Pregnancy Loss: How To Cope With Miscarriage
Miscarriage is spontaneous pregnancy loss before the 20th week. About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies miscarry, but the true number is actually higher because many miscarriages occur early in pregnancy before someone knows they are pregnant. Understanding the issues surrounding such a personal loss can be helpful to those who experience a miscarriage and the people who want to help them.
Emotions After Miscarriage: What to Expect?
Common Symptoms and Emotions
The physical symptoms of miscarriage are cramping lower back pain and general body weakness. Other symptoms include severe abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding with or without pain, and tissue passing from the vagina. The person experiencing the miscarriage may have a fever. Emotional experiences after miscarriage vary from person to person. Emotions such as anger, grief, fear, and feelings of failure are common emotional experiences after a miscarriage.
The experience of miscarriage is not a single typical experience for people who miscarry. Each person has an individual experience with miscarriage. Some common experiences, however, are people who miscarry before having any other children. Losing the first pregnancy can cause the person to doubt they will have children in the future. For people who are having problems with fertility, miscarriage can cause them to doubt they will ever have children. People who use fertility methods such as IVF go through a physically difficult process only to experience the grief of pregnancy loss. Those who experience numerous miscarriages may feel hopeless in their grief. LGBTQ+ people who have miscarriages may not have the support networks heterosexual women have for grieving. While miscarriage is a common experience, no one has a common experience with miscarriage because grief is individual and should be respected as unique.
What is Miscarriage Grief?
The Stages of Grief
Miscarriage affects your emotions and your body. You can have intense feelings of emptiness, grief, sadness, anger, anxiety, and depression. Grief, however, does not occur in stages. You can feel all or none of the emotions associated with miscarriage. There is no right way to feel or grieve your miscarriage. While popular psychology divides grief into stages, the stages of grief aren’t linear. The psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross developed the Five Stages of Grief as a way to handle death but it was not meant to be a rigid blueprint for how to experience grief. Instead, the Five Stages of Grief are descriptive of how people experience grieving, and the emotions associated with grieving. Grieving miscarriage and pregnancy loss is individual and unique to each grieving person.
How to Cope with Miscarriage
After a miscarriage, you may ask yourself, how can I survive my pregnancy loss? You may feel shocked by the loss, grief, and anger, confused about what to do or how to feel. What you feel as an individual and how you grieve as an individual is emotionally central and essential for you, but some considerations for grieving a miscarriage are:
Allow Yourself to Grieve
People who have miscarriages are sometimes told they “should get over it.” Don’t be ashamed of your grieving. Allow yourself to grieve. Your lost pregnancy means the loss of your future with someone you would have loved. Grieving the potential future of a lost pregnancy is normal, healthy, and necessary for your emotional healing.
Rely on Loved Ones
Miscarriage may make you feel isolated and alone, withdrawn from the world. Loved ones can help you keep connected to life after a miscarriage. You may not feel able to do your ordinary activities, such as household chores or other work. Family, friends, and colleagues are people you can lean on for support after your miscarriage. Learn to delegate responsibilities after your miscarriage, so you can have time to grieve and recover from your grief.
Find a Miscarriage Support Group
Being with and talking with other people who have had pregnancy loss and miscarriage can help you cope with your loss. These groups are helpful if you don’t have family, friends, or colleagues to support you. Ask your healthcare provider for information about local miscarriage support groups. Look on the internet for miscarriage support group organizations with chapters local to where you live.
Seek Miscarriage Counseling
Miscarriage counseling can help you cope with your grief. Counseling can help you by offering non-judgmental support, a place where someone will listen to you, and a space where you can talk about your grief.
Can You Have Postpartum Depression After Miscarriage?
Sometimes grief goes deeper than mourning with postpartum depression. Symptoms of postpartum depression are:
Sadness, Hopelessness, and Emptiness
Sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness persisting and causing you to lose interest in life are symptoms of depression. Speaking with a healthcare professional can help you work through these feelings of meaninglessness after a miscarriage.
Loss of Interest in Activities
Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed is a symptom of postpartum depression. When activities and the people who shared these activities no longer interest you, you are at risk of being isolated and becoming more depressed.
Physical symptoms of postpartum depression are a change in appetite, difficulty sleeping, exhaustion, nausea, dizziness, and aches.
Emotional symptoms of postpartum depression are trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, and rage. Weeping without reason is another emotional symptom of postpartum depression.
Difficulties with Your Relationships and Work
Difficulties with relationships and work are symptoms of postpartum depression. When you can’t concentrate, have physical symptoms, are exhausted, and are experiencing mood changes, work and relationships can become difficult.
What to Say to Someone Who Miscarried?
When someone has a miscarriage, you may not know what to say to them. In many societies, talking about miscarriage is difficult or proscribed. Ignoring someone’s pain with your silence about the miscarriage doesn’t make the hurt go away or help them cope with their grief. Supporting a grieving person by talking about the miscarriage means you help them heal and cope with their pain. Be aware, however, that they may not want to speak about their loss. Give them the emotional space to speak about their loss when they feel ready. When they are ready to speak about their grief, here are ways you can speak in a supportive manner with them.
One of the best conversations you can have with a person who has miscarried is to be silent and listen. People always want to give advice, but often well-meaning opinions go against what the grieving person needs to hear. Phrases such as “It’s God’s will” or “It’s just for the best” do not respect the grief someone may have after a miscarriage. Listen to how the person expresses their grief and offer comfort and respect.
Someone who has experienced a miscarriage may need to talk about the miscarriage repeatedly. Show your care with patience, attentiveness, gestures, and eye contact.
When your loved one is ready to talk about the baby, don’t dismiss their desire to name their child. Your belief system about miscarriage should be put aside to comfort the loved one. Hearing your loved one’s acknowledgment of their loss is a step to healing.
Grief has physical and emotional reactions for the grieving person’s body. Physical symptoms of grief are poor appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, restlessness, and low energy. Emotional reactions include panic, persistent fears, nervousness, nightmares, and weepiness. Encourage your loved one to call you when they experience these symptoms.
Grief has no time frame. Allow your loved one to work through their grief at their own pace. Continue to be there for them when they need your support.
Normalize Their Grief
Grief is normal after a loss. Remember, your loved one may feel sad on the anniversary of their miscarriage. Expecting them to “get over it” is not normalizing grief. Be aware, however, that some people may have depression after a miscarriage. Ideas of self-harm or harm to others are not normal grief and require care from a healthcare professional.
If you are awkward with words, actions sometimes speak louder. Helping your loved one with chores, bringing a meal to them, or just holding their hand is the conversation they may need.
Miscarriage is a tragic loss, but help is available. Reaching out to others can help you cope with and recover from a miscarriage.
Australian Psychological Association Information Sheet on LGBTQ Pregnancy Loss. A fact sheet for LGBTQ people who have experienced miscarriage or other pregnancy loss.
International Stillbirth Alliance (ISA). The International Stillbirth Alliance (ISA) is an organization for bereaved parents and other family members, health professionals, and researchers for the prevention of stillbirth and neonatal death and bereavement support.
LGBTQ+ Reproductive Loss. Based on the book, Reproductive Losses: Challenges to LGBTQ Family-Making by Dr. Christa Craven, the site offers miscarriage information for LGBTQ people.
March of Dimes. Information from the March of Dimes about miscarriage.
Miscarriage Association. The Miscarriage Association is a United Kingdom-based organization dedicated to helping people who have miscarried.
National Maternal Mental Health Hotline. The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline is a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. This governmental division provides 24/7, free, confidential support before, during, and after pregnancy including miscarriage support.
Return to Zero: Hope. Return to Zero Hope (RTZ Hope), is an organization providing support, resources, and community for people who have experienced loss during their journey to parenthood.
Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support. Provides information, education, and resources for families and caregivers about pregnancy loss, stillbirth, and infant death in English and Spanish.
The Compassionate Friends. The mission of The Compassionate Friends is providing comfort, hope, and support to families experiencing the death of a child.
Unspoken Grief. Unspoken Grief is a peer-to-peer website providing a safe place to share, talk, support, and learn about miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal loss.
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