Miscarriage is a sensitive subject. In the U.S. about 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a nonviable birth. It is a regular outcome of the reproductive process. The problem is how our society reacts to this genuine loss. I hope I can write about this subject in a caring way that recognizes this death and validates the grief this loss can cause. I may not be able to find the right words to truly express the sadness of this experience or do the subject matter justice. But I do believe it is a subject worth taking seriously. Please read this article with that objective in mind even if my words can not accurately address all the pain this subject may create. It might just help someone to feel genuinely validated for their feelings and their experience.
It is an unspoken death. Miscarriage is a secret loss, rarely discussed, a loss expected to be experienced alone or just with your partner. “When a woman finds out their pregnant, she will start planning and preparing for the baby’s arrival. When it ends in miscarriage, sometimes the (new) parents do not receive acknowledgment and/or empathy for their loss from close family members and friends.”quote from a young woman who experienced a miscarriage.
Another way our community shuts down discussion is with well-meaning but dismissive comments. For example, “Cheer up, you can try again.” “There probably was something wrong with the baby. It’s nature’s way.” “It wasn’t a real baby. You never even held the child.” These comments can make the parents feel as if their grief isn’t valid or that it should be a quick passing feeling. The comments are meant to be caring but often feel wounding. Society doesn’t legitimize this grief with any rituals. There normally is no funeral, cards, or flowers. Unfortunately, it can be a death that seems to go unnoticed by the people around those who have experienced this loss.
The grief is real. As soon as parents know they are expecting a baby, they acknowledge this new life. They have real feelings, dreams, love, attachment, and an imagined future for their child. A miscarriage is felt as a traumatic physical,emotional and mental loss.
There needs to be a change in our societal beliefs about miscarriage. In some way, we need to acknowledge the loss of a precious life. A life that is very important to the parents and other close relatives. My daughter had three miscarriages. There was so much excitement and joy when we thought we were going to have our first grandchild, only to feel a profound loss and deep sympathy for our daughter and son-in-law when the miscarriage happened. I had never seen my son-in-law in so much angst as when they miscarried their third baby. It was very real and painful. I also experienced a miscarriage when I lost one of the set of twins I was carrying. My husband was overwhelmed and profoundly sad when we experienced the loss of our unborn child.
The grief from the loss of miscarriage should not be minimized or treated as an ambiguous loss. Instead, it should be given the same respect as any other type of death.
Here are some tips to help anyone going through the loss of an unborn child or helping one grieve:
- Acknowledge and respect the death. Be willing to listen with care and sympathy allowing the parents to grieve.
- Speak about this loss as a legitimate death. Encourage the parents to talk with others who have had a similar experience. Ask for information about grieving from a counselor, doctor, hospital, or look for online support groups.
- It may help parents to come up with their own ritual that will give them comfort. Here are some ideas.
- Hold a prayer session as a final goodbye.
- Stand in a circle and allow each person to say a few words about their loss.
- Put a name on a balloon and hold a small ceremony as you let the balloon drift up into the sky. The name on the balloon does not need to be a formal Instead, it can say “my baby” or “precious one.”
- Brainstorm a symbolic ritual that would give you personal comfort. My daughter picked out a stuffed animal that had significance for her for each child she miscarried.
Let’s stop the stigma and silence of miscarriage. Instead, honor these little lives and heal by talking about the loss of this precious life. If you are in need of someone to listen and care, please book a conversation at www.supportivetalk.com