the families that have or might experienced loss. I can’t make the hurt go away, but I can hold you in the light💫 (📸: Me — give me a ring light & a shutter remote and I’m like @itayshaphoto up in this thang😜)

A post shared by Julee Wilson (Mrs. Wareham 🖤) (@missjulee) on

Be Present with the Transition of Goodbye

Too often, miscarriage becomes rushed. You might feel as though you need to immediately go back to work, start trying right away to get pregnant again, or wanting this phase to pass. But finding ways to memorialize this moment in a way that’s meaningful to you—perhaps writing a letter to the baby you lost or journaling the dreams you had for them—can be helpful. “Having something very concrete to do in the transition from being pregnant to no longer being pregnant—having an ability to say goodbye—can bring about those quiet moments that allow grief in,” says Entin. “And part of that grief is creating space to grieve.”


Give Things Time

Entin avoids using the word “heal” when she talks about miscarriage because it can send the message that—at one point or another—you will feel 100 percent better. But more often than not, coming to terms with the experience and moving forward is a process that takes time. “Miscarriage was something I always thought would never happen to me and then it did,” says Jennifer Zimmer, a 30-year-old based in New Jersey. “It was such a tough experience for me and I think the only thing that really helped me get through it was time.” Try not to rush yourself through what you’re feeling and, instead, take the time you need.


Show Up for Friends

When a friend experiences a miscarriage, it can be difficult to know what to do or say. That’s normal. But one of the most important things you can do is simply show up in words or action, notes Entin. It's okay to say something like, “I don't know what to say. I wish I did. I just want you to know that I'm here and I see you.” Or, show up at a friend’s house and drop soup or flowers with a card on her porch. The simple act shows that you care.


While it might seem caring, Entin suggests not saying things like, “let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Tyler, a 28-year-old from Boston, MA who recently experienced a miscarriage agrees.People do this in response to many types of losses and it really puts the effort of the one who experienced the loss to ask for help during a time where it’s incredibly difficult to do so,” she says. “I had a family member who didn’t ask what I needed. She just dropped off a care package and I didn’t have to muster up the energy to say, ‘I need help’ or ‘I’m not okay.’ When you take the initiative, you open up the door for the one who experienced the loss to be able to talk about how they are doing.” 


Simply being there—even if you don’t say anything at all or if you drop off items to show you care—is powerful. “As a therapist, I always found it more effective to say, ‘what do you need?’ or offer a specific type of assistance,” she says.


The other side of that: Sometimes, you're just going to get it wrong and say something that doesn’t land. If you do, apologize, suggests Entin. And if you’re on the recipient side? “We work toward more compassionate receiving of other people's attempts at compassion and comfort,” says Entin.


Keep Checking In

Miscarriage doesn't end the week after the miscarriage happens. “Miscarriage is a process and the person is going to grapple with all of the absences that come over time,” says Entin. So as a friend’s due date approaches or as the months go on, keep showing up through conversation (“I’m thinking of you”) or action (a hand-written note in the mail). Often, people don’t want to address milestones like due dates out of fear that you’d be reminding the person of something painful but Entin notes that you won’t be reminding the person and that showing up—and continuing to show up—provides continual support for a person who’s struggling.







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