The following article is taken from my book, When Mourning Comes, Living Through Loss (c) 2002, Essence. Used by permission.
October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month. If you or someone you know has experienced the loss of a baby, please know that my heart hurts with you. Often miscarriage is a misunderstood loss. Because the medical profession still does not fully know why miscarriages occur, the event is shrouded in mystery. When I experienced the loss of two babies at four months gestation, I experienced all the varying emotions of grief: shock, denial, anger, and sadness.
A woman may succumb to several misconceptions surrounding her miscarriage.
I did something to cause the miscarriage.
Guilt is a common feeling among women who have miscarried. They tend to blame themselves for the event. If only I hadn't lifted that heavy box or painted the bedroom. If only I had eaten more vegetables. If only I hadn't jogged on Wednesday, this would not have happened. The truth is, in the majority of cases, the miscarriage or spontaneous abortion was beyond the woman's control. Her body expelled the baby because there was either an abnormality in the fetus, her uterus was malformed, an infection was present, or a host of other reasons the medical profession has not yet discovered. Blaming herself will only keep her stuck in the past and prolong her grieving.
I am a failure.
A woman often suffers a lowered self-image due to her thoughts regarding the miscarriage. She mistakenly feels that she failed herself because of certain expectations she has concerning the pregnancy and motherhood in general. She feels she has failed her husband and family. This, of course, is untrue as she had no control over the response of her body. She may fear future pregnancies because she is uncertain as to how her body will react. She feels out of control.
Once the miscarriage is over, I can get on with life as usual.
I tried to do this after our first miscarriage, picking up with my housework and daily responsibilities as if nothing had happened. Underlying feelings of anger and sadness kept churning within me, affecting my relationship with my husband, Chuck, until months later I finally spewed them out before the Lord, which opened the door to my emotional healing.
A woman needs to grieve her loss fully. Often the losses that occur suddenly with no warning, as with a miscarriage, are the hardest to deal with. She needs to talk her feelings out with God in prayer and in writing. She also needs to share her feelings with her husband and with a trusted friend. Sometimes, another woman who has had a similar experience can be of help and comfort.
A man does not feel any pain associated with the loss.
A woman needs to recognize that her husband is grieving in his own way, too. He may be hesitant to express his feelings, because he feels the need to be strong for his wife and keep the function of work and home going while she is recovering. During our first miscarriage, I was so absorbed in my own pain that I did not see Chuck's hurt. I even vented my anger on him, accusing him of not feeling the loss or caring about the baby. In truth, he was hurting, too. Since he was not physically attached to the baby as I was, he could not fully relate to the empty feeling of losing a part of himself. First, he grieved for my hurt and pain. Secondly, he grieved the loss of our child.
I (Chuck) shielded my feelings from Eileen in hopes of easing her discomfort when, in actuality, I needed to face the pain honestly and talk through the feelings with her. Honest sharing would eliminate the distance between us, pulling us together as we worked through a common grief. Since I lost my job two weeks before our second miscarriage, our grief was compounded. We had two major losses to grieve. As a man, my role as provider was threatened which affected my significance. I was busy reestablishing my identity when we were side-swiped by the miscarriage. When I saw Eileen in such physical pain at the hospital, I felt powerless and helpless. I was afraid she might die. There was nothing I could do but tell her I loved her and pray for her and the baby. Once she returned home from the hospital, I had to keep the household machinery running while she recovered physically and emotionally. I couldn't give myself permission to fully grieve until I met the needs of the family in front of me.
Sometimes, a man needlessly shoulders the responsibility for the miscarriage and goes overboard trying to make things up to his wife. While kind deeds are helpful, open sharing is even more healing after the loss. He needs to express his fears and doubts so that their future relationship together will not be hampered. Sharing creates strength in the marriage and acts like a glue, bonding the couple together. Eileen and I have found that writing our thoughts and feelings down is an effective way of expressing grief when emotions are fresh and unrefined.
In my (Eileen) novel, Chosen Ones, Yvonne and Dan experience the heartbreak of miscarriage with many of the dynamics mentioned above at play in their story.
Tomorrow, Part II: Reestablishing Your Life After a Miscarriage