How to cope with a miscarriage
Even though it happens more often than people realise, losing a baby through miscarriage is an unexpected and particularly traumatic experience for expecting parents. The grieving process that follows can be lonely and painful.
This guide helps you to understand the effects of pregnancy loss and how to cope with grief after a miscarriage.
A miscarriage refers to the loss of pregnancy which occurs in the first 23 weeks and, according to data from the National Health Service (NHS), an estimated one in eight pregnancies ends in miscarriage. That doesn’t include the number of women who have a miscarriage before they are aware of their pregnancy.
Although the causes of miscarriage are unknown, for most women it’s often a one-off event which doesn’t affect any future pregnancies. It does, however, trigger the grieving process. At the beginning, the intensity of such grief can be quite overwhelming and unbearable. It’s a traumatic event which comes as a shock but the numbness that follows is your protection against it.
Coping with grief after a miscarriage
As the emotions unravel, you are likely to experience intense feelings of denial, disbelief, guilt, anger and extreme sadness. You may also blame yourself and be envious of pregnant women or when you see new mothers with their babies.
These feelings are normal and they do get better with time. Be prepared to cycle through them for quite a while after your loss though. At times, you may feel stuck and unable to get through them but the progress is there. You may notice that every time you go back to revisit the same feeling or emotion, it gets easier to move forward.
Don’t be tempted to ignore grief or pretend that it doesn’t affect you. Listen to what your body and brain tell you to do and follow the direction in which they take you. The grieving process is not easy and there are no shortcuts. You need to go though the lows before you can climb the highs.
The effects of pregnancy loss on men
Grief is by definition a reaction which is determined by our individual connection and degree of attachment to the loss we suffer. In the cases involving a miscarriage, men don’t necessarily have the same attachment as women and their grief is different.
Men are less likely to show emotion and in difficult times like these, they assume the role of the comforter. They are the ones who often carry out the necessary duties to ensure the smooth running of the household and to keep the family union together.
In most cases it’s necessary but when the time is right and the circumstances allow it, you need to make an effort to address your loss and begin the grieving process. Get into the habit of checking in with your spouse, listen to what she has to say about her experience with grief and open up about your feelings too. Communication is an important part of the healing process.
Returning to work after a miscarriage
The thought of going back to work after pregnancy loss can be quite daunting and the build up to it can add a lot of pressure to your already fragile state. Don’t commit to anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or puts you in a vulnerable position.
Going back to work can be beneficial to you in the sense that it introduces a routine which is not related to grieving. Some women return to work as soon as they are physically fit to do so whilst others take longer. Whatever you decide to do, you need to talk to your manager and go through your options. Perhaps you can work out a gradual return schedule and explore the possibility of reduced work hours, late start or be given some time off to attend support groups etc.
Moving forward after a miscarriage
The pain and discomfort after a miscarriage, combined with the emotional distress, make pregnancy loss a particularly challenging experience. It overwhelms you at the beginning but then the physical pain fades away to make room for the emotional one. Dealing with such loss is a long process which can be quite lonely too.
Here are some suggestions for coping with grief after a miscarriage:
Put your physical health first
Looking after your health and wellbeing is a vital part of the healing process following a miscarriage. Your body is left to recover from a serious trauma which may require additional treatment and time to heal. Follow your doctor’s advice, rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Take some time off work
Consider taking some time off work to help the recovery. Talk to your employer and find out if you are entitled to compassionate or bereavement leave. It’s really important to take care of yourself and make a full recovery before you do anything else.
Reach out to family and friends
Although you are not obliged to tell anyone about your loss, it can be beneficial to reach out to close family members or friends and ask for help with specific tasks and chores.
Grief after miscarriage can be a lonely experience and you need to make sure that you find some time to socialise. Don’t hesitate to ask a friend to accompany you on a walk or go to see a movie together. If not, you can invite them for a chat or to keep you company at your home.
Join a support group
You may wish to reach out to others who are grieving after miscarriage; join a local support group or find an online forum. You can find comfort in their company and benefit from their experience. Share your feelings with them and listen to theirs.
Don't take everything to heart
People are really uncomfortable talking about loss and sometimes they say things which can come across insensitive or hurtful. As difficult as it can be at the time, don’t take such comments and remarks to heart. It’s not worth compromising your health and well-being by involving yourself in lengthy discussions or arguments trying to educate people about grief or miscarriage. If you feel strongly about something, you can always address it at a later date.
Be kind to yourself and take care of your needs. Resist temptation to delay grief or to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Talk to your doctor if you are in pain or struggle to make a recovery. They are in a position to offer advice or prescribe further treatment.
Talk to your partner
Talk to your partner and resist the urge to blame yourself for anything. The aftermath of miscarriage can put a lot of pressure on your relationship and that’s why it’s important to communicate with each other. Your experience and grief are likely to be different but don’t let that alienate you from one another. Consider grief counselling or see if you can benefit from some of the information and support available through The Miscarriage Association.
We offer grief help and support through the National Bereavement Service's (NBS) webchat. It is a free online service which connects you to a trained advisor.
NBS has a wide network of contacts within organisations providing support to bereaved people. They will explain your choices and help you decided what would be most helpful for you and how to make contact with them.
The service is available Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm and Saturday 10am to 2pm and you can reach NBS by clicking on the chat box at the bottom of this page.
Contributed by Mark Welkin
Mark Welkin is the author of three grief books and a journalist who has worked for various media outlets in Europe and Asia. He lost his long-term partner in 2014 and a few months later, Mark turned to a grief counsellor for help. The results inspired him to share his experience and help other bereaved people to resume life after the loss of their loved ones.