What Does "Grieving" a Miscarriage Mean?
We've welcomed many new members lately. As I've read through the stories women have shared, and reflected on the feelings they are experiencing, I have thought back to my own loss and how I often felt "abnormal" (for lack of a better word). Though I knew other women had experienced losses such as mine, I didn't know what the heck was happening to me emotionally. My (usually) logical, rational brain seemed to be on the fritz and my emotions were completely off the charts.
Though I knew when I miscarried that I experienced a loss and would be grieving, I didn't really stop and think that those of us who experience miscarriage go through the same five stages of grief that anyone who experiences loss will go through--but that the stages for miscarriage will be a bit different. These days, I often try to reassure women that it's alright to grieve--but what the heck does "grieving" in miscarriage mean?
For those of you who may be asking yourself that, for those who may be asking (or who have asked) yourself if what you're feeling is "right" or "normal," for those who may be wondering why certain thoughts not typical for you are raging through your mind and heart, I offer this:
STAGES OF GRIEF IN MISCARRIAGE
1. Denial and Isolation: Our minds chant, "This isn't happening to me," and, "Maybe the doctor is wrong." We question whether the ultrasound tech got the imaging right. We wonder if lab results were off. We start doing loads of research (often online) to find information and explanations that can negate what's happening.
At this point, we often don't want to be around people (in person). This is why, I think, our support group is so wonderful. We get to be with each other yet also have the alone time we need as we grieve.
2. Anger: This is when we assign blame. ("If only the doctor or clinic saw me sooner, they could've done something!"). We get angry at others and ourselves for not being able to prevent our loss. Guilt factors in here ("Why did I have that cocktail/eat that/take that medication/exercise so much/let myself get stressed/carry that heavy package/stand too close to the microwave?"--etc.). At this point, we may also get angry at others for comments that are [even unintentionally] insensitive ("You can always try again"; "It just wasn't meant to be"; "This is nature's/God's way of saying something was terribly wrong with your baby"). You may get upset with your SO for seeming not to feel as much pain as you do. You may resent other women who are pregnant--and get especially upset by those women who are pregnant or who are mothers and don't seem worthy of being so.
3. Bargaining: At this point, you may bargain with a higher power that you will somehow do or be "better" if you get pregnant again quickly. And you may find yourself obsessively doing research (often online again, though you may also be searching books and calling medical professionals) to find a way to stave off miscarriage/be more fertile/get pregnant faster. Though it's VERY HARD, at this point, we all need to try to remember that our miscarriages are not our faults and (sadly) often not preventable. There is no bargain to be made. We cannot typically control this.
4. Depression: You may despair that you will never have a baby. Those who are not yet mothers may despair that they aren't meant to be mothers. They may believe that they are being punished or are somehow unworthy of motherhood. Those for whom conceiving again takes a while will despair that it will never happen. Those who do get pregnant again quickly will be riddled with anxiety and despair that another miscarriage is imminent. This is also the stage when being around pregnant women, babies, baby items, virtually any reminder of a baby or your angel baby (such as anniversaries) will be like a knife to your heart. You may have a hard time watching scenes in TV shows and movies--even seeing certain images in magazines--that represent babies and motherhood. You may find that you cannot attend baby showers or baby/toddler/children's birthday parties.
5. Acceptance: At some point, the raw pain of miscarriage
will not be with you. You will never forget your loss, nor will the
pain--or the memory of the pain--ever go completely away. But you do
heal, accept, and continue on in your life. Miraculously, you will smile, laugh, and feel joy again.
I tend to liken the
healing you go through after miscarriage to that of a serious physical wound. For a while,
your wound is open, fresh, raw, and oozing. Any movement hurts. NOT
moving hurts. It hurts just to be. And, when you try to rest, when you
try to escape in sleep, you still feel pain. You can't function
normally. You favor that wound and you think the pain will never go
away. It feels like you should die of the pain (and you marvel that you
After a time, your wound begins to close. It may scab over. It still hurts--and, when jostled (by a memory, an activity, a reminder), it may open up. You have moments when it feels like that wound is fresh, but you have increasingly more moments when that wound doesn't wrack you with pain. You start to function more normally.
Later, your wound closes. But you have a scar. You will look at that scar quite a bit (especially on anniversaries or when something triggers your memory and you have a flashback)--but, in time, you will be occupied with it less and less. It becomes a part of you. You always know it is there. You always know why it is there and what it represents. But you do not stare at it or think about it and cry every moment in remembered pain.
Just like with physical wounds, what helps us to heal our emotional wounds is caring for them. Talk, when you need to. Cry, when you need to. Finding support--here, with us, and/or with family, friends, medical professionals, the clergy, counselors/therapists--is essential. Finding ways to honor your baby can be healing. Resting (and allowing others to care for you) is important.
Ignoring any wound can lead to it festering. We cannot will our pain away or ignore it away. (This is not the boogie man. We cannot hide under the covers and wait for the light of dawn to make everything better.) We need to take care of our wounds. And we need to recognize that healing takes time. Healing takes energy. And we will bear scars from our losses. We cannot bounce back and be the same old women a day/week/month after our losses. We are forever changed. But WE WILL BE OKAY.
Give yourself time to work through the stages of grief. Know that what you are feeling is normal. And know that it will not last forever. By grieving now, you will help yourself to heal and give yourself the gift of hope and a brighter, lighter future.
Take care, my friend.