This is one of these subjects we don’t talk about much. In my experience, this something that makes people extremely uncomfortable. There is no category in which to place it, so often people want to sweep it under the rug. People will say awful things… Oooh boy, will they say awful things to you! (Like: “Maybe it was for the best”). Understand in that moment, they are whistling in the dark. They are trying to think of something comforting, nothing comes to mind, and they blurt out the first thing.
Still there is another set of women; those women who have had a miscarriage. They genuinely want to know- yes, what do I do after miscarriage?? One of my friends calls it the secret club to which no one wants to belong. Sometimes women who have had miscarriage are not willing to talk at all about it, unless you understand that you are a safe person. That is, that you have also experienced loss.
However, through those experiences, I feel there are some things I would like to share.
1. Talk About It First of all, you are not alone! The estimate is about 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Keep in mind though, that these are reported numbers. My suspicion is that the numbers go much higher than that. After my first miscarriage, I told a few people, including woman who watched my kids. She offered me a book called “Our Stories of Miscarriage”. This book was the exact opposite of a how-to book; it was a book of women, all different situations, sharing their personal experience. This book was so crucial to my healing process. I really needed to hear that I wasn’t crazy for experiencing the feelings I had. At one point, several months after my second miscarriage, I was reading the book, tears streaming down my face. My husband found me crying and needed to know what was going on! I explained to him that this woman had experienced the same feelings I was feeling - fear for the safety of my living children. If I was not able to keep a baby safe inside of me, how was I supposed to keep the children on the “outside’ safe? At that moment, tears filled his eyes, and he said, “I have felt that way, too”. It was the first time we had talked about our feelings and were able to mourn together.
2. Forgive. What a big subject this is! You may be asking yourself, who or what do I need to forgive? Certainly in my case, the very first person that I needed to forgive was myself. When you have a miscarriage, it is no one’s fault! But, as mom’s we wonder… should I have (not) stayed up so late? Wonder if it was something I ate… Maybe I should have (or should not) have taken those antibiotics… I have been under a lot of stress lately, I wonder if that contributed.. and the list goes on. One way to deal with that is to write down all the reasons you feel guilty, and then cross them off, or rip up the paper, or burn it; whatever you can do to completely let it go.
The other part of forgiveness comes from all those well-meaning loved ones. I actually had someone say to me after my first miscarriage-“Oh I am sorry! That could have been your girl.” (This to a mom of two young boys at the time) OUCH! That one hurt. But what do we do with that. Here is the secret. If we choose to let those things eat us up inside, we will be reopening wounds constantly, never getting better. Forgiveness allows us to heal, and move on, looking at life from different lenses. This has nothing to do with the other person, but yourself. It is okay to lovingly hold people responsible. But sometimes, that is just not possible, and forgiveness is still essential at that point.
3. Allow Yourself to Experience whatever Feelings you May Have. Again, there is no right way to have a miscarriage. Did you know that there are seven stages of grief ? (shock or disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance/hope.) Did you know that, recently they have kind of debunked the stages of grief, in that grief is now viewed as a more fluid process? You may experience one or all of these symptoms, only to go back and revisit another time. Did you know that grief can also manifest itself in physical or social symptoms? Often miscarriage is viewed as the silent loss- to the outside world, nothing much has changed, since they did not have the chance to know the baby you were carrying. We need to be able to experience a full range of emotions before we can come to the other side of this story. Take walks. Take naps. Be gentle with yourself. Be sure to allow yourself to feel the joys in life, as well as the sorrow at this time.
If you’ve had a miscarriage, I am truly sorry. Please know that there is a safe space, here, with me.